Credit: Jan Thijs

Billy Bob Thornton has told EW that he would likely play reprobate safe-cracker Willie Soke for a third time, if Bad Santa 2 proves successful when it’s released on Nov. 23. “I love both of them, I really do,” says Thornton of the original 2003 film and its sequel. “And if people go see this, then maybe we’ll make another one.”

Thornton had long wanted to make Bad Santa 2, and writer Johnny Rosenthal had been hired to work on the script way back in 2011, but the project spent years in development hell. The delays were caused both by corporate machinations — including Disney’s 2010 sale of Miramax, the studio that had produced the first film — and by a lengthy rewrite process. A string of scribes attempted to channel Willie’s heart as well as what he describes in the first movie as his “f—ed” liver. Turns out a Bad Santa movie isn’t as easy as it looks. “There are actually rules,” Thornton says. “When I would say, ‘No, Willie would never do that,’ [the writers] were kind of shocked. They’d say, ‘Oh, I thought this was Bad Santa, you could do anything.’ I’d say, ‘Yeah, up to a point.’ There’s a certain soft spot in this guy and you have to maintain that.” (Screenplay credit on Bad Santa 2 is shared by Rosenthal, Shauna Cross (Whip It), and Entourage creator Doug Ellin.)

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Thornton does admit that he probably wouldn’t appear a third film if the threequel took as long to develop as Bad Santa 2. “Otherwise,” says the 61-year-old actor, “it’ll be Bad Nursing Home.”

Bad Santa 2 is directed by Mark Waters and costars Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Octavia Spencer, and Ryan Hansen. You can see the film’s trailer below.

Bad Santa 2
  • Movie
  • 92 minutes