There aren’t many Christmas films out there like Bad Santa.
This Santa’s different to any other incarnations of jolly old St Nick. He cheats, he steals and he swears. A lot. He’s also hilarious, thanks in no small part to Billy Bob Thornton’s wicked turn.
But Thornton’s performance would be nothing without the efforts of his sidekick Marcus Skidmore, played by Tony Cox. The elf sidekick to Thornton’s Santa-clad Willie T. Soke, the pair make quite the criminal double act as thieves who disguise themselves as these two festive favourites in order to pull of a string of heists.
Over the course of the first film, the pair lied, cheated and stole their way into our hearts as part of a deliciously twisted take on the standard Christmas movie.
Now the pair are back together for Bad Santa 2 and loaded was lucky enough to catch up with Cox to mark the movie’s Blu-ray and DVD release.
A veteran of 20 years in Hollywood, Cox opened up about returning to the franchise, landing the role of lifetime, missing Bernie Mac, tea-bagging and realising Santa wasn’t real, way too late in life. It was an interesting chat, to say the least.
loaded: What convinced you to return for Bad Santa 2?
Everybody was always asking me when were we going to do another one. There had been talk about a sequel for years. The first Bad Santa film was so popular and I would get people asking me about it all the time, saying how much they liked the first movie, so I agreed to do it.
loaded: Why should people watch Bad Santa movies over any other Christmas films?
It’s different from some of the more traditional Christmas movies. There’s a bit of everything to it. Even though there is a lot of cursing and adult humour, at it’s heart, there’s this story of redemption. Willie (Billy Bob Thornton’s character) really cares about the kid, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly). He might be a devious character in a lot of ways but Willie cares enough to help Thurman. It’s that Christmas spirit that makes it work.
There’s also this partnership between my character, Marcus and Willie too. Their dynamic is funny but it’s also special and that comes across in the movie. I think fans like it that I was the little guy giving it to the big guy.
loaded: Does the Bad Santa franchise hold a special place in your heart?
Without a doubt. I had never come across a role like this for a little person before Bad Santa. Not in 20 or so years of acting. Every little person who tried out for it knew it was a part that could take you places and open a lot of doors. There just aren’t roles written for little people like this. Especially not back then. Things are better now but they are still nowhere near where they should be.
loaded: What was it like to work with Billy Bob Thornton again?
It was a lot of fun and he made it fun. He comes from Arkansas and I’m from Alabama so we had a lot in common but the characters just came together. He helped make the movie for me and what people don’t realise is that Billy Bob and the director Terry Zwigoff actually helped me get the role in the first place. I wasn’t the studio’s first choice for the role. The part was originally written for a Caucasian actor but Billy Bob and Terry really lobbied for me to get the part.
loaded: Bernie Mac has passed away since the first film – was his absence felt?
Bernie Mac was a one of a kind. He was just special and his comedic ability had a lot to do with the success of the first film. It was more than just Bernie Mac but he was a big part of it. I just think the writing was better with the first movie though. I felt like there should have been more scenes with just Billy and myself in this one. It didn’t happen though.
When you have a movie that’s a big success, you want to bring back the same characters and the same actors and writer and director. It’s hard when you’re doing a sequel. It’s never going to be as good as the original but you want to make it as close to that as possible. Some of that was missing but the people we brought in, including Kathy Bates, were excellent.
loaded: When people meet you is this the role they ask you the most questions about?
I get a lot of questions about Bad Santa but also Friday and Me, Myself and Irene. Bad Santa is the main one though. It is the biggest speaking role I’ve had To be the second lead in a movie is incredible.
Fans will often talk to me about Friday though or say said I should have had a bigger role in Me, Myself and Irene because my character was great and was involved in one of the funniest scenes in the movie. That’s just what some fans said to me.
loaded: There’s a lot of tea-bagging in the movie? How did you feel when you first read that in the script?
I’d never heard of tea-bagging before. I had no idea what it was. When I finally found out what it meant, I was like ‘okay, this could be funny’. I just hoped people would take it as it was intended. I definitely thought the idea, was interesting, shall we say.
loaded: Do you remember when you first found out Santa Claus wasn’t real?
You know what, I’m ashamed to say I was a teenager before I found out Santa Claus wasn’t real. I remember, I had asked for fireworks one Christmas and I remember my grandmother used to sew and she had this bag by her sewing machine.
So she left the room I went over and looked in the bag and there were the fireworks I wanted, right there! I remember feeling like ‘wow’ so there’s no Santa Claus!’ I was a teenager! I’m ashamed to say it. I would hear kids talking about how there was no Santa, but they couldn’t convince me.
People need to find out for themselves though. I remember I kept asking my grandmother about it and she would say ‘once I tell you, Christmas just won’t be the same’ and once I found out, it was never the same.
Christmas is still very special to me. It’s the best holiday of the year. It brings families together and there’s all the food and gifts – it’s all the best things in life.
Bad Santa 2 is out now on DVD/Blu-ray