Yeah, that’s right, Billy Bob Thornton is playing a dirty Santa who’d rather be naughty than nice. The thing about “Bad Santa” (Dimension Films), however, is that Thornton isn’t as “bad” as people may think. In a recent Hatchet interview, he discussed the making of his latest film, comparing it to his own surprisingly traditional attitudes toward Christmas.
On filming “Bad Santa”
I wasn’t actually drunk. I sure looked like it, though. All I had to do was not get much sleep the night before and I was pretty sunk for the next day, so we did it that way, mostly. Sometimes before a scene I would actually go to sleep … and then when they called “Action!” they would give me a nudge and let me know they were ready. But on a 1 to 10 scale of how drunk I was … like in movie world, I was at least a 9.
I was always getting hurt while filming. When I had to beat that donkey up, I had to do two or three of those, and I didn’t hold back. I actually did all that stuff. I thought this was like a papier mache donkey, but it was plaster, and, you know, I broke a couple knuckles.
We pretty much stuck to the script. Occasionally we would throw our own bit in there. Lauren Graham and I ad-libbed a bit together. She is very good at that. Some of the things I threw out to the kids popped out of my own head. Once I get into the character it becomes easy to ad lib. You just kind of keep it in the same vein as the script. It’s a wonderful script, but we did throw some of our own things in there.
On relating to his character
I guess when I was a kid I wasn’t exactly popular and (my character) Willie also grew up without much of a life and kind of felt like a loser. I think I also felt like a loser when I was growing up at certain times, so I definitely related to him there. The other thing is that he likes beer, cigarettes and women.
On the controversy over “Bad Santa”
I think because it’s getting so much attention, people like to say things. They’ve got to stir up controversy about everything. Anytime people think that they can get something going, they do … I cannot imagine that these people would be that unaware or unhip … I don’t understand controversy over movies. We are not in the dark ages. I wish they would all shut the fuck up.
On Billy Bob’s Christmas
I am sort of the opposite of the character in the movie. I am very sentimental about Christmas. I have two boys who are nine and 10, and I’m really close to them. As a matter of fact, I am so close that when we watch a movie together I always have my arm around them both, and I kiss them on the forehead all the time, and they are like, “Dad, we’re practically teenagers. Leave us alone.” But I am really sort of sentimental and emotional about the holidays, and we have a real traditional Christmas.
A friend of my mother’s gave my brother and me these shirts with sailboats on them. They were the ugliest things you have ever seen. They were sort of polyester or something. If I had them today I could probably get 200 bucks a piece for them at a vintage clothing store, but they were really sad looking.
My old writing partner gave me a rock one year. Just a rock he found in the yard. And I think that symbolized a friendship where a gift didn’t mean anything. Either that or he was yanking my chain.
On believing in Santa
I believed in Santa for way too long. I was one of those kids who was in total denial. When I started hearing rumblings at school, I ignored it for a couple years and finally I broke down and asked my mother. I always did wonder how he went to every house in our town in Arkansas in one night, but I didn’t want to think about how he could do it in Sweden and wherever else.
On Christmas movies
I love the formula for Christmas movies, which is that you have someone who gets lost along the way and finds themselves at the end. And also the idea of not believing in Santa … or believing in Santa and then having your dreams crushed and then realizing that there really is a Santa – there really is a spirit of Christmas. Maybe it’s not the thing that we think it is. Maybe it’s not some guy who comes to every house on the same night, but there is a spirit of Christmas. I think that’s a good way to make a Christmas movie, and I don’t mind if every movie is like that from now on.
On his Christmas movie
I hope the audience has the shit entertained out of them. I just want them to be entertained; that’s what movies are intended to do. And maybe make them smile a little bit when it’s all said and done.