‘Violent Night’ Star John Leguizamo Says a Hot/Cold Spa Day With David Harbour Was Tougher Than the Action Scenes

The actor also tells TheWrap about being scared of Beverly D’Angelo and his favorite Christmas movie

Violent Night

John Leguizamo is having a moment.

After co-starring in the delicious dark comedy “The Menu” earlier this fall, he’s back in “Violent Night,” an over-the-top Christmas action movie that has Santa Claus (David Harbour) squaring off against a truly villainous baddie codenamed Mr. Scrooge (Leguizamo). Leguizamo chews every bit of scenery and gets to engage in a brutal knock-down, drag-out fight with Old Saint Nick. (The movie lives up to its title.) The movie is a total blast and a future Christmas classic for those who are tired of saccharine sweet holiday fare.

TheWrap spoke to Leguizamo about his inspiration behind the character, having his dialogue dubbed in “Die Hard 2,” going to a sauna with Harbour and turning down a role in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning “Traffic.” Also learn about his intentions to do a follow-up to his cult comedy “The Pest.”

Are we in the middle of a John Leguizamo renaissance … or did we never leave one?

I love a philosopher interviewer. I’ve always been threatening to be renaissancing and doing as much as I can. I’m always doing as much as I can.

Well between this and “The Menu,” that’s pretty good.

Oh, I mean they’re quality picks, which I’m really happy about. Usually when that happens, one is crappy and one is good, but both of mine are excellent.

This movie pays homage to “Die Hard 2” and you were in “Die Hard 2.”

Well, barely. I mean, my voice was dubbed, I die with a mask.

Was it?

Yeah. I mean, my role was so small they wouldn’t fly me to dub. They wouldn’t even hire me to dub my own voice.

Hopefully that experience didn’t dampen your love of a good Christmas action movie.

Oh, like this one? Yeah. I mean, I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time. Something to subvert the whole genre, you know what I mean? We needed something like this. It’s a Santa Claus for our times.

Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?

“A Christmas Story,” always. Hands down. I mean, the kid with the tongue on the pole. [starts doing an impression of the scene from “A Christmas Story”]

And now you’re in a new Christmas favorite.

Oh, from your lips to our creator’s ears.

You’re such a great villain in “Violent Night” and I was wondering if you looked to other villains or villainous performances for inspiration.

Well, the villains are the best roles in Hollywood. They always have been. So yeah, I’ve always studied the great, Alan Rickman, all the great villains of all time, the Jeremy Irons and all those great roles. Yeah, you have to make a really smart villain, a witty villain, he has to be. Your action movie’s only as good as your villain.

What was it like working with David Harbour?

Oh my God. He’s incredible, man. I mean, not only is he fun, he made me do this crazy Norwegian spa thing, that I’m a weakling but he would make me go into hot sauna, ice-cold plunge, hot sauna. I almost passed out and that was only hanging out. Then we had to do a fight sequence together and the dude’s a massive Viking and I’m just an Incan warrior.

Did you end up ultimately enjoying the spa?

No. I did not. I will never go back again.

What was more difficult, doing these elaborate stunts or going to that spa with David Harbour?

Oh, wow. I mean, I couldn’t walk the day after the fight sequence. I fell out of the bed and I rolled on the ground until I could get movement back up. But the spa knocked me out, because we were in there in the hottest sauna I’ve ever been in, burned my eyeballs, 20 minutes. And I’d wear my silver chain and that was burning my flesh, then we go into this ice plunge, and then all the blood drains out of your body, then we go back into the sauna again.

What are you talking about while you’re sitting there?

They’re talking. I’m going, “Oh my God, it’s so cold. I can’t…”

You also got to work with a genuine Christmas legend in Beverly D’Angelo.

Wow. I mean, she’s incredible. What a force of nature, man. When she was on the set, I was scared. She scared me as that character, as Gertrude. She was frightening. She would look at me and she has that incredible smokey voice, “John, what are you doing for lunch?” And I’d be like, “I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m eating with you?” Everything she said, that came out of her mouth, it scared me, but she was just being friendly.

Who is left on your Mount Rushmore of filmmakers, who you haven’t worked with but want to?

Scorsese. I think Scorsese is still on my list. David O. Russell. There’s a lot of them.

You’ve never worked with Steven Soderbergh right? That seems like it’d be a good fit.

No, I’ve never worked with Soderbergh, and I love Soderbergh. He tried to cast me in “Traffic,” and I was just like, “I don’t know.” I wasn’t feeling it, but that was my bad.

Was it the Benicio del Toro role?

No, no. If it was that, I wouldn’t have turned it down.

Besides “Die Hard 2,” is there any previous character or project that you would love to revisit?

I loved “The Infiltrator” with Bryan Cranston I had an amazing time with him too. I’d love to do that again. “The Pest,” I didn’t realize it was a cult hit. I was just at Comic-Con and everybody, every kid was bringing up “The Pest.” I was going, “Really? Okay, okay.” If I haven’t aged out, I’ll do a “Pest 2.”

“Violent Night” is in theaters this Friday.