Filmhounds Magazine

All things film – In print and online

Actor Mena Massoud Talks New Christmas Flick ‘Hotel For The Holidays’ (The FH Interview)

5 min read

Amazon Freevee

Best known for playing Aladdin in the 2019 remake of the same name, is no stranger to family friendly films and romantic comedies. Fresh off his role in the highly successful Netflix movie The Royal Treatment, the actor spoke to us about his next film, , on Amazon's free video platform Freevee this .

Hotel for the Holidays follows Georgia (played by ), a hyper-organised hotel manager who dreams of owning her own place. She's given the opportunity to realise that dream when she meets the former Prince Raymond (Max Lloyd-Jones), a very wealthy potential investor who wants to be more than just business partners. However, in classic love triangle format, Georgia and the hotel's Chef, Luke (Massoud), also have some underlying feelings for one another. Christmas serves as the perfect backdrop for Georgia to choose between love and her dream with ensemble cast antics thrown in for good measure.

Growing up in Egypt gave the Canadian-Egyptian Massoud limited access to the wide selection of we in the UK enjoy. However, there is one film, or rather, film franchise that he ritually watches each year: Home Alone. Massoud tells Filmhounds “I really love Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, that's got a special place in my heart. So, every Christmas I sit down and watch Home Alone”. Fittingly, from the New York setting to its overly-sentimental tone, there's more than a bit of Home Alone in Hotel for the Holidays.

Amazon Freevee

Egypt's attitude towards Christmas is changing however, says Massoud. When he was growing up people didn't really celebrate it, with his family as one of few Christian households in his local area. He told us that “Egypt's really changing now: malls have Christmas trees and it's celebrated more widely. That's another reason why I really wanted to do this film, as the United Arab Emirates, North Africa, and the Middle East start to embrace Christmas”. As Massoud plays to those markets frequently he was pleased to star in a film that their audiences could see as, in his words, “Christmas is really starting to blow up [in those countries]”.

However, there is also a more personal reason for Massoud taking part in Hotel for the Holidays, as he tells us that he enjoys taking on projects like Aladdin that the whole family can enjoy. “I have two nieces and a nephew and I have a film coming out next year that they will most certainly not be able to watch. It's always nice to do films like Hotel for the Holidays as you know the whole family's going to be able to see you in them”.

In addition to Hotel for the Holidays being another family movie in his portfolio, Massoud was also attracted to the film as it gave him the opportunity to star opposite Madelaine Pestch. Massoud had previously met Petsch on a late-night talk show where they bonded over their plant-based diets and similar work ethics and the pair loosely stayed in touch. “When I got the call she'd be playing Georgia, that sealed the deal for me. I really wanted to work with her and explore that connection we had when we met in person for the first time. She's a really fun, grounded, professional person, which I think I am as well [so] I think we just vibed off of that really”, he told us.

As for his character of Luke, it was his job as a chef that drew Massoud to the role, as it echoed his own career before he became a full-time actor: “I worked in a restaurant for three years before I moved to L.A, so that was part of the reason that I wanted to do this role: it took me back to my time before moving”. However, it was also the classic device of the love triangle that turned Massoud's head: “I think it's something we can all relate to, you know, having feelings for somebody and someone else coming into the picture and making you realise you really do feel strongly for that other person. That was fun to explore”, he said.

Amazon Freevee

Hotel for the Holidays was seemingly the perfect storm for Massoud, as it also allowed him to film back in his home country of Canada. The film shoots Ottawa for New York (quite convincingly) and the cast is made up of primarily Canadian actors. While Massoud didn't get many opportunities to mingle with the ensemble cast, he felt it important to seek out the locals, even if he didn't share much screen time with them: “I was one of those actors living in Canada trying to make it in the industry over there as a local Canadian actor.” With this in mind, Massoud made sure to put in the time to get to know these up-and-coming actors: “You'll see that there's a lot of talent in the film and a lot of talent in Canada”, he proudly told us.

Shooting at the real-life Fairmont Hotel in Ottawa sounded like a lot of fun, particularly during a party scene towards the film's end that saw the entire cast come together. This light atmosphere was unsurprising given director Ron Oliver's penchant for the festive, as Massoud tells us: “Ron is a Christmas movie in himself. He is incredible. He wore a different suit every day that we were filming. Most days they were Christmas themed, whether it was penguins or Santa Claus or Christmas trees he had a different suit everyday so he definitely bought that vibe and energy”. Oliver's festive attire certainly seemed to put the cast in the Christmas mood and made working with the director enjoyable, but also insightful. As Massoud notes, Oliver has directed nearly 100 films and is a “seasoned vet” with much to teach the actor.

Massoud, Petsch, Oliver and the rest of the cast and crew clearly enjoyed shooting, and there is a joyous air surrounding the unapologetically gooey film, perfect for the Christmas season.

Hotel for the Holidays will premiere exclusively on Amazon Freevee in the UK on 2nd December.