Bill Hader has been having quite a year. Not only did he star in the summer box-office hit, IT: Chapter Two, but he also picked up an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for the show he co-created and wrote, Barry. Now, he is ushering in a new era of television with the premiere of Noelle, one of Disney + first original films set to premiere the day the new platform launches.
Hader co-stars as Nick, brother to Noelle (Anna Kendrick), who has just realized that he has to take over the role held by his recently deceased father, Santa Claus. Not ready to deal with the pressure that comes with being Jolly Ol’ Nick, he runs away to Phoenix, Arizona where he becomes a yoga teacher who finds his zen in a place completely unlike his hometown, the North Pole. When Noelle finds him, he must discover if Santa lives inside him or if maybe, there’s someone else more prepared to take over the family business.
We visited the snow-filled Vancouver set two years ago, and talked with Hader about his character, how he explained the movie to his kids, and more.
BILL HADER: Oh, yeah, Nick is supposed to be Santa Claus, and he grew up in the North Pole. He’s kinda freaked out about the idea of having to do it, and he’s real put upon, and everything, and he’s very stressed out. So, Marc Lawrence wrote it that he flees to Phoenix, Arizona, and becomes a yoga instructor. So, he does Christmas yoga. It’s all like Christmas tree pose, reindeer pose, stuff like that.
Had you done much yoga in your life, or was that a skill you had to learn for the movie?
HADER: I tried doing yoga. We did a scene in a yoga studio, and those people were doing like crazy handstands on top of each other, and doing all these things. I can’t do that. I’m not that flexible. But, it’s great when I do it. It’s like anything, you do it and you’re like, “This is wonderful. I’m gonna do this every day.” And then that’s the last day you do it.
I’m curious about your work with Marc Lawrence, and just how much freedom he’s been giving you to explore.
HADER: He’s just great. Marc is a great writer, and he has a very specific rhythm, and kind of comedic out. I like it because it’s very subtle, you know? Even though this thing is called Noelle, and it’s Christmas, and we’re all dressed all crazy, and everything, he has a very subtle kind of, it’s like you’ll read it on the page and go, “Okay, I kinda get this.” Then you do it out loud, and he’ll go, “No, no, no, can you just put an emphasis on this word?” And then suddenly we do it, and we all start laughing. I go, “Oh, that’s what-.” He has a very interesting kind of ear.
With that kind of specificity, are you feeling freedom to like creative?
HADER: Yeah! I mean, it’s not so much an improv type of movie. It’s not like one of the Judd movies where you’re just improvising the whole time. It’s more written. But, he lets you. I’m essentially just playing Marc. He’s like, “So, you’re a very nervous, kinda anxious, kind of written guy.” And I was like, “Okay!” His daughter’s on set today, and she watched us do a take, and she was like, “I feel like you’re playing my dad.” And I was like, “I am.”
You have kids of your own. How are they gonna take the fact that you’re the dad that gave away Christmas?
HADER: I’m gonna tell them what happens, ‘cause like, it’s not real. One of my daughters was like, “So, you’re going to Santa Claus’s house?” And I go, “Well, they built Santa Claus’s house.” And she went, “So, they had to go to his house and measure it?” And I said, “Yeah, they went to his house and measured it.” And she went, “Wow. That’s so cool.” They’re excited.
The set we see here is pretty intricate and very cool. Has there been one set or a sequence you’ve got to be a part of that’s been particularly exciting for you?
HADER: I got to be in the sleigh where the sleigh goes crazy. I don’t know if you guys saw that, but I was on this jibbed thing where I’m on a sleigh, and the sleigh crashes. I’m seeing the shot, and it’s very far away, and I have a beard on and everything. I go, “Oh, cool, a stuntman can do this.” And Marc went, “No, no, no, no. You’re, you’re going in there, ‘cause I need you to do your lines.” I had some lines, and I went, “Oh. Oh, okay.” That was a bit like being in a car that then suddenly just goes right off a cliff, you know, just goes straight down. And the stunt guy who did it, he’s like, “Yeah, man, it’s really hairy.” I’m like, “Oh god, the stunt guy’s saying that.” But that was fun.
When you first heard it was a Christmas movie, did you imagine that you were gonna end up playing a yoga teacher in Arizona?
HADER: No, I didn’t know that. It was very strange that that happened. Again, that’s what I mean by Marc’s sense of humor. I was reading it going like, “Oh, I kinda see where this is going.” And then I went, “Oh, I did not see it going, wow, yoga instructor. Wow, okay.” He has a great imagination for that stuff. But, it’s been an amazing, it’s fun. Like, you were talking about my kids, I watch a lot of kid’s movies and TV shows. I mean, that’s kinda all I end up watching now. When I told them, I was like, “Hey, I’m, I’m reading a script now about this woman who, you know, Santa Clause’s daughter becomes Santa.” And they went, “A girl Santa?” And I was like, “Yeah.” And they’re like, “But does she have a beard?” And, I was like, “No, no, no.” And then, they were excited, and I was like, “And it’s the girl from Pitch Perfect.” And they went, “Ah!!” So my kids could be executives at Disney, basically.
Do you think that movie has what it takes to be another classic holiday film like Elf?
HADER: I don’t know. You never know with anything. It’s like you always do things, and everything you work on one day you’re like, “This is the classic.” And then the next day you’re like, “Oh, no one’s gonna see this. This is so terrible.” When I was at Saturday Night Live, you would do a character and go, “Well, people are gonna love this.” And then people hated it, or people never wanted to see it again. But then the thing that you thought didn’t, that’s the thing that worked. You know? So, you have no idea.
Do you have a favorite Christmas movie?
HADER: My favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story I love. Oddly enough, Life of Brian. I love that movie. I watch Life of Brian on Christmas because it makes me laugh.
Noelle is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.