Back in 2010, Sergio Pablos couldn’t help but take note of all the origin stories that were being made into movies. “Even Hannibal Lecter and Jason were getting origin stories,” he tells us in our recent webchat (watch the exclusive video above). This led him to think about telling an animated origin story of some historical or literary figure. When he first thought of the idea of doing one on Santa Claus, he quickly tossed it aside believing it was too corny but he kept coming back to the idea. The cementing was when he settled on how to frame the story. “Usually stories come together for me when I find the irony which was, what if everything that’s good about Santa came through the actions of the worst human being I can conceive of?”
“Klaus,” which is currently streaming on Netflix, centers on Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), a spoiled brat who’s a student at the postal academy run by his father. In an attempt to get him to take some responsibility, his father stations him in a remote frozen village that’s been plagued by violent rivalries and letters are never sent. After coming across a larger-than-life recluse named Klaus (J.K. Simmons), who lives in a cabin filled with toys, Jesper gets the idea to start a racket where kids write letters to Klaus asking for presents. This marks the directorial debut for Pablos who had previously developed the story for “Despicable Me” and the source material for “Smallfoot.”
Pablos initially thought that the Christmas aspect of the story would help get the movie picked up by a studio to make it, but he soon found out that that was not the case. He explains, “We found that a lot of people were very apprehensive about Christmas, especially theatrically speaking. Nobody wanted to come out in such a busy season with all the big films so we actually realized that what we thought was a plus was actually a hindrance.” When they got to Netflix, they found that the streaming service was actively looking for Christmas related content and that’s when Pablos discovered they were a perfect match.
Pablos also finds himself in awe of the incredible cast that was able to be assembled for this project with the help of his casting directors, Matthew Jon Beck and Micah Dahlberg. Simmons was the first cast and was on top of a list provided by Netflix, which Pablos agreed to right away. Jesper was tougher to cast mainly because Pablos wanted to avoid having this flawed character come off as unlikable. That all changed when Schwartzman came in to read for the part. “I realized after recording with him and figuring that out, when I went back to writing I was able to write his version of the character which helped me immensely in moving the story forward,” he says. He adds that Schwartzman’s skills as an improviser also helped in that he was able to take a two-word line and turn it into an epic rant.
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