Bruce Boxleitner stars in Silver Bells, premiering on UP TV tomorrow, Sunday, December 1st at 7pm, 9pm and 11pm ET. It is the story of a Type A, very competitive dad who wants everything his family does to be the best, including Christmas. He talked to me about his own family’s Christmas celebrations and making the movie in a small and very cold town in Michigan.
I was more so in the past when my kids were younger. I always felt the enthusiasm to make the most out of Christmas for my kids and decorating and all that comes with that. You want to keep that alive with them as long as possible. They’re all grown up young men now so they realize there’s something fishy about Santa Claus, but we would all love children all their lives to believe in Santa Claus.
What kind of holiday celebrations did you have growing up?
Well, my mom was very just sort of classic, with the anticipation when you set up the tree the week before and then you wait for that much anticipated evening. We had Christmas carols playing all the time on the little hi-fi. That’s how old I am, all the Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, all those kinds of classics. And of course there was baking going on. I have my mother and three sisters so they always have their Christmas cookies and pies and stuff. And then on Christmas day, when you’re up before the sun and got everybody up, you just couldn’t wait. I don’t think that ever changes whatever generation. We had opening of presents and celebration all day and then we went up in my grandmother’s farm for a big Christmas dinner with everybody.
Are there any special holiday movies that you try to watch every year?
I love Christmas movies. That’s why what attracted me to “Silver Bells,” the way it had a similar theme to “It’s A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart. I think that’s everybody’s favorite. It’s always been my favorite. I’m still at tears at the end. They’re not the same, but this one also has redemption in the end, redeeming himself in the eyes of his son, and his wife, and daughter, and ultimately his community after he humiliated himself. And the Anthony Vargas character was sort of his angel.
Also I love “A Christmas Story.” I had that rifle Every kid in the 1960s did. [Laughter] “Be careful. You’ll put your eye out!”
Tell me about making this film, working with the other actors.
You instantly form these relationships. Long winter days after in Manatee, Michigan, that’s the town, and was perfect. It looks like it’s right from the 30’s or 40’s. I blessed with actors who had a lot of chemistry and were all professional and know what’s required. I have grown sons, my boys so it wasn’t hard to play the father of a teenage boy. It wasn’t hard to look at Kenton as my own son. I think you just sit around and in between sets and stuff and we all have the same cold. And this was a low budget film so there weren’t a lot of frills involved. We all huddled together under the service tent in the cold in our parkas. So when you have those kind of adversities, when there’s something like that, where none of us were from there, we all had that bonding right there.
I love working with everybody and the kids are my family but I especially got along with Antonio Fargas. We just got on because we like old rock music, blues music, and Dylan, and Elvis, and all those things so that bonding was right away. He and I would sing, try to stump each other and sing songs on the way to location. And we all would go to the hotel at night and have dinner. Yeah, we did. Those are the things that we do that bonds us together to see that chemistry in the film.
When families watch this movie together, what do you want them to talk about afterwards?
How you’ve got to take the time to enjoy the people in your family, that precious, precious time before everybody split up and go to their way in life. And I think that my character appreciated that he didn’t get the credit, someone else did, and the satisfaction that comes with that.