Tony Cox says he enjoyed working with Kathy Bates in “Bad Santa 2” more than with any other actor. (Courtesy Broad Green Pictures)

Tony Cox says he enjoyed working with Kathy Bates in “Bad Santa 2” more than with any other actor. (Courtesy Broad Green Pictures)

Elf portrait: Tony Cox returns to phenomenal ‘Bad Santa’ role

It’s only natural that Tony Cox would sign on for the new “Bad Santa 2,” opening just in time for Thanksgiving. The original “Bad Santa” (2003) offered him the role of a lifetime: Marcus, department store elf and criminal mastermind.

“When I first started, all there was was costume parts,” Cox said during a recent phone conversation. “Writers didn’t write for little people. They think they’re funny, but didn’t think they could act. I hadn’t seen a role like this in 23 years.”

Even though local director Terry Zwigoff wanted to cast him, Cox almost didn’t get the role because the producers didn’t want him.

“It wasn’t written for an African American,” he explains. “It was for a Caucasian. But Terry stuck by me, and he was willing to lose the job for me. And Billy Bob came in at the end. They said, ‘Tony Cox is the best man for this role.’ God put those guys there for me.”

Re-teaming with co-stars Billy Bob Thornton and Brett Kelly, in the sequel was “kinda weird, to be honest,” says Cox.

“I remember going out with Brett and everyone,” says Cox. “He was drinking. I was looking at him and thinking that he was still this kid.”

But everything clicked back into place fairly quickly. “We were just a natural,” he says.

Yet Cox also was unexpectedly unprepared for shooting.

“My wife is very spiritual, so she ain’t watching ‘Bad Santa.’ I was getting my dialogue down for ‘Bad Santa 2.’ I can’t really do my dialogue with her, so I say ‘blank blank blankety blank,’” he says. “I got there, and I realized I didn’t know my lines. I went ‘blankety-blank’ so much I couldn’t remember my lines!”

Though Cox has worked with great collaborators from Mel Brooks to Ice Cube, his favorite is Kathy Bates, who’s amazingly good as Thornton’s character’s mother in “Bad Santa 2.”

“I was a fan from afar. But to work with her? I couldn’t believe it!” he says. “We stay in touch now. I told her I was scared of her after I saw ‘Misery.’”

If he could pick a dream project, he’d do a buddy comedy in the vein of Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder’s “Stir Crazy.” He says he likes “having somebody to work off of,” and adds, “I’ve always wanted to do one of those prison scenes!”

But for now, Cox feels blessed that he has been able to play Marcus — twice.

He is recognized the world over now, including in New Zealand. On a recent flight, the pilot discovered that Cox was on board and invited him to visit the cockpit.

“That just made my day. It’s been crazy,” he says. “Who would have thought ‘Bad Santa’ would be what it is today?”

IF YOU GO
Bad Santa 2
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Kathy Bates, Brett Kelly, Christina Hendricks
Written by Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross
Directed by Mark Waters
Rated R
Running time 1 hour, 32 minutesBad SantaBilly Bob ThorntonKathy BatesMovies and TVTony Cox

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Although The City has been shut down and largely empty, people have enjoyed gathering in places such as Dolores Park. <ins>(Al Saracevic/The Examiner)</ins>
Come back to San Francisco: The City needs you now

Time to get out of the house, people. The City’s been lonely… Continue reading

A surveillance camera outside Macy’s at Union Square on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Is the tide turning against surveillance cameras in SF?

Crime-fighting camera networks are springing up in commercial areas all around San… Continue reading

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks alongside Mayor London Breed at a news conference about 2019 crime statistics at SFPD headquarters on Jan. 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What the media gets wrong about crime in San Francisco

By Lincoln Mitchell Special to The Examiner Seemingly every day now, you… Continue reading

Vice President Kamala Harris is under fire for her comments in Guatemala earlier this week. (Examiner file photo.)
SF immigration advocates slam Kamala Harris’ ‘betrayal’ to her past

Kamala Harris’ comments earlier this week discouraging Central Americans from traveling to… Continue reading

Youth activists with the Sunrise Movement march along a rural road during their two-week trek from Paradise to San Francisco to call attention to an increase in deadly wildfires as a result of climate change on June 2, 2021. (Photo by Brooke Anderson)
Weeks-long climate march culminates on the Golden Gate Bridge

Lola’s alarm goes off most mornings before dawn. The 17-year-old high school… Continue reading

Most Read