Billy Bob Thornton was really (really!) drunk for that Bad Santa mall scene
In the latest episode of PeopleTV's Couch Surfing, the actor recalls going super method for a scene in 2003's Bad Santa.
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Billy Bob Thornton secured his place in the Christmas movie canon with 2003’s Bad Santa, an acrid, yet strangely heartwarming, comedy that’s proven to be a perennial favorite. And much of the credit for that goes to Thornton’s hard-committed performance as the booze-soaked, misanthropic department store Santa Claus Willie Soke… emphasis on the booze part.
“I do have a Method actor aspect to myself,” Thornton explains in the latest episode of PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing, which, for Bad Santa, meant getting blind drunk to perform Willie’s alcohol-fueled meltdown in a hilarious scene.
The actor, who’s currently starring in Amazon Prime Video’s Goliath, breaks down his approach for host Lola Ogunnaike: “I drank about three glasses of red wine for breakfast… Then I switched over to vodka and cranberry juice, and then I had a few Bud Lights. By the time I got to that scene there, I barely knew I was in a movie.”
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This story, incidentally, is just one chapter in Bad Santa‘s tumultuous production, which involved a highly contentious casting process and reshoots conducted without director Terry Zwigoff. Nor was it the only time Thornton was inebriated on set: “A couple of times, I was drunk, but not every day. I showed up with a hangover a few times… I wasn’t the most pleasant guy to be around,” Thornton told the New York Times in 2016.
But you can’t argue with the results, namely such indelible images as Thornton smashing a decorative Christmas donkey and riding up the escalator in a drunken stupor. Of the latter, he notes, “I was supposed to be standing up on the escalator,” adding, “It dumps me out up there on the floor, at the top of the escalator, and it literally woke me up. And that’s what’s in the movie.”
Watch more in the Couch Surfing clip above.