'Bad Santa 2': The sequel so anticipated it gets ... two scripts?
EXCLUSIVE: A "Bad Santa" sequel has been a tantalizing possibility ever since Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) survived a shooting at the hands of the police department and became its sensitivity trainer. Now that sequel has moved closer to fruition.
Producers on the movie and Dimension Films, which is developing a follow-up to the beloved 2003 black comedy with the newly constituted Miramax, have quietly hired writers to begin working on a new film for Thornton to star in, according to a person who was briefed on the project but was not authorized to talk about it publicly.
And here's the hook: The companies are engaging in the unusual move of commissioning two different writers, with the idea of choosing between the scripts or even using one script for "Bad Santa 2" and the other script for a third film. (The two writers do know about each other.) A spokeswoman for Dimension Films confirmed the hires and the plans.The movie is being produced by Geyer Koskini,Thornton's manager who produced the original and has been developing the sequel for several years.
The scribes in question are up-and-comers who've yet to have a film produced but who have some heat in Hollywood. One, Johnny Rosenthal, wrote a period adventure called "Iron Jack" that sold to Sony for more than $1 million in 2009 but has been stuck in development since.
The other, John Phillips, sold an R-rated comedy to Universal a few months back. That project is called "Dirty Grandpa" and is about a "recently widowed, sexually aggressive grandfather," which sounds about as "Bad Santa"-ish as you can get.
Centering on a dysfunctional, thieving mall Santa named Stokes and his dwarf sidekick/accomplice, "Bad Santa" became a sideways Hollywood classic as it followed the pair on their misadventures. (The photo above is of Stokes and the pudgester character "The Kid," played by Brett Kelly, he meets in his travels.)
Phillips and Rosenthal are still formulating their takes, but the new "Santa" would have the advantage of picking up on an ending that offered no real redemption, and thus few sequel obstacles. (It would, however, have to deal with a falling-out between Stokes and Tony Cox's Marcus, the latter of whom ended up in jail at the end of the first movie.) And any new "Bad Santa" has big shoes to fill in Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote the original and aren't involved with this one. (Those two are directors of "Crazy, Stupid, Love" with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, coming to theaters July 29.) "Bad Santa" director Terry Zwigoff isn't on board at this point either.
Thornton has told the studios he's eager to come back, and both companies have a stake in making a follow-up happen -- Dimension because it needs franchises; Miramax because it wants to show Hollywood it's serious about making movies after being sold to construction tycoon Ron Tutor. There's even talk internally at Dimension it could be ready for the 2012 holiday season. Now there's a Christmas gift.
Photo: "Bad Santa." Credit: Dimension Films