With Christmas approaching, legions of misanthropists will probably whip out their copies of Bad Santa in the coming weeks to celebrate the three Bs, according to Marcus the Elf: “More booze, more bullsh*t, more butt-f*cking.” While we’re all in the thanking mood, however, it’s also worth expressing a debt of gratitude to Terry Zwigoff, who not only directed Bad Santa, but also rescued it from a more mainstream edit that the Coen Brothers — executive producers and script polishers on the film — described as a “piece of sh*t.”
Let’s back up a minute. As some of you may know, Bad Santa was written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who also wrote Richard Linklater’s Bad News Bears remake and directed Steve Carell’s Crazy. Stupid. Love. The writing duo actually wrote the film with the Coen Brothers in mind, hoping to convince them to break their rule about not directing other people’s screenplays. They didn’t accomplish that, but the Coen Brothers did like the screenplay enough to not only send it to Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) to direct, but to help rewrite the script (the Coens are not credited, but they massaged a lot of the dialogue).
The partnership between Zwigoff and the Coens had its own difficulties. The Coen Brothers, for instance, thought that casting Tony Cox as Marcus the Elf would “ruin the film” because they couldn’t see the elf as “being black.” They were clearly wrong.