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

by Drew Taylor
December 20, 2012 1:13 PM
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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.

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More: Terry Zwigoff, Bad Santa 2

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  • Gabe | December 30, 2012 5:10 PMReply

    Ghost World and Art School Confidential are both terrific films. But I attribute that to Daniel Clowes, who is a great writer and artist.

    Zwigoff, on the other hand, sounds like a bitter old fuck.

  • Joe | December 27, 2012 5:47 PMReply

    ZWIGOFF took the job for the money and because he liked the script. There was no trade off of money for final cut, and getting him final cut after one film was a struggle. He was told by everyone that, despite the best contract, the Weinsteins would find a way to mess with his cut, and they did. There was no such conversation about litigators, since the dga had jurisdiction. Terry lives in his own, marvelous world.

  • Alan | December 23, 2012 8:39 AMReply

    You guys got an interview with Terry Zwigoff, one of the most underrated directors of our time, and you ask him about doing a fucking Fantastic Four movie?

  • honest rob | December 26, 2012 11:24 AM


  • Eagleeye | December 22, 2012 3:45 PMReply

    I did rather see the choen brothers direct a sequel to Bad Santa than Steve Pink enough said!

  • Claude Riban | December 22, 2012 12:08 PMReply

    I'm shocked to learn the Coens didn't grasp the oddball potential of Tony Cox. He made the movie for me, and I figured him for a Coen Bros discovery. guess not.

  • Anonymous | December 22, 2012 11:49 AMReply

    I've always been a big fan of Bad Santa, but as the sequel goes in a slightly different direction with Steve Pink in the chair, do not have too high expectations it will never be the same without Zwigoff.

  • Alan | December 20, 2012 11:07 PMReply

    "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." This is the greatest piece of film criticism. Ever. More broadly, I admire a lot of what he has to say in this interview. He's got a no-bullshit attitude to filmmakers and studios, and it's quite clear that he isn't willing to play the Hollywood game. First of all, it impresses me that he was willing to go out on a limb to cast Tony Cox. Then again, it also depresses me that it isn't just dumb fanboys who can be so limited in their thinking about casting. What the hell is so white about that character? 'Hey, we're not racist, OK. We're the least racist people in the world. Our best friend is a quarter Chinese, OK, so we can't be racist, but we really can't see ... blah, blah, blah'. He's also right about 'Art School Confidential': it's a disappointment in comparison to his previous work (the central plot about a serial killer on campus is pretty dumb), but all the details about that world are amusing and interesting like the student who refuses to do his homework because his "work has nothing to with form or light or color, but with questioning the nature of aesthetic experience." As a whole, it probably doesn't work, but it's a lot more interesting than some lesser filmmakers' successes.

  • rotch | December 20, 2012 3:26 PMReply

    nice interview, but suggesting him that it would be cool if they asked him to direct a silver age Fantastic Four movie came off awfully amateurish.

  • David Klein | December 20, 2012 3:00 PMReply

    Love this film, but I think Zwigoff's version saps too much humor when he swings the pendulum away from Badder Santa. The theatrical release is sadly still the best I think. Great read, but I was a bit repulsed at Zwigoff vilifying everyone else other than himself in the creative process.

  • Stephen B | December 20, 2012 2:42 PMReply

    I love this man and I love Bad Santa. I think I read that Bob Weinstein hired Todd Phillips to shoot a lot of the extra footage that they ended up cutting, but I could be wrong. Interesting stuff about the Coens. I can't see anyone other than Tony Cox playing Marcus. He's perfect.

  • Benjamin | December 20, 2012 2:24 PMReply

    Fascinating interview. Thank you!

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