It’s hard to imagine anyone but Billy Bob Thornton in the role of Willie T. Soke, the Bad santa claus. The role of the foul-mouthed and drunken safe robber is one of the most memorable of Thornton’s long career. And Thornton’s misanthropic turn was a precursor to characters like Rick Sanchez.
As difficult as it may be to imagine another person in the title role of the anti-Christmas classic – and its less-heralded sequel – Thornton was not the first choice for the role. From theBy the time the Coen brothers developed the concept for the film until Thornton accepted the role, several A-list actors were in the running for what turned out to be an iconic character, including an actor best known for his groundbreaking role in The Sopranos..
The Coen brothers, who were executive producers of Bad santa, asked screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra to write the role of Soke for Tony Soprano himself, James Gandolfini. The Coens had worked with Gandolfini on the neo-noir The man who was not there. Coincidentally, Thornton was the protagonist of that movie.
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The Coens had specific actors in mind for more than just the title role. They also wanted veteran Seinfeld actor Danny Woodburn to play Marcus, Soke’s partner in crime, and Angus T. Jones from Two and a Half Men, will play Thurman Merman, the boy with whom Willie establishes an unlikely bond. However, none of that happened. Tony Cox took over the role of Marcus and Brett Kelly with Thurman.
When Gandolfini did not accept the role for reasons that have not been explained by anyone involved in the production, Bill Murray was the next actor to be cast. by Bad Santa . However, it seems that he lost interest. Requa told the New York Times that Murray stopped responding to calls from Miramax to play Soke, which is not an uncommon move on his part, as anyone who has followed his involvement in the franchise can attest. The Ghostbusters.
However, Murray was not the only big-name actor who applied to play Soke. According to producer Bob Weinstein, Miramax also proposed the role to Robert De Niro, who was “going to do it” at one point. Thornton himself noted that Nicolas Cage and Sean Penn also applied for the role.
After Thornton’s agent passed him the script, it didn’t take much to convince him to take the role. After reading “maybe a third,” Thornton called his agent again and told him he had to play the character. His choice paid off in the short and long term. Bad santa it was a surprise success at its release in 2003, grossing $ 76.5 million at its premiere. Today it remains a cult classic.
It’s interesting to think about how some of these actors would have played the role of Soke. For example, it’s hard to believe that Nicolas Cage never brought his particular intensity to the role of a deranged Santa Claus. Reflections on what could have been are less frequent in Bad santa than in other movies because Thornton was so good in the role. Although it was not the plan from the beginning, things worked out well when Thornton got the job.