Bad Santa 2 Originally Wanted This Oscar Winner To Play Billy Bob Thornton's Dad

Bad Santa 2

Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa wound up being a big hit and a season favorite when it came out in 2003, and yet it took a shockingly long time for a sequel to get made. Now Bad Santa 2 is finally on the way, featuring Billy Bob Thornton's Willie Stokes teaming up with his mother, played by Kathy Bates... but it may surprise you to learn that an early version of the film was actually planned to star Robert Duvall as Willie's father.

I learned about this part of Bad Santa 2's history when I had the opportunity to sit down with director Mark Waters at the movie's Los Angeles press day earlier this month. At the start of the interview, I asked the filmmaker if he could tell me about the different ideas that were tossed around prior to the one that was settled on for the plot, and Waters told me that there was a point when the sequel was going to be an adventure with Willie and his father. Said the director,

There was a whole series of development ideas based around him and his dad -- his dad being the most awful person in the world. And it was like, 'Let's get Robert Duvall to play the dad!' And he was actually named Sonny with an 'O.' And then we said, 'What if it becomes Sunny with a 'U' and it's a woman.' And then immediately it seemed like 'Well why not get Kathy Bates?' I think we were saying, 'Let's get a Kathy Bates-type.'

According to Mark Waters, Kathy Bates came aboard as soon as she was asked - but was only in November 2015, so that was pretty late in the process. The director didn't elaborate on how far things actually went with Duvall, so for now we don't know if he was just thought of as a potential actor for the part, or if he was actually approached.

Of course, the change from being about Willie's dad to being about Willie's mom wasn't the only change that Bad Santa 2 went through during its long wait to be made. According to Mark Waters -- who admittedly wasn't around for the entire development process -- there was some debate early on about if and how to bring back Tony Cox's Marcus and Brett Kelly's Thurman Merman. The director explained,

The original, I think, they didn't know if they were going to try and bring back Tony [Cox] or Brett [Kelly], at first. For many years it was like, 'Okay, if Brett's only aged two years, that's not really funny.' And I think it was only when they realized, 'Oh wait, what if it's his 21st birthday, and [Willie] is trying to get him laid.' Suddenly that can be funny!

You can watch Mark Waters talk about the long development process for Bad Santa 2 and the casting of Kathy Bates in the video below!

Bad Santa 2 arrives in theaters this Wednesday, November 23rd, and be sure to stay tuned for more from my interview with director Mark Waters and Billy Bob Thornton!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.