I Knew These Christmas Movie Facts, I’m Just Seeing If You Did (15 Facts)

‘Tis the season (to watch your favorite Christmas movie).

Let’s face it. You’re also going to watch your favorite, sure. But you’re also going to watch some mediocre movies on Lifetime. We all do it. We all also watch the same 10 movies every year. Even after we’ve memorized the script. That’s where movie trivia can enhance your viewing experience!

If you want to be the coolest person in your living room this holiday season, I’ve compiled a list of behind-the-scenes Christmas movie facts for you to prattle on about until someone full of egg nog tells you to can it.

They can’t hear their favorite George Michael song when you’re talking over it! 

Here are some fun and interesting facts about your favorite Christmas movies:

1. In ‘Love, Actually’ (2003), the little girl singing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” had to be edited because she sounded too good.

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While this isn’t my favorite movie, I have seen it 600 times. That’s because every scene hits. Especially, the finale. Joanna, Sam’s crush, sang Mariah Carey’s big Christmas hit so well, the director had to edit it to make it sound more like a child. That’ll teach her to be the best at something! The other fun fact that makes me misty-eyed is knowing that the opening and closing shots of people greeting each other at Heathrow airport are all real moments with real people, not actors. That, and the fact that actor Kris Marshall returned his paycheck of the day spent shooting the scene where three American women rip his clothes off. He wanted to do that scene for free.

2. The Tarantula in Home Alone (1990) is 100% real.

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via Daniel Stern

According to Daniel Stern himself, he volunteered to have a real spider crawl across his face after he saw what the prop department came up with as an alternative.

“When I first read the script and talked to Chris Columbus,” he wrote in a Facebook post, “I thought the tarantula in the scene was going to be a mechanical one and when I showed up on set, sure enough, the incredible crew in the prop department had made a very life-like spider replica which could move a bit…”

“To ensure that the ‘gag’ was going to work, they brought in a different crew member, this one from the animal wrangling department…People who meet me are always curious if the tarantula was real, if my scream was real, and if I was scared, crazy, or both. The answer to all three of those questions is ‘Yes.'” That’s commitment!

3. Macaulay Culkin made $4.5 million for reprise his role in ‘Home Alone 2: Lost In New York’ (1992), the highest salary ever paid to a child actor at the time.

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He wasn’t the only kid who had his dreams come true. All the children in the toy store scene were allowed to take their favorite toy home with them after the shoot. Speaking of rich children, Donald Trump famously appears for 2 seconds of this movie in the lobby of the hotel. The reason? Trump told the producers they were only allowed to film in his hotel if he could appear in the movie. 

4. Frank Sinatra had first dibs on playing McClane in ‘Die Hard’ (1988). He was 70 years old in 1988.

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Americans were first introduced to the characters in the best action movie (and possibly best Christmas movie) in the 1968 film The Detective starring Frank Sinatra. Because he was the original actor, he apparently had a contract offering a chance to reprise the role first. Can you imagine a 70-year-old man jumping down the vent shaft? Or how much back hair would be ripped out when McClane reaches for the gun taped to his back? Wow.

Forget the debate over the first movie. The real question is… can Die Hard With A Vengeance be considered a Christmas movie? The script was originally written as a standalone feature called Simon Says but after the movie was adapted to featured John McClane, the filmmakers also added several references to Santa and even a Brooklyn kid yelling “It’s Christmas, you could steal City Hall!” 

5. The people Will Ferrell interacts with on the streets in Elf (2003) are real New Yorkers.

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They also filmed the scene where Buddy walks through the Lincoln Tunnel without shutting the tunnel down. This resulted in several traffic accidents. The other thing that was real was the food. Will Ferrell was constantly eating marshmallows and candy on pancakes, and suffered frequent headaches from the diet no human should eat.

6. Everyone at CBS, including the director and producer, thought ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ (1965) was going to flop.

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They used real children as voice actors. The girl playing Lucy couldn’t read yet, so she had to have her lines fed to her, sometimes down to the syllable. The executives were upset there was no laugh track and objected to the notion of having such an overt message to the whole cartoon. Nevertheless, it’s now one of the most successful TV specials of all time. Glowing reviews from critics and audiences alike paved the way for several more Peanuts specials.

7. Michael Caine agreed to do ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ (1992) only if he was permitted to treat the other characters like human actors, and never address that they were puppets.

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Though Caine was a consummate professional, he found out halfway through filming that the movie was Brian Henson’s directorial debut. Michael Caine was impressed. Caine’s acting skills and professionalism were contagious. Kermit The Frog was interviewed and said the best advice Caine gave him on set was “never blink.”

8. Tim Allen stayed in character as Santa in ‘The Santa Claus 2’ (2002) because the child actors all thought he was the real Santa.

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Allen felt a great responsibility to not break character on set. Though, if I were a kid, I’d be pretty psyched if Santa took off his beard, and revealed he was actually Buzz Lightyear. It’d be tough to confuse Tim Allen as Santa when the first film debuted in 1994. Then, he had the number one best-selling book in America, the number one movie at the box office, and the number one TV show, Home Improvement.

9. Each Gremlin in the movie ‘Gremlins’ (1984) was worth $40,000 and production security had to search crewmembers’ cars every night to make sure none were stolen.

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Back in my day, we didn’t have CGI. If you wanted something cool in your movie, you had to build it. Those were the days. It was also very expensive. Director Joe Dante didn’t land on using animatronics right away, however. Originally, they tried to put trained monkeys in gremlin suits. The monkeys were too skittish to wear masks, so they switched to building each one.

10. Director Clea DuVall said ‘Happiest Season’ (2020) is basically an autobiography, and she wrote it because she’d never seen her experience on screen.

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Though the movie was one of four big Christmas-themed LGBTQ movies released in 2020, it would have been the very first major studio theatrical release featured two women in a same-sex couple. However, COVID. 2020 ruined many things. It also ruined movie history. Luckily, we all got to see it on Hulu. It’s also the first holiday-themed movie put out by a major studio with music from a female composer.

11. ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ (1946) changed snow on film forever.

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Before Capra’s classic was shot, filmmakers would use corn flakes as falling snow in movies. The problem is: cornflakes are loud. Ask anyone. Ask anyone like me, a guy who eats three bowls of Frosted Flakes each morning. They make too much noise and dialogue would have to be dubbed in later. Capra used a brand new fake snow effect that combined foamite, soap, and water that was sent through a wind machine. The effects department won an Oscar for it.

12. A hidden suction tube was used in ‘A Christmas Story’ (1983) for the illusion of Flick’s tongue getting stuck on the flagpole.

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The original house used for the exterior shots in the movie is located in my hometown, Cleveland, Ohio. It’s now a tourist attraction. Someone bought the house and sank $500,000 into it to make it look like the house in the movie, set in 1940. We’ve got the Rock Hall of Fame, the Christmas Story House, and the ghost of Harvey Pekar. Cleveland has it all.

13. The movie ‘Jingle All The Way’ (1996) is based on the real-life events of the Cabbage Patch Doll craze in the 80s, but because history repeats itself, the film wound up mimicking the Tickle Me Elmo craze of 1996.

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Fighting over Christmas toys is in the ether. People know it in their hearts that a dark rage is just beneath the surface during holiday shopping. Want proof? A teacher in Detroit sued 20th Century Fox for stealing his idea for the script. Courts later overturned the decision to award him a slice of the box office pie, after it was revealed that Fox had their own script long before they received the teacher’s script. I’m sad to say: it’s all been done.

14. The winter was so cold during the filming of ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (1947), several cameras literally froze.

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The filmmakers also shot on location during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Actor Edmund Gwenn, who played Santa Claus in the movie, played him during the parade that year. The entire sequence at the parade was shot on that day. Even after all that effort, Macy’s didn’t sign off on using their iconic logo or any acknowledgment that it was the company-sponsored parade until they saw a test screening of the film.

15. Two other actors were offered the role of The Grinch in ‘How The Grinch Stole Christmas’ (2000) before Jim Carrey. They were Eddie Murphy and Jack Nicholson. 

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The actors who turned down the role must have felt like they dodged a bullet. The makeup alone was so intense and confining, that Jim Carrey needed counseling from a CIA agent on ways to withstand torture. The makeup director needed a break from filming to seek therapy of his own because working on the film was so difficult. 

h/t IMDB

More great stuff to keep the spirit alive this holiday season:

Dan Wilbur

Dan is a author, blogger and stand-up comedian.