To hell with all is calm. ‘Tis Violent Night

(Courtesy of Universal)

Well, the Christmas action gauntlet has been thrown down. Looking at you Die Hard.  From 87North, the bare-knuckle producers of Bullet Train, Nobody, John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2 and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw comes a holiday action-comedy that says you should always bet on red – Violent Night.

When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy Lightstone 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) as Scrooge, the leader of the mercenaries; Alex Hassell (Cowboy Bebop) as Jason Lightstone; Alexis Louder (The Tomorrow War) as Jason’s estranged wife, Linda, and Leah Brady (The Umbrella Academy) as their daughter, Trudy, who forms a heartfelt bond with Santa and provides him with vital assistance as he attempts to dispatch the intruders. Edi Patterson (The Righteous Gemstones) plays Alva Lightstone; Cam Gigandet (Without Remorse) plays Morgan Lightstone and Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise) stars as the imperious Lightstone matriarch, Gertrude. Watch the trailer:


The Backstory

Every good story has a good backstory as well. Violent Night is no different.

87North Productions, the company founded by producers Kelly McCormick and David Leitch, has become a household name for bold, cutting-edge action films anchored by authentic characters and sincere emotion. So, when McCormick and Leitch got an urgent call from the manager of screenwriters Josh Miller and Pat Casey about an action-packed, heartfelt, R-rated film pitch that was generating heavy buzz around the industry, they were eager to be involved,” McCormick says. 

As Miller and Casey explained the premise of their alt-Christmas action-comedy Leitch and McCormick instantly saw potential in the idea. “Josh and Pat laid out this crazy story about Santa saving the day after a family was held hostage,” Leitch says. “I immediately thought, ‘This is genius.’ It was bold and irreverent, and it ultimately had a good moral tale at the end of it. I don’t think they had all of the small details worked out in that initial pitch, but they had the shell of the idea.” 

The producers loved that the concept for the film had swagger and edge while also tapping into the true spirit of the holidays. It also had the potential to be packed with incredible, groundbreaking fight sequences. “We thought it was such a cool, big idea and an absolute no-brainer for us, so we were able to charm Pat and Josh and they went with us,” McCormick says. “Universal actually greenlit the first draft of the script, so the process of pitch to production was a very short timeframe.”

The next crucial next step was finding someone who could direct such a unique film. The job required experience in both action and story, which the producers found in filmmaker Tommy Wirkola. Producer Guy Danella, who joined the 87North team in summer 2021, had previously worked closely with Wirkola on various projects at production company Studio 8.

Violent Night was the first script I read after joining the 87North team, and after I read it, I asked Kelly and David, ‘Would it be too obvious if we brought in Tommy for this?’” Danella says. “The story just seemed like one that Tommy would have come up with and was so on-brand for him. I think a lot of people would have asked ‘How are you going to pull that off?’ after reading the screenplay, but for Tommy, we knew that he would want to push all the boundaries that he could.”

Leitch had also worked with Wirkola on the 2013 film Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. “When I read the script for Hansel & Gretel, I thought it was so fun and ballsy,” Leitch says. “I was so excited about it that I turned down another job. I jumped on with the whole 87North team and we shot some crazy action and fights for that film, and the entire time, Tommy and I got on like gangbusters. We had the same sensibilities, and I loved his bold approach to directing, so when Violent Night came to us, we thought he was perfect for it.”

McCormick sites Wirkola’s Dead Snow films as some of her favorites of his. “They’re more gruesome than Violent Night, but the bold ideas and the action that’s grounded in heart very closely resembles what we knew we wanted for this film,” McCormick says. “And then we saw his film The Trip last year, which really cemented him in our minds as a strong director for this film. It can sometimes be hard to find a director who easily folds into the 87North brand and has the ability to combine hard action with character-based heart, and Tommy’s done that in spades, so I don’t think there could have been a better choice.”

Violent Night breaks into theaters on December 2.

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