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BAD SANTA 2 returns Academy Award-winner BILLY BOB THORNTON to the screen as America's favorite anti-hero, Willie Soke. Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (TONY COX), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is ‘the kid’ - chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (BRETT KELLY), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity.

Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy-winner KATHY BATES, as Willie’s horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke. A super butch super bitch, Sunny raises the bar for the gang’s ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior. Willie is further burdened by lusting after the curvaceous and prim Diane, played by Emmy Award-nominee CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, the charity director with a heart of gold and libido of steel. You better watch out: BAD SANTA 2 is coming to town.

MARK WATERS directs BAD SANTA 2 from a screenplay by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross, based on characters by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa. GEYER KOSINSKI and ANDREW GUNN produce. Executive producers are Zanne Devine, David Thwaites, Gabriel Hammond, Daniel Hammond, Mark Waters, Jessica Tuchinsky, Adam Fields, and Doug Ellin. The film is a BROAD GREEN PICTURES and MIRAMAX® release. In theatres nationwide November 23, 2016.

Willie Soke: A Santa for Every(no)one Bad Santa premiered in 2003 as a quirky, independent dark comedy and made news when it grossed $60 million domestically. The story of a cynical thief who disguises himself as a department store Santa each winter so that he and his partner, Marcus, can rob malls, the film’s mordant wit and wild antics endeared itself to audiences everywhere.

“The first movie has become iconic,” says Billy Bob Thornton, who received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Willie Soke. “You have a feeling when you're doing it that there are certain moments that are classic— when you have something like that, you have a tall order when you're going to do a sequel because it has infiltrated the culture in some way.”

Director Mark Waters cited the “bizarre chemistry” of the first movie, which drew his interest in directing a follow-up film. “I loved the movie when I saw it, and tried to turn my friends on to seeing it,” he recalls. “It got laughs where you gasp first, and then laugh, but somehow it works as comedy.” Producer Andrew Gunn and executive producer/director Mark Waters met in 2002 when they worked on the remake of Freaky Friday together. They kept looking for other projects to work on again together, but the timing was never right. When they were approached to do Bad Santa 2, Gunn was thrilled.

“I was a huge fan of the first movie,” he says. “It was a surprise because it had a lot more going on than you thought it did when you first watched it. It was one of those great movies to discover.” Producer Geyer Kosinski was along for the initial Bad Santa ride and had been trying to get Bad Santa 2 off the ground ever since. “It took a while; there was a lot of changing of the guard,” explains Kosinski.

“Everything happens for a reason and the time that it took to get to this place was very positive.” Waters and Gunn felt that Bad Santa 2 suited their strengths and enthusiasms perfectly. Waters says, “The fact that Billy Bob was doing this sequel made it intriguing for me. I’m a huge admirer of that guy’s talent. “The thing that was most attractive about it,” Waters continues, “was that we could make this really raunchy Christmas movie while sneakily making an actual Christmas movie.” Says Gunn, “Mark is one of the most prepared directors that I’ve ever met and he likes to have a lot of fun while he’s making the movie, which is good when you’re making a comedy. It was really great to be back doing another movie with him.”

Billy Bob Thornton was adamant that there had to be both a demand and the right elements in place to make the follow-up film work. “Some movies shouldn't have a sequel and some should,” says Thornton. “This was a movie that people loved and there are a lot who are fanatics about it, so we thought it deserved a sequel.” Everyone felt that the key to the success of Bad Santa 2 lay squarely with Thornton’s portrayal of the cynical, crude and luckless Willie Soke.

“There would have been a million different ways to play Willie,” says Gunn. “A lot of people’s inclination would have been to make this character really big and crazy, and drunk and stumbling, but Billy brings this very slow, even energy to everything. “Willie’s not a bad guy; he’s one of those people who he is what he is,” continues Gunn. “He’s not about to change for anyone…Billy was able to find this wonderful comedic character that was so much more complex and had this tragic part to his character.” “Seeing him the first day of shooting walk out in a Santa suit, that was Willie Soke,” continues Gunn. “Everybody fell into their characters seamlessly because Billy was so firmly established in who Willie is that it’s very easy for everyone else to fall into their respective roles.”

Mommy Issues One of Bad Santa’s biggest fans was Kathy Bates, who came on board for Bad Santa 2 as Willie Soke’s mother, Sunny Soke. “Bad Santa is one of my favorites. I just loved it, and oddly enough, had seen it again last summer before I had been invited to do the part, so it was even more exciting when I got the news. It was ‘Hot damn, yep, I'm in there.’ Any of my friends that I told I was going to do it said, ‘Oh my god, it's perfect.’” “I immediately thought of Kathy Bates for the part of Sunny,” says Waters. “As far as casting goes, she’s a fastball down the middle for this role. She’s a formidable talent…a really intelligent person who’s able to be really crass. She, Billy and Tony Cox, who plays Marcus, are all from the South and they shared a sensibility that really worked.” “I hope people enjoy it,” says Bates.

“Adding a woman into the mix was a great idea—not just because I get to play the part, but it's a different kind of energy to put that female energy in there with those guys.” “She's a lovely woman, I love Kathy,” says Thornton. “We did a movie in ‘96 together and she's a consummate actor. She fits the part perfectly.”

“Sunny and Willie have a very fractured past -- Willie took the fall for her when he was only eleven. Sunny was in prison and you get the sense that Willie really raised himself,” says Gunn. “But deep down inside Willie is still an elevenyear-old kid who just wants to know that his mother loves him. That’s a really powerful motivator for a lot of what happens in the movie.” “At the end of the day, they’re thieves,” says Kosinski, “and most of Willie’s relationships, particularly the ones with his mother and Marcus, revolve around thieving. Willie is good at one specific thing, and that’s cracking a safe. His mother exploited him as a child; she’s now doing that again, thirty-odd years later.”

Working with director Waters, Bates and Thornton hashed out their characters’ relationship. “They're very much alike,” says Bates. “We talked about having them do things the same way or at the same time, but Billy Bob and I both felt that we didn't want to do anything too obvious. We wanted to pick things that were less obvious, but they're definitely from the same tree. He picked up all those words from her and from his dad, I'm sure.” Recalls Waters, “There was a moment where we considered having Willie and his dad in this story, but it makes much more sense this way. With a mom, there’s always that yearning for emotional connection. Willie is as cynical as they come, but Sunny manages to sneak in and make him care again…which I don’t think would play the same way with a dad.”

Bates was impressed by Thornton’s honesty in playing Willie. “Working with him, I was telling someone else today, is like working with a child, because he's so truthful and it’s scary when you work with an actor who's very truthful. I've worked with Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson on American Horror Story and they're that truthful.” Bates and Thornton worked on their characters’ backstory together. “I had the idea that they were carny people,” recalls Bates. “Billy Bob said the same thing to me when we got together, so it fit that they were pretty rough people, they were on the road a lot and she had the same kind of scam going, only Willie was the elf and she was Mrs. Santa Claus. They got caught and she let him go to a reform school rather than her going to jail, which tells you right away who she is and how she felt about being with a kid.”

Costume Designer Mario Davignon had a lot of fun creating Sunny’s look. “The mother of Willie, who is so wild -- we could play with her look,” says Davignon. “With Kathy it was wonderful, because what I proposed was exactly the way she imagined everything. We went very far with the bad and the nice side of that woman. “We wanted to create a past for her,” continues Davignon. “Kathy, Mark and I decided that she was an old biker from a biker gang. It’s funny to see Kathy Bates in a biker jacket, with the hairstyle, the tank top, a lot of jewelry, silver and big buckles, the big wallet in the back pocket. People will see somebody else, especially with the hairdo -- you have a different image than anything Kathy Bates has ever given us.” “She's pretty rough, although this is a comedy,” says Bates. “Billy Bob and I, as we‘ve gone along in the shooting, we've really investigated the mother-son relationship: the good side, the bad side, the memories good and bad, all of those things.

This film is a lot more complex than the first one was—to have a relationship that inserts itself in between Marcus and Willie, then there's this kid, Thurman, who is now 10-plus years older and not part of Sunny's plan at all...” “Watching Billy and Kathy work together is truly one of the most amazing things,” says Gunn appreciatively. “You catch yourself and realize that, yeah, these are two people with Academy Awards, but just the way that they work off of each other is truly one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Both of them can play so much without even saying anything. It’s really amazing to see how it goes into the comedic, then into the dramatic, then into heartfelt and then into comedic again.”

The Odd Couple Tony Cox, who returns to play Willie’s short and cranky partner in crime, Marcus, was excited to reprise his character, though he admits he was surprised the original Bad Santa ever got made in the first place. “From reading the script, I didn’t think the movie would be made, due to the language and stuff,” says Cox. “It was a movie that was either going to do really well or not well at all. There was no in-between. Thankfully it did well.” “He’s just a real character,” says Cox about Marcus. “Marcus and Willie really don’t like each other, but they need each other. Willie can crack a safe like nobody else can and what I do—being short-statured, being able to get into vents and stuff—he needs me. I’m always on him but, actually, I can’t really do anything without him. No matter which way you call it, we need each other.”

Continues Cox, “I get the jobs and put them together because I am the brains. I tell Willie what I need him to do and I expect him to do it. A lot of times he doesn’t agree because Willie likes to drink and Willie doesn’t really like anybody to tell him what to do, especially me. Hey, there’s a little three-foot-sixinch guy trying to tell him what to do and that gets on his nerves a little bit.” Waters explains the dynamic between Willie and Marcus in this movie by saying, “It’s a stretch to think Willie would accept Marcus after Marcus betrayed him in the first film. But Willie has reached his bottom, and it makes him vulnerable; he’s in a space where he’ll do anything because he really doesn’t care anymore.”

“They’re the strangest Odd Couple/Abbott and Costello pairing who seemingly hate each other,” explains Gunn, “yet they certainly need each other for the work that they do. In the time between the first movie and the second movie, while Marcus was in prison, Willie hasn’t gotten anything done. Marcus is the brains and Willie is the technical safecracking half of the duo. As a comedy pairing they’re genius because there’s nothing funnier than Tony Cox yelling at Billy Bob or vice versa. They’re like a constantly bickering pair of siblings.”

Kathy Bates loved working with Cox. “He's hysterical. Sometimes I can't keep a straight face. He was the one that really made me laugh in the first movie.” In actuality, Tony Cox is very different from the character he plays. “Tony is a very interesting guy,” says Kosinski. “He comes from a very Christian place. If you know him as a person, the fact that he’s in this movie doing the things that he does, you’re like ‘wow, he’s really acting,’ because he’s got a very spiritual side to him. As funny as he is and as crazy as his character comes off, he’s a really good human being and an amazingly soulful person. He loves his church. It’s very interesting to watch him go through his moves as we’re telling the story.”

  The Kid Kind of Grows Up Thurman Merman was introduced in Bad Santa when he was a young boy. In Bad Santa 2, Thurman has grown to manhood, but he’s still childlike and adores Willie, no matter how hard Willie tries to avoid him. Brett Kelly, who played Thurman in the original film, returns to play the same character as an adult. “It was a weird, wild shot,” says Gunn about bringing back Brett Kelly. “It’s one thing to be 10 years old, you don’t have a lot of lines and you’re just this pudgy kid who can be odd and cute. It’s another thing to then go to a guy who’s 21 or 22 and say, ‘Hey, I know you stopped acting when you started University and now you’ve graduated with a degree in business, but do you want to come back and do a movie?’”

“When people watch Brett playing Thurman, it’s easy to think he’s just playing himself, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” says Waters. “Brett actually has very little in common with Thurman. When we caught up with him, he had just graduated from University and was in great physical shape – he had to gain 50 pounds to play this part! He’s also playing this sweet naiveté as an adult, which is quite a dynamic performance. And there’s a moment toward the end where Thurman actually moves the audience to tears.” “Thurman hasn’t seen Willie in a very long time,” explains Kelly of his character. “Thurman shows up and, not wanting to spend another Christmas alone, follows Willie to Chicago, possibly the coldest place he’s ever been. He’s not prepared in the slightest.

“When I got the first draft of the script, I was thinking ‘How is this going to work, he’s an adult now,’” says Kelly, “and figuring out what’s been going on with Thurman in the years between the films. The first time I saw Billy, though, and we got on set and started running lines, it made sense right away. Thurman never really fully grew up. It wasn’t his going from child to adult—it was more from child to man-child. He’s still straddling that line in between; he’s still that kid that he used to be, but in a different way.”

“Seemingly he’s been fairly isolated,” continues Kelly. “His dad still doesn’t want to have anything to do with him, or can’t. Grandma has died, but she wasn’t the best caretaker to Thurman while she was alive; as hard as she tried, she wasn’t exactly guiding Thurman in the best of ways. Willie is really the best role model that he’s had, and that says everything you need to know.” Thurman Merman has one consuming love apart from Willie— sandwiches. “The sandwiches are still there,” says Kelly. “The sandwiches are still his first love. I guess Willie would be his first love in a non-creepy way…and then sandwiches in a creepy way.” And as an adult he has followed his passion – he now works in a sandwich shop, Hungry Hoagies.

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