Billy Bob Thornton Was Hammered During Filming And Other Things You Might Not Know About ‘Bad Santa’

Generally, Christmas movies tend to cater to the family friendly genre, which is probably why myself and so many others love Bad Santa. It’s the anti-family friendly Christmas movie, trading heartwarming for vulgarity as Billy Bob Thornton plays a perpetually drunk Santa Clause who enjoys anal sex with women in department store dressing rooms. Billy Bob’s foul-mouthed mall Santa and his equally crude elf cleaned up at the box office in 2003 with the movie pulling in $76 million and becoming an instant holiday classic.

In honor of Billy Bob’s not so cheery Santa and the movie’s recent addition to Netflix streaming, here are ten things you might not know about the cult favorite.

1. Billy Bob Thornton got sloshed during filming. BBT is a method actor, especially when that means getting drunk on holiday hooch to get into character. Billy Bob told Film4 that while filming the movie he got drunk to better play the part.

“I’ve traditionally played really extreme characters and even in a comedy, if you’re going to play a guy like this, you can’t be sort of drunk, you know? And I wasn’t sort of drunk. You have to go completely into it.”

2. The Santa role was first offered to Jack Nicholson. Before Billy Bob put on the Santa suit, the part was offered up to both Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray. Jack was busy at the time with the romantic comedy Somethings Gotta Give and Bill Murray was in Japan filming Lost in Translation.

3. The movie marked John Ritter’s final film role. Veteran actor John Ritter first worked with Billy Bob Thornton in the 1996 indie drama Sling Blade, and teamed up again with Billy Bob for his final movie acting role as mall manager Bob Chipeska.

4. Bad Santa’s bad language helped earn its R-rating. If you’re going to make a movie called Bad Santa then it had better live up to the name. And with 159 variations of “f*ck” said during the movie and “sh*t” being tossed around 73 times, it’s undoubtedly one of the most vulgar Christmas movies ever.

5. The director prefers the uncut, dirtier version. Director Terry Zwigoff told Indiewire that the unrated version of Bad Santa (Badder Santa) is exactly how he intended the film to be shot, but was forced to clean it up for the studio.

“The studio wanted to mess with it and make it more mainstream and pour some fake sentiment on it for the people that stumble around the mall. Go to Target some day and look at who your target audience is. Look at the people who are out there going to films and you realize you are totally f*cked, you don’t want to do anything these people like. But that director’s cut is exactly the script I got. I wanted to protect the script.”

6. Tony Cox ad-libbed one of his character’s best lines. Tony improvised his line “You probably shouldn’t be digging in your ass” to Billy Bob and director Terry Zwigoff instantly loved it. The director admitted to loving it so much that he would wake up at night laughing about it.

7. The Coen brothers were executive producers on the movie. Not only were the Coen brothers executive producers, but they helped develop the raunchiness of the Christmas story according to Terry Zwigoff.

“The story I had heard was that the original writers, who wrote about 90% of what you see in any of the cuts, John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, and they met the Coen brothers and said, ‘We want to write a script that you guys direct.’ And they said, ‘We only direct our own writing but we’ve always had this crazy idea about this drunken Santa Claus and this little person elf that has to keep him in line.’

What they do is they go and tweak the dialogue. That’s what they largely do in this case. Like the kid would ask Santa, ‘Do you and Mrs. Santa ever think of having kids?’ And in the original script it was just, ‘No thank god.’ And the Coens made that into, ‘No, thank the fuck Christ.’ That’s their gift. They have a gift for dialogue.”

8. The Coens weren’t happy with how the film turned out. The brothers had their chance to direct, but passed on it in favor of executive producing instead and were unhappy with the finished product. Director Terry Zwigoff said that the Coens didn’t like his casting of Tony Cox as the elf and felt that Bob and Harvey Weinstein had gotten too sloppy and mainstream with the editing, eventually declaring the movie to be a “piece of sh*t.”

“At one point the Weinsteins asked them to watch a cut that the Weinsteins had done that made it much more mainstream. They had added a bunch of scenes, some of which I refused to film, and they cut them in and the Coen brothers watched it. They said, ‘Well, you tried to make this film into American Pie. It’s a piece of sh*t now.’ That was their response and they got into a heated argument with the Weinsteins that ended with everyone yelling ‘F*ck you’ at each other.”

9. The Czech Republic title is a bit more specific. While “Bad Santa” might be broad enough to cover all the bases in the United States, the Czech Republic version of the movie was titles Santa is a Pervert.

10. If there is a sequel, Terry Zwigoff won’t be involved. We’ve heard rumors of a Bad Santa sequel kicking around now for a few years, but so far zilch has come of it. Terry Zwigoff says he has no interest in doing a sequel, but both Billy Bob Thornton and the Weinstein brothers said in 2013 that a sequel was in the works with Entourage creator Doug Ellin writing the script. As of current, the movie’s IMDB page is a blank slate, so if we do get a Bad Santa 2 it probably won’t be anytime soon.