LOS ANGELES – One thing that caused the 13-year gap between the original "Bad Santa" and its sequel was the script. The original idea for "Bad Santa 2" was to have the heavy-drinking, foul-mouthed, sex-crazy Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) work on his next robbery with his deadbeat dad.
The problem was that in every script, Willie's father was too much like Willie, and the lack of contrast didn't work. Finally, someone suggested that Willie work with his mother, instead, as she plans to rob a charity.
Oscar winner Kathy Bates jumped at the idea of being part of the raunchy holiday comedy. Not only was it a chance to do more than the one scene she had with Thornton in "Primary Colors," as well as do some big comedy, but Bates got to live out a longtime fantasy through the backstabbing, two-timing character of Sunny Soke.
She had such a passion to play a "biker chick" role that Bates was involved in every aspect of creating the look for Sunny.
"I wanted her to have tats. I wanted her to have a Mohawk," Bates said. "I wanted there to be such a difference between her real look and the disguise she wears to work at the orphanage. I had so much fun."
Bates was working on the FX series "American Horror Story" when she was cast in the movie. She worked with the "Horror" makeup team to design all of the tattoos for Sunny. Bates knew the ink would have to look like it had been there for years, so she went with basic designs like a scorpion and a snake.
She enjoyed having the temporary tattoos because until she retires, Bates doesn't plan on getting any ink. Body art just complicates work for movie wardrobe and makeup departments.
Doing a movie like "Bad Santa 2" reminds Bates that acting is just playing pretend.
"But, when you do this, you get to work with the best people who can help you take playing pretend to the nth degree," she said.
And Bates has never shown a snobbishness about where she wants to play pretend, having worked in film, TV and theater. That's because she doesn't select a job based on the medium but based on the character.
She describes her approach to acting like being an animal in the wild that is attracted to an oasis.
"We all want to play with great other people. And when you do that, you just be truthful to the role," Bates said. "Marlon Brando is famous for having said that when they yell 'Action,' don't do anything."
In recent years, Bates has taken on a wide range of roles, from playing the ghost of Charlie Harper on "Two and a Half Men" (for which she won an Emmy) to being part of the "American Horror" series. She has reunited with "Two and a Half Men" creator Chuck Lorre for a new comedy series, "Disjointed."