John Leguizamo is an American actor, comedian, and film producer. He rose to fame with a co-starring role in Super Mario Bros. (1993) as Luigi, and a supporting role in the crime drama Carlito’s Way (1993). He later notably starred in the film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995), for which he was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. He has since appeared in Romeo + Juliet (1996), A Brother’s Kiss (1997), Body Count (1998), Summer of Sam (1999), Moulin Rouge! (2001), Collateral Damage (2002), The Alibi (2006), Righteous Kill (2008), Repo Men (2010), The Counselor (2013), and John Wick (2014). He has provided voice-work for Sid the Sloth in the animated film series Ice Age (2002–2016), as the narrator of the sitcom The Brothers García (2000–2004), and as Bruno in Encanto (2021). Leguizamo had a recurring role on ER and was a series regular on The Kill Point. He is also known for his role as Ozzy Delvecchio on Bloodline.
As of 2021, Leguizamo has appeared in over 100 films, produced over 20 films and documentaries, starred on Broadway in several productions (winning several awards, including a Special Tony Award), made over 30 television appearances, and has produced or starred in many other television shows. He has been nominated for four Primetime Emmy Awards, winning one in 1999 for his performance in Freak.
Today we talk to John about his film VIOLENT NIGHT where he co-stars with David Harbour who plays Santa!
When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour, Black Widow, Stranger Things series) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint.
The film also stars Emmy winner John Leguizamo (John Wick), Cam Gigandet (Without Remorse), Alex Hassell (Cowboy Bebop), Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War), Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones) and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise).
Directed by razor-edged Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Dead Snow franchise)
Violent Night opens in cinemas December 1, you can hit the play button below to listen to the intertview or you can do a search for “The Accessreel.com Interviews” on all good audio streaming platforms
Accessreel: Hey John, how are you?
John: Alright, great, thank you. Nice to talk to you.
Accessreel: I’ve been a massive fan of yours since going back to, well, Romeo and Juliet was probably the first time I saw you jump out on the screen, and a performance where you stole every scene you were in it’s funny ’cause I always thought that your screen time in that film was rather lengthy. But when you put it all together it’s really not.
John: No it’s not. Yeah yeah, it’s really short.
Accessreel: But we’ll talk about Romeo and Juliet in a little bit. So thanks for chatting to us today. I watched the film the other night. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love the fact that it was played really straight, It really worked well and so the one liners work. The action worked, everything worked and it was corny and bits but it worked well, so how was it? Getting involved in this flick and when you got the script did you go? Yeah, this looks like. A bit of fun.
John: Yeah, when I read this script I thought it was outstanding. Man, I was like wow, I have never seen anything like this. This is like an anti Christmas movie in a Christmas movie you know. I mean for people who hate Christmas, they’re going to like this for people who love Christmas, they’ll like it. Even more I couldn’t believe what they were trying to put out there with such so much violence. It was hilarious. I was laughing out loud. It was a page turner and then at the end in the script, I wasn’t as moved by when I saw the movie I choked up, I couldn’t believe that they got me that I was suckered into feeling stuff and I was like what am I feeling. I think Tommy Wirkola did a brilliant job. Seriously weaving those three ingredients that you never see together and that don’t usually are usually not written together.
Accessreel: Exactly and you watch the trailer and you’re like, yeah, this looks like a lot of fun. But then you watch the film and it’s still a lot of fun, but it’s just a very different film to what the trailer sort of sold me and I like that plus David plays a bloody good Santa
John: Oh, he’s incredible. He’s in quite amazing.
Accessreel: What was it like working with the cast and David?
John: Oh Dave is a pleasure to work with man we had a great time off camera and on camera he just brings it with such a bandwidth of talent but I mean he’s got such a depth, he brings so much rage and patho’s, pain and he makes this sort of antihero really come to life. You really believe Oh my God, he’s channeling some kind of ancient Santa Claus something because I really started to believe this is the best Santa I’ve ever seen.
Accessreel: Yeah, it’s pretty good, isn’t it! There’s some great one liners in the film was it all scripted or did you get to throw your flair in it at.
John: It’s a combination, that’s why it’s so amazing because the script was really funny and great, but we were also allowed to improvise a lot and I threw in a lot of zingers and then I’m glad they kept a lot of them. You know, I was very happy to see at the end of the day that my improvs were not for not.
Accessreel: That’s good and how was the film to shoot overall? Because obviously watching it looks like it was pretty damn cold were you actually at a location or was it set? Or or mix of both?
John: I mean Tommy Wirkola, who’s from Norway from Lapland. I mean, he loved it, but the rest of us who are from just from New York, especially my California friends, it was it was rough man it was minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t know what that’s in Celsius, but whatever it is, it’s bone chilling, you know and we’re shooting at night exteriors and that wind would come and kick it would hurt it hurt, really hurt like you had to run inside when you were done and sometimes I go yo I can’t. I can’t do another take, I really I really gotta warm up like ’cause, you know, somebody almost got uh. Frostbite no well.
Accessreel: OK. Well, definitely cold then uhm.
John: Oh yeah, no is real and Tommy liked that. He said it added reality and tension to the movie. I was. Like fuck you.
Accessreel: That’s it, torment the actors to get the performance (ha!) looking back on your career you’ve done some incredible roles. Is there one role that stands out for you like one that you had the best time on?
John: Yeah, I gotta say Summer of Sam, Spike Lee was a highlight of my career so far. Hopefully I’ll have a few more highlights but that was definitely the highlight of my career. I mean, we went to Cannes with that movie. The critical acclaim was beautiful. I mean working with Mira Sorvino at the topof her game Adrian Brody, I mean, Spike Lee is a actors director and he really let us go, pushed us, encouraged us and and we ad libbed a lot in that one too. The script was written by Michael Imperioli.
Accessreel: You spent about 8 months of your career shooting Moulin Rouge in Australia back in the day. What’s one thing that pops into your head when you think about that shoot?
John: The incredible talent that is in Australia. That’s what really was mind-blowing was I couldn’t believe how super talented all these actors were in dancers, performers, singers. There was so much great great talent, artist designers, costumers. I mean the talent down there is exceptional.
John: You’ve worked with incredible talent throughout your career. You’ve worked with some of the biggest actors ever. Is there a director or an? Actor? that you haven’t worked with, but you’re still dying to work for.
John: I would love to work with Scorsese, who’s a master Yeah, I love to work with him, the Farrelly brothers I think are incredible.I would love to work with them. I love the Safdie brothers, they’re from Queens where I grew up I love uncut gems. I thought it was amazing. Uh, yeah, they. Then actors. I mean I’d love to work with, uh. Mark Ruffalo, I think, is one of the most brilliant actors. Of our time. Uh, Ryan Gosling, I think he’s incredible.
Accessreel: In your career, you’ve also done pretty much everything you’ve done producing writing everything. Is there anything that you haven’t done yet that you’re interested? Whether it’s in the film or television industry, or whether? It’s outside of that what are you interested in doing in your future?
John: I mean, there’s a lot of different things still want to keep directing… I want to do a lot more historic pieces about our Latin contributions to the world about our empires that were destroyed in the conquest and all the contributions to the to the making of the United States. Because you know, 500,000 of us fought in World War Two with incredible heroes within amazing things that you never see in a movie. And that’s a huge contribution. 120,000 of us fought in World War One with a lot with Latin heroes who won purple crosses. I want to celebrate a lot of that and also you know, maybe run a studio. I mean I like to maybe create my own studio and cash in on the on the huge amount of money that latino people are bringing you know with that women are the number one small business creators in America we are we add $2.8 trillion to U.S. economy. Your own economy would be the 5th largest economy in the world. And that’s just in the US, so you know, we have a lot of buying power here. We finally in this election had so many Latin elected officials. Finally, you know we’re getting our representation in politics. Obviously in baseball we crush in music where the biggest success story in the World, Bad Bunny number one before that was so yeah. I mean, I’m. I’m hoping that the studio system here catches up with the rest of the world.