Garth Brooks: Call Me Screenwriter

To hear Garth Brooks tell it, after Wednesday night’s (Nov. 28) show on South Padre Island off the Texas coast (10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS), he’ll put away his guitar and microphone headset, dismiss his band and turn his attention to other things, like screenwriting.

Watching Brooks perform on the first two installments of Garth Brooks: Coast to Coast Live — Nov. 14 in Los Angeles and Nov. 21 on the USS Enterprise in Norfolk -– it’s hard to believe that he’ll keep to his plan. He has the old crazed look in his eye; the broad, maniacal smile; the restless dash to the edge of the stage. He seems to enjoy himself too much.

This Sunday night (Dec. 2) however, offers evidence that Brooks has every intention of moving on to new things. At 8 p.m. ET/PT, cable channel TNT will premiere Call Me Claus, an original holiday film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Brooks, Goldberg and Lisa Sanderson, CEO of Brooks’ Red Strokes Entertainment production company, are co-executive producers of the film.

Though he has said he wants to write screenplays, Brooks’ primary contribution to this particular project is its original music. As the opening credits roll, he croons the uncharacteristically jazzy — for him — “’Zat You, Santa Claus?,” recorded first by Louis Armstrong.

For most of the movie we don’t hear Brooks (and we never see him), but near the end, as Goldberg’s character, a hard-hearted cable TV exec, undergoes a change, Brooks’ voice pops up with some Christmas standards (“Winter Wonderland,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”).

As the final credits roll, with Goldberg standing in for Santa (Sir Nigel Hawthorne), Brooks sings the movie’s theme, “Call Me Claus,” an uptempo number written by Brooks with Sanderson and Jenny Yates.

“The music is a blast,” Brooks promises in publicity materials for the movie. “Whoopi was able to marry this hip attitude with Christmas, and I had to accomplish that through music.”

Never one to set his sights low, Brooks says he hopes viewing the movie will become an annual family Christmas tradition. He also hopes that showing a black woman take the place of the traditional Santa figure will send a powerful message to kids. “I would like to see … some little child realize they can overcome anything, regardless of what color or gender they are, that they can see the important thing is what’s inside,” he says. “If that can happen, then no matter how much money and how much time was spent on the movie, it was all worth it.”

Call Me Claus will be released Dec. 11 on home video. The songs on the soundtrack appear on Brooks’ re-released CD, Garth Brooks & the Magic of Christmas.

After the concerts and the Claus premiere, it’s back to Oklahoma for Brooks, where screenwriting fits into the routine he imagines he’ll follow as he rears his daughters: Taylor, 9, August, 7, and Allie, 5.

He’s “in the middle of three or four [scripts] right now,” Brooks tells Among those he admires, he says, is the script for The Green Mile. “I remember when I got through reading [it] … I threw it on the table in front of me and just stared at it for like, 20 minutes. I was blown away by the pictures it painted, just with black and white. That’s what I want to do.”