In the last decade, Billy Bob Thornton has become associated with a litany of cantankerous, intimidating characters, via “Mr. Woodcock,” “Bad News Bears,” and of course, “Bad Santa.” Almost ten years after making “Bad Santa,” Thornton is planning to return to the role that made him a king of black comedy via a sequel to be penned by one of the two competing sets of writers. Given the positive experience Thornton had on the first film, he recently said that he hopes lightning will strike twice as he enters into the first sequel of his career.
“I’d never read a script where I snorted laughing out loud by myself,” Thornton told The Playlist when we spoke to him last weekend. “It was hysterical. You read so many scripts that you rarely laugh out loud, and that one was just hysterical. So I’m hoping that happens with this one.”
Thornton’s current project, “Puss in Boots,” is markedly different in tone from the series of black comedies that kept his bread buttered for the last decade. In the animated film, he plays a villain, but one who’s decidedly more harmless than Willie. Despite never having done a follow-up to any of his films, Thornton said his only concern with doing “Bad Santa 2” was making a movie that lived up to the legacy of the original.
“I’m not worried about doing another 'Bad Santa' in terms of my career or anything like that,” he said. “My only worry is, you know, that movie is pretty darn good. I think if you want to do a sequel, you want to at least be on par with that one, if not better. That’s the worry.” At the same time, he acknowledged that living up to audience expectations, much less his experiences on the first one, was an unlikely prospect. “You know, we’re probably never going to make one that’s exactly what that first one was,” he admitted.
Thornton observed that the sequel’s success starts with a script that is well-written and funny. “As you know being a writer, it starts there, and we hope the script is as good – and it’s not in yet. So hopefully it will be good.” He remembered that when the original “Bad Santa” first crossed his desk, it looked like an idea that had the opportunity to fail as big as it succeeded. "I called my manager on the first 'Bad Santa” script and I said, ‘Either this is a horrible idea or it’s genius.’ But I was a third of the way through the script and I called him and I said, 'We’ve got to do this.'”
“And hopefully we can get close to the first one,” Thornton said. “But hopefully the fans with at least get a kick out of seeing the character again, and that’s my hope for it – that people will get a charge out of seeing that character doing his thing again.”
“Puss in Boots” opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 28, 2011.