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Terry Zwigoff Talks Battling Over 'Bad Santa,' His Preferred Director's Cut & Much More In Candid Interview

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist December 20, 2012 at 1:13PM

This weekend in San Francisco, SF Sketchfest, the people behind the San Francisco Comedy Festival, are producing a day's worth of holiday-themed programming at the historical Castro Theatre. The centerpiece of this day-long event is a director's cut screening of "Bad Santa," the insta-classic by "Ghost World" filmmaker Terry Zwigoff that stars Billy Bob Thornton as a boozing, thieving St. Nick. Zwigoff will be at the screening, along with Tony Cox (who plays Thornton's midget sidekick) and Lauren Tom (who played Cox's wife), to do a post-screening Q&A.
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Terry Zwigoff
Have you ever regretted turning something down?
No. A lot of things I have turned down ended up being a big embarrassment. Like that script "The Beaver." I thought that was one of the worst scripts I had ever read. But everyone said, "Ooh it's on the Black List." Yeah, well, good for it. They're a bunch of idiots. I saw the final film and there were no surprises.

It would be cool if they ever wanted to do a silver age "Fantastic Four," to call you.
I have no interest in that stuff. I've never read a silver age comic book in my life. People think I have an interest in comics but I'm only interested in comics from the '40s like "Donald Duck" comics. Plus I'm friends with Daniel Clowes and Robert Crumb.

"Go to Target some day and look at who your target audience is...and you realize you are totally fucked, you don't want to do anything these people like."
Would you collaborate with Clowes again?
Maybe. Now is not a good time to collaborate after that last fiasco. That didn't go so well. “Art School Confidential” nearly ended my career for good. It was very hard to get another film going after that. Still trying.

Was it that big of a blow?
It was really negatively received both at the box office and critically. Everybody hated that film. I didn't think it was so bad. At least compared to all that other shit out there, anyway. It was certainly just as good as any film in the marketplace. And I'm not saying it's a great film. I'm just saying it's better than most of the dreck. You have to go back to the '30s and '40s to see a film that's any good.

Have you seen anything this year that you've liked?
The last film I really liked was “The King's Speech” -- just two guys in a room talking. Two great actors and great dialogue; I thought it was a terrific film. And it won the Oscar! That was a real rarity for me. Almost nothing gets nominated lets alone wins an Oscar, that I like. I was thrilled that year.

You're presenting the director's cut of "Bad Santa" this weekend. That's your preferred version?
That's the filming of the script, basically. That's the script I was given. That's all it is. The studio wanted to mess with it and make it more mainstream and pour some fake sentiment on it for the people that stumble around the mall. Go to Target some day and look at who your target audience is. Look at the people who are out there going to films and you realize you are totally fucked, you don't want to do anything these people like. But that director's cut is exactly the script I got. I wanted to protect the script. I like writers a lot. It was a lot darker.

What is "Badder Santa," which is also on the Blu-ray?
They just wanted a marketing gimmick. I think "American Pie" on DVD years before that had released an unrated version that they touted as being sexier and raunchier that they sold a lot. So they wanted that. They went back and looked at all the profanity that I had cut out, because I thought it had gotten to be a little bit deadening with so many fucks. It was too much. Then for that cut they added it back in and some other stuff that was cut from the original script.

But you aren't crazy about that version?
It's alright. I haven't looked at it in ten years. I remember looking at it and not being completely disgusted by it. I like my version better. It works better as a film.

This article is related to: Terry Zwigoff, Bad Santa 2


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