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About The Production
"Christmas is a great holiday, but it can also be a very lonely time for some people,” says director Mike Mitchell about the premise of his new movie, "Surviving Christmas.” "I think there are a lot of people who can relate to the predicament of the character of Drew Latham, who will go to any lengths to avoid being alone at Christmas.” 

"Surviving Christmas” first came to the attention of producing partners Jenno Topping and Betty Thomas when a writing team they knew pitched them an idea for a movie. "We had made the film ‘Can't Hardly Wait' with Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont,” Topping recalls. "They came to my office and said they had an idea for a movie about a man who returns to his childhood home, and persuades the people living there now to let him spend the holidays with them. It was only the one line at that point, but it seemed really funny to us.”

The final screenplay became a collaboration between Kaplan & Elfont and the writing duo of Jeffrey Ventimilia & Joshua Sternin. The producers then turned to finding the right director to helm the project. "For me, Mike Mitchell had the perfect combination of sensibilities,” Topping offers. "He understands physical comedy, but he also has a quirkier side. He is just offbeat enough and, at the same time, just commercial enough to get what the movie is really about. He doesn't need a cookie cutter model, and he is not afraid of having genuine emotions in a broad comedy.”

Mitchell says the first and most important thing that drew him to the project was the script. "It always starts with a great script, and I thought this one was very funny,” he remarks. "For me, it was the story. Here is this lonely, rich guy who doesn't have anyone to spend Christmas with. He returns to the house he grew up in, but, of course, a different family lives there now. So he does what anyone with nothing but money would do: He rents the people living there to be his family for the holidays for a cool quarter of a million. I just thought that was such a funny idea.”

Casting had already gotten underway when Mitchell was set to direct "Surviving Christmas.” "The interesting thing about our cast is that each one was our first choice, which was incredible,” Topping notes. "The chemistry between all the actors turned out to be amazing. We couldn't have asked for better.” 

The first person cast was Ben Affleck, who stars in the central role of Drew Latham. "I've known Ben for a long time and have always thought he was one of the funniest people I'd ever met,” states Topping. "I knew he was not only funny, but also capable of real invention and improvisation, so I loved the idea of him for this movie from the very beginning. A long time ago, I gave him an early draft of the script, and he loved it and said he wanted to do it.”

Affleck says, "I thought it had such a strong central premise, which was very funny and gave me a lot of mileage to have fun with the character. Drew Latham is kind of an unusual guy. He's very energetic and thinks outside the box, and he's been very successful because of that. But even though he has all the money in the world, he has nothing else in his life to show for it and no one to spend Christmas with, so he becomes sort of unhinged. He goes to his boyhood home and meets the Valco family, whose house it is now, and decides, ‘I'll have Christmas with them.' He's the kind of guy who only thinks about what he wants and will throw money around to make it happen.”

"Ben was excellent as Drew,” Mitchell comments. "He played him with a kind of misguided childlike naiveté that was perfect for the part.”

With each new Christmas tradition imposed on the family, Drew seems to be working the last nerve of the head of the family, Tom Valco, although Tom has only himself to blame because it was he who immediately accepted Drew's offer out of hand. James Gando

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