People are surprised to hear that Kevin Spacey is even in Fred Claus. It's a Vince Vaughn comedy and Paul Giamatti has the iconic role of Santa. Spacey plays the supporting role of an efficiency expert sent to evaluate the North Pole. He's the bad guy, but that wasn't important to Spacey.
Kevin Spacey on Fred Claus
"Sometimes people say ‘Isn’t it great that you are at this place in your career where you can pick the parts that you want to play?’" Spacey said. "That is only true in the sense that you can pick the parts that they offer. You can pick the parts that you are available to do, given the schedule that I have is primarily now based in the theatre in London. It’s a funny thing, because I suppose when people see movies they then label the character a bad, evil, villainous, or good or triumphant or heroic. The truth is that when you are playing a character you don’t ever label a character. You don’t say ‘Oh, now I’m playing this villain.’ You are playing a human being who might do bad things, and might do good things."
Even in the high concept holiday comedy, the role gave Spacey a clear arc. "I think what I liked about Clyde in this film is that even though he starts off in a certain place, he ends up in an entirely different place. There is actually a journey. I reject the idea that he’s a bad guy. Yeah, he’s kicking Santa’s ass, but at the end he actually is, they are finally using spreadsheets and it's efficient. It’s gotten much better."
Santa also figures out that Clyde's bitterness comes from a gift he never got. It happens to have a connection to Spacey's other major villain role in Superman Returns. "It was written. Some people seem to think it was my idea, but it was not my idea, it was their idea. I thought it was a funny idea. I’m only enormously grateful that they came to London to film the movie. Otherwise it would have been Paul Rudd and not me."
Fred Claus is not Spacey's first Christmas movie either. He has a unique perspective on the holiday spirit. "I did a movie a bunch of years ago, the only other Christmas movie I’ve done, and it was called The Ref which was a movie that I loved and had a great time. It is a movie that has a slightly twisted way into what is sort of the more traditional and a little more sentimental. I had a blast, we had a really good time. You want to fulfill and check all the comedy boxes but, you also want it to be rooted in something so that by the end of the film an audience walks out and says, 'Yeah, the movie has a theme. It’s got some ideas to it, it’s got a spirit to it' as you always with these kinds of movies do, and there is a kind of lesson to be learned."