‘You Need Many Years of Therapy’: 20 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Bad Santa’ on Its 20th Anniversary

Billy Bob Thornton went a bit too method with the drinking aspect of his character
‘You Need Many Years of Therapy’: 20 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Bad Santa’ on Its 20th Anniversary

Most people celebrate the Christmas season with movies like Frosty the SnowmanRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and It’s a Wonderful Life. But some of us will choose to be festive in a very different way, with the drunken, over-sexed, vulgar Willie Soke in Bad Santa. The raunchy Christmas classic turns 20 this year, so let’s unwrap 20 trivia gifts to mark the occasion…

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It Began with the Coen Brothers — Yes, Those Coen Brothers

The story concept for Bad Santa came from an idea by Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen. They then hired screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa to write the screenplay, instructing them to pen something similar to The Bad News Bears.

Too Hot for Universal

When Universal received the script, they passed on the project, calling it “the most foul, disgusting, misogynistic, anti-Christmas, anti-children thing we could imagine.”

Stiff Competition for Santa

After Gandolfini didn’t work out, Bill Murray, Jack Nicholson, Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage were considered for Willie before Billy Bob Thornton got the part.

Santa’s Salty Language

In our interview with Brett Kelly, who played Thurman Merman, he said another kid auditioning for the part broke down in tears during a screen test when Thornton began cursing at him.

The True Meaning of Christmas

Kelly also shared that he attended a Catholic School when Bad Santa premiered, and several people, including the principal, were unhappy that he was in the film due to its raunchy content.

Thurman’s Trademark Curls

Kelly said that when he lets his hair get too long around the Christmas season, people start recognizing him as Thurman Merman.

Thornton and the Director Didn’t Get Along

“A couple of times, I was drunk, but not every day. I showed up with a hangover a few times. There were times when I’d be with my pals until 3:30 a.m. and have to be at work at 7 a.m. I wasn’t the most pleasant guy to be around,” Thornton told The New York Times. This led to a clash between him and director Terry Zwigoff. 

Santa’s Hangover

Zwigoff opted not to come back for reshoots after a bad test screening. Ultimately, The Hangover director Todd Phillips filled in to film a few more tender scenes between Willie and Thurman, including when Willie teaches Thurman how to box.

There Are Three Versions of the Film

There’s the 93-minute theatrical cut; the 98-minute “Badder Santa” DVD version with a subplot about Willie stealing a car; and finally, the 88-minute director’s cut, which cuts the aforementioned boxing scene.

RIP John Ritter

Ritter, who played timid mall manager Bob Chipeska, passed away on September 11, 2003, just two months before the film debuted. It would be his final on-camera film role. Previous to Bad Santa, Ritter and Thornton had worked together on the film Sling Blade and the TV series Hearts Afire.

RIP Bernie Mac

Mac, who plays the head of mall security, Gin Slagel, had a hectic work schedule while filming as he was also shooting Charlie’s Angels and The Bernie Mac Show at the same time.

Tony Cox’s Unconventional Therapy

Cox described his role as the foul-mouthed little person Marcus Skidmore as being “like therapy” as the character enabled him to say things he wouldn’t in his normal life.

‘You Probably Shouldn’t Be Digging in Your Ass’

Cox improvised the line “You probably shouldn’t be digging in your ass” to Thornton. Zwigoff said it made him crack up for weeks afterward.

Thirteen Years Later

After the blockbuster success of the first film, a sequel was planned, but it didn’t drop until 2016. Thornton has said, “We always planned on making a sequel. It’s just that there were a lot of loose ends to be tied up because Miramax was sold. We had to get the proper script. It took a few years.”

Santa’s Mama

While Kathy Bates played Willie’s mother in Bad Santa 2, there is only a seven-year age difference between her and Thornton.

Two’s Company…

Being a fan of the first film, Bates said her biggest concern about joining the sequel’s cast was that she didn’t want to disturb the perfect chemistry between Thornton and Cox. 

Bad Santa 3?

While promoting Bad Santa 2, Thornton expressed interest in returning for a third film, though he said he wouldn’t be interested if it had a similarly long gap between the films, lest it be called Bad Nursing HomeThornton joked.

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