Billy Bob Thornton took his method acting to the next level while making 2003's Bad Santa. The actor admits he got nearly blackout drunk for one particular scene. It seems that Thornton was drinking a lot at that time and admits he wasn't the easiest guy to deal with while making the now-classic Christmas movie. Co-star Tony Cox once asked Thornton if he was high while they were working. "Every day," replied the actor and Cox still doesn't know to this day if he was kidding.
In a new interview, Billy Bob Thornton admits, "I do have a method actor aspect to myself," before launching into his Bad Santa story. In the movie, Thornton plays department store Santa Claus Willie Soke, who just so happened to be an alcoholic. In one particular scene, Willie goes on a drunken rampage, which was apparently very real. Thornton explains.
"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."
In a 2016 profile on Bad Santa, Billy Bob Thornton and the rest of the cast and crew recalled making the Christmas classic. Thornton was into having a good time after the day wrapped and that sometimes led into the next day. While shooting scenes may have been hard, the actor was always able to get through it. He had this to say.
"A couple of times, I was drunk, but not every day. I showed up with a hangover a few times. There were times when I'd be with my pals until 3:30 a.m. and have to be at work at 7 a.m. I wasn't the most pleasant guy to be around."
Bad Santa director Terry Zwigoff and Billy Bob Thornton didn't exactly see eye-to-eye when making the movie. The director admits that he doesn't like to look back at the making of the movie, but notes, "Ultimately, I was able to get from Billy Bob what I needed, and I hope that by now he appreciates what I brought to the party." Thornton now agrees and holds no ill will towards Zwigoff.
After a disastrous test screening, reshoots were ordered by the studio, but Terry Zwigoff refused to work with Billy Bob Thornton any further. Joker director Todd Phillips came in to bat cleanup and gave the movie some heart and gave Willie Soke some redemption, which was apparently missing from the first cut. Thornton says, "If a studio spends $15 million and says, 'We want a commercial comedy,' you kind of owe it to them. I understood adding the broader scenes." In the end, the movie is now an unorthodox Christmas classic. You can check out the rest of the interview with Thornton over at Entertainment Weekly.