Bad Santa is modern Christmas classic, a raunchy comedy that balanced the sweet the acerbic. 13 years later, the long gestating sequel Bad Santa 2 is finally hitting theaters. Reuniting the cast of the original of Billy Bob Thorton, Tony Cox, and Brett Kelly and featuring the new additions of Christina Hendricks and Kathy Bates, Bad Santa 2 arrives under the direction of Mark Waters. Everyone was present a few weeks ago for a press conference about the movie and its long road from development to finally opening in theaters.
The big question on everyone’s mind: Why did it take 13 years for a sequel? “First of all, the studio was in transition a couple of different times. You know, it was bought, and then changed hands, and then came back, and all this kind of stuff. So we had to wait for all the red tape to be sorted out,” Billy Bob Thornton said. “That’s one thing.”
Thornton continued: “Once we got the go ahead to do it, then we wanted to take great care. We thought, ‘Maybe you’ll never beat the first one,’ and you have die-hard fans and critics, you know, are predisposed to not say good things about sequels, so we wanted to make sure we got close to the first one. That’s really what we wanted to do. What we wanted to do was keep the spirit of the first movie, so in essence make the first movie again only make it different, too.”
With the long absence between movies, there was apparently little difficulty in recapturing the chemistry between the actors. Returning as a fully grown Thurman Merman, Brett Kelly explained the seamless reunion. “Even before we started shooting, me, Billy, and Tony had our first meetings for it. Within five minutes it was like we had never been apart. You would never have known it was 13 years since we did the last one.”
For Tony Cox, it was also just as easy. “It was like old times for me,” he said. “To work with Billy again and go after him. The way we go after each other is just like family.”
New to the raunchy world of Bad Santa are Kathy Bates, who plays Willie’s drunken mother, and Christina Hendricks, who plays the philanthropist Diane Hastings, a girl with a heart of gold and a hidden wild side.
“I loved playing a biker chick because I’ve always wanted a motorcycle, I’ve always wanted tats, I’ve always wanted a mohawk, I’ve always wanted to do all of these crazy things and not give a you know what,” and enthusiastic Bates said of her foul-mouthed mother character.
“The first movie is kind of legendary so I felt nervous and excited and they all made me feel very welcome,” Hendricks said of joining the cast. “And I’ve always wanted to do something that you could just sort of throw yourself into with complete abandon and just 100% be raunchy and silly and just have a great time.”
The original crew of Bad Santa almost never happened. If not for a stand by the director of the original film, Terry Zwigoff, Tony Cox and Brett Kelly may never have been involved with Bad Santa or its sequel. “Originally, the producers, studio, whatever, and various people on the first movie, didn’t want Tony or Brett. They wanted two other actors,” Billy Bob Thornton explained. “Terry Zwigoff, to his great credit, came to me and said, ‘Dude, these people are insane. You gotta see these guys.’ Tony I know from a couple of things. They wanted another actor, a very trained actor, a really good actor, and Terry just said, ‘Here’s the thing, Tony is funny. He’s just funny and he’s perfect for the part.’ And I said, ‘I agree,’ so I got on Terry’s side and we pushed that through.”
A case of chicken pox almost kept Kelly from the original film. “They said, ‘Well, he’s got chicken pox so we’ll cast somebody else,’” Thornton elaborated. “Terry said, ‘You can’t. You gotta wait.’ So he made his way back down there and within, like, two seconds I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I mean, this is like the Marlon Brando of Thurman Mermans.’”
Despite the fact that most people associate Christmas with good cheer and warm feelings of togetherness, there’s something about the aecerbic qualities of Willie Soke that people gravitate to. Director Mark Waters has his own thoughts on what makes Bad Santa and its sequel so appealing to people: “I showed this movie to test audiences and they all say, like, ‘Willie is O.G. gangster.’ And there’s something about him that is like this immediate street cred for anybody because he says the shit we’re all thinking and he says it the way we wish we could say it but we never do.”
Bad Santa 2 is currently playing in theaters nationwide.