October 31, 2002
‘Clause 2’ gives Mitchell the gift of stardom
In ”The Santa Clause 2,” Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) has to find a Mrs. Claus if he wants to continue to be Mr. Claus.
The cold-but-highly-efficient high school principal Carol Newman might seem an unlikely candidate for the gregarious Santa/Calvin on his return to Earth from the North Pole. Especially since Newman is taking a tough line on the school misbehavior of Calvin’s son.
But you never know. After all, it’s Christmas (actually, the charming and fanciful ”The Santa Clause 2” will be released nationally tomorrow). One thing is for certain: Newman is the major starring role of Elizabeth Mitchell’s career to date. So there’s one nice present for the pleasant, tall-but-delicate-looking 32-year-old.
That said, she has already had an interesting and busy career. Her first part was in ”Alice in the Looking Glass” at the Dallas Theater Center. Mitchell was 7 at the time.
”I was pretty terrified, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t anymore,’‘ she said during an interview at The Ritz Carlton Boston Common hotel, where she was in town recently to promote ”The Santa Clause 2.”
Mitchell had an extensive background in theater before appearing in front of the camera. On television, her credits include the title role in ”The Linda McCartney Story” on CBS, and a continuing part on the NBC series ”ER” as Dr. Kim Legaspi. On the big screen she’s been seen in ”Molly,” ”Nurse Betty” and ”Frequency.”
Growing up in Dallas, Mitchell said her parents were always supportive of her intentions to become an actress, but they worried about whether she would be able to make a living at it.
”I never thought I would, either. I thought I would temp and work in the theater at night. I mean, this is crazy,” she said.
”This” was finding herself being flown into places such as Boston and sitting in a swank hotel, talking about a movie in which she co-stars.
But isn’t this indeed the kind of thing of that Christmas wishes and Santa are made of?
Asked what sort of Christmas gifts she received as a child, Mitchell replied, ”We didn’t get a whole lot of stuff, but it was very special what you did get.” And she wasn’t that demanding.
”Anything edible as a kid. I wanted anything that had to do with candy,” she said. Her mother is a health enthusiast who served the family a lot of brown rice in her time.
”It gave me a nice metabolism,” Mitchell said. ”But at Christmas time I wanted the snow cone maker. Which I actually got.”
When did Mitchell finally learn the ”truth” about Santa and who was giving her those sweet presents?
”My mom has never copped to it,” Mitchell said. ”She’s a very imaginative woman.”
Now her parents are about to attend the premiere of ”The Santa Clause 2.”
As her credits indicate, Mitchell has played a variety of parts, but she said she had never previously done a romantic comedy, which was one of the things that attracted her to the movie.
”I wanted to see if romantic comedy liked me,” she said.
Director Michael Lembeck said he had looked at a lot of actresses for the role of Carol Newman.
”The list was very impressive,” he said in a separate interview alongside Tim Allen. ”But as soon as I met (Mitchell), I knew.”
But if there is a potential Grinch to the story, it might be found in the form of a couple of executives at Walt Disney studios, which produced the film.
”Disney pounded on me to hire someone else,” Lembeck said. The studio was apparently looking for a bigger ”name.” Lembeck remained adamant, and was supported by Allen.
Later, the executives saw the merits of Mitchell in the role.
”They were men enough to say ‘We were very wrong about this,’ ” said Allen.
As for how Mitchell found playing romantic comedy?
”I loved it,” she said. ‘‘I was the straight man (to Allen), but that was joyous in its own right because without a straight man it isn’t funny.”
When we meet her at the beginning, Newman is a very straight arrow indeed. And sharp.
”There’s no joy, obviously, in her life,” Mitchell said.
On the other hand, she is committed to the children that she oversees as a principal.
”She’s a very flawed human being, but I think she has a heart of gold,” she said.
”I think you start to get a hint of what could be there and what could happen,” she said, ”to fall in love with this wonderful idea that you get to have a dream and get to have it come true and get to believe in something.”
Then it was back to reality for a second.
Mitchell said that she had seen the full and final cut of ”The Santa Clause 2” just once at a screening where she was ”surrounded by a bunch of men in suits.”
But the Christmas spirit was able to work its magic.
”One guy said, ‘You know, this movie is not targeted for me, but I like it,’ ” Mitchell said.
So hope springs eternal.
”I think if you’re having a bad day, it (the movie) could be good. If you’re having a good day it could be good,” Mitchell said. ‘‘It would be nice to say go in with the eyes of a child, but can any of us do that these days? It seems a bit harder than normal. But it might help you leave that way, maybe, just for a little while.”
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Liz | mom | Santa Clause 2