Many holiday movies are filled with heartfelt moments and cheerful decorations. And then there’s “Bad Santa.”

Released in November 2003, the atypical Christmas flick has become a classic for Billy Bob Thorton’s portrayal of the fictional con man and anti-hero Willie T. Stokes. Posing as a mall Santa, Stokes is the antithesis of the Christmas spirit: He’s depressed, flirty, and drinks a lot. He and his partner (played by Tony Cox) set out on their annual con to rob shoppers on Christmas Eve but things take a turn when Stokes’ drunken outbursts and crude behavior begin to draw suspicion from mall security.

Throughout the film, Stokes is frequently seen having a drink or polishing off a bottle. But there is one scene in particular, where his drunken performance trumps the others.

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As families wait in line for the mall Santa to arrive, Stokes suddenly appears disheveled on the escalator with a broken bottle in hand. In a drunken stupor, he stumbles over the decorations and trashes the holiday display, completely beating up a plastic donkey. Horrified, the shoppers run off and Stokes, finally making it to Santa’s chair, rests.

If you’ve watched the scene before and felt there was something authentic about Thorton’s performance, you’re right. In a 2020 interview with PeopleTV, Thornton revealed that he was indeed drunk during that scene. When asked about his process, Thorton stated that he was method acting and decided to get blind drunk to ensure its authenticity.

“I drank about three glasses of red wine for breakfast. … Then I switched over to vodka and cranberry juice, and then I had a few Bud Lights,” he says. “By the time I got to that scene, I barely knew I was in a movie.”

During the now-infamous scene, Thorton’s character was supposed to be standing on the escalator, but given his state, he arrived sprawled out on his front. Of his arrival, Thorton says, “I get up, standing around because I thought I woke up in my house. And then I remembered what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to go there and fall down in all those gifts and be horrible in front of the kids.”

Not everyone approved of Thorton’s decision to adopt a method-acting approach. The film’s director, Terry Zwigoff, recounts more than a few occurrences where Thorton showed up drunk on set, making him difficult to work with. So much so that he opted out of directing when it came time for the reshoots.

Instead, executives decided to bring in director Todd Phillips (“The Hangover,” “Joker”) to polish the film and give it a heartwarming Christmas feeling. Today, “Bad Santa” is cemented as a holiday classic, thanks to the endearing story between Thorton’s character and a misfit kid. But Thorton’s entirely real drunken antics in the festive mall play a close second to why this film deserves a rewatch year after year.