Tony Cox: “They Don’t Write Good Roles For Little People”




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Samantha Ofole-Prince
(Photos courtesy of Jan Thijs)

Tony Cox
photo by Samantha Ofole-Prince

He’s been in over 40 films that include the well-known box office hits “Me, Myself & Irene,” “Friday” and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” but for the 3-foot-6-inch actor Tony Cox, navigating in Hollywood hasn’t been easy.

“You always hope for that role that will elevate you as an actor, but it’s tough being a little person. It’s like being a minority within a minority and they don’t write good roles for little people.”

For Cox, who returns to play Willie’s (Billy Bob Thornton) cranky partner in crime, Marcus, in the crass and crude “Bad Santa” sequel, it’s a role that almost didn’t happen.

(l-r) Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie Soke and Tony Cox as Marcus Skidmore

“When I saw the script for the first ‘Bad Santa’ and saw the profanity, I didn’t think the movie would be made. I thought it would be a great opportunity and could change my life and it did, but it wasn’t written for an African American, it was written for a Caucasian,” shares the 58-year-old actor who had to audition multiple times for the part. “It was so tough as they didn’t want me and the only person in my corner at that time was the director (Terry Zwigoff) who kept bringing me back till I had a chance to read with Billy who then came into my corner and fought for me for the part.”

A comedy about two devious criminals, “Bad Santa” premiered in 2003 as a quirky, independent dark comedy and made news when it grossed $60 million domestically. The story of two cynical thieves who disguise themselves as a department store Santa Claus and his elf so they can rob malls, was raunchy and riddled with crude and rude jokes that endeared itself to audiences.

.(l-r) Tony Cox and Kathy Bates

With a new director, Mark Waters, at the helm, “Bad Santa 2” reunites the odd couple who team up once again to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is the chubby and cheery Thurman (Brett Kelly), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity. There’s also Willie’s mom, Sunny, (played by Academy Award winner Kathy Bates) who is a scam artist with a crass tongue and a penchant for alcoholic beverages.

“It was just like nothing has changed,” adds Cox on returning to the role 13 years later. “Billy and I have that chemistry and we just clicked.” shares the actor whose recent feature films include the 20th Century Fox comedy features “Date Movie” with Eddie Griffin and “Epic Movie” with Kal Penn.

As a comedy pairing, they have a bizarre chemistry and are like a constantly bickering pair of siblings and there’s nothing funnier than Tony Cox yelling at Billy Bob or vice versa. Fans who loved the first film will be equally satisfied with this hilarious sequel, which not only brings back the lovable trio, Thurman, Marcus and Willie, but adds the adorable Bates, a biker chick who fits the part perfectly of Willie’s foul mouthed thieving mother. A devout Christian, Cox, who had starring roles in “Willow,” “Spaceballs,” “Beetlejuice” and “Return of the Jedi” will admit to tweaking the language a tad.

Cox, Bates and Thornton in Bad Santa 2

“I had some stuff taken out as they were saying something about the Lord and I don’t play that,” he firmly states.  “Even though I don’t like the language and what they are saying, I feel like God has given me the job and I have to live and feed my family. I remember my wife reading something hurtful online where someone was saying that I always play the same roles, but this a great part and a good role,” adds Cox, a private family man, who rarely grants interviews. “I do keep to myself and don’t really go out that much and the only thing I like to do is just get in my car and ride or go out to eat with my wife.”

Laced with gut wrenching humor and sharp banters, the key to this sequel’s success lies squarely with Kathy, Billy and Tony’s chemistry. The talented trio deliver the films funniest lines.

“He’s just a real character,” says Cox about his character Marcus. “Marcus and Willie really don’t like each other, but they need each other. Willie can crack a safe like nobody else can and what I do—being short-statured, being able to get into vents and stuff—he needs me. I’m always on him but, actually, I can’t really do anything without him. No matter which way you call it, we need each other.”

Also starring Christina Hendricks, Ryan Hansen and standup comedian Jenny Zigrino, “Bad Santa 2” releases in theaters Nov. 23, 2016

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