Thirteen years have passed since the release of Bad Santa, and it’s no surprise Billy Bob Thornton will be reprising his role as the crude and crotchety Willie T. Stokes in the upcoming dark comedy, Bad Santa 2. Mean Girls director Mark Waters was behind the camera this time around, and Thornton is joined by fellow returning cast members Tony Cox (as Marcus) and Brett Kelly (as Thurman Merman). Kathy Bates also stars as Willie’s mother, Sunny.
Screen Rant recently spoke to Thornton about his experiences being someone else’s “Thurman Merman,” being naughty on film, and what gave Bad Santa 2 more heart. Check out the video interviews above, and the transcript below.
Screen Rant: So Willie and Thurman Merman have a strange relationship, have you ever had anyone in your life like Thurman Merman?
Billy Bob Thornton: No, I think I’ve been the Thurman Merman in a couple of relationships maybe. I remember a guy who was older as far as I was concerned, and I was already late teens, but this neighbor I had he was this divorced guy who was always drinking beer and real pessimistic. Kind of cynical about life you know, he used to sit in the backyard and tell me life lessons and everything and I would sit there and go “oh okay.”
SR: Did you harness that character a little bit into Willie? Do you see a parallel between that neighbor and Willie a little bit?
BBT: There may be bits of him, yeah. I mean probably not consciously at the time we made the first movie. A few guys like that put together probably made Willie.
SR: Did you expect Bad Santa to be as big of a Christmas classic as it became?
BBT: We knew it had the potential simply because when I read the script I was like, “wow this would be the first time this has ever been done.” So we knew it was either going to go south or be amazing. So we had some confidence that people would get it and would like it. That it became that big? No, I mean I felt the same way with Slingblade I had no idea. But it’s become iconic and so we just wanted to get as close as we could to it on the second one.
SR: And you did. I almost like all the character development a little bit better in the second one too, just because it’s more, you get to find out more about Willie and it’s nice to kind of see his Mom, and see where he came from.
BBT: Absolutely. And that’s the thing about this movie is we wanted to make the first one again keeping that same spirit and yet we wanted to elevate it somehow and bring something knew to it. This one actually has more of a story and has more emotion and the raunchy stuff is even pushed a little further. And in this one you see that Willy really does have a beating heart and he is just an abused child who sees himself in [Thurman] and you see where he came from and its like, “Oh okay, there you go.”
SR: Is it kind of fun to be able to say some of the things that, I know [audience] watching are like “I wish I could say that to somebody sometimes,” so it is fun to be able to say that on film?
BBT: Oh, Absolutely. I mean how many times have you ever been in a supermarket or anywhere and you just can’t believe the stupidity or the-
SR: Every day.
BBT: Yeah or just something! And every now and then you do want to say stuff like that. So yeah I mean, I guess most characters that I’ve played are ones that I can get a little cathartic in some way.