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What Is Bad Santa’s Real Last Name? No One Seems to Know

Bad Santa best comedies
Dimension

I’ve seen a lot of stuff in over a decade covering the movie business, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this before: A main character from a movie with two different last names, used interchangeably online.

The movie is Bad Santa, and now Bad Santa 2, which is opening in theaters this week, and which stars Billy Bob Thornton as … well, that’s the question. Who does Billy Bob Thornton play in these movies? On some sites his character is listed as “Willie T. Stokes.” On others, he’s “Willie Soke.” Sometimes he’s listed by both names on a single site; on Wikipedia, for example, he’s “Stokes” on the Bad Santa page and “Soke” on the Bad Santa 2 page:

Wikipedia
Wikipedia
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Wikipedia

We all know Wikipedia can occasionally get its facts wrong, but it’s not an outlier in this case; the Stokes-to-Soke ratio around the internet is about 50/50. “Willie T. Stokes” gets you about 34,000 hits on Google. “Willie Soke”? 31,000.

Surprisingly, there is a correct answer here. The Bad Santa’s real name is Willie Soke. Early in the film, Willie gets a message on his answering machine from a bill collector, who calls him “Mr. Soke.” (That’s also the name written in the film’s screenplay.)

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In he Director’s Cut of the movie, Thornton is even credited onscreen as “Willie ‘Tugboat’ Soke” (my thanks to Tyler Foster for this screengrab):

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Miramax

This isn’t particularly ambiguous. Which begs the question: Where did all this confusion come from?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is Bad Santa’s home video release, which uses the other name for some reason. This is a picture I just took of my personal copy of the Bad Santa theatrical cut DVD, where he’s clearly listed as “Santa Claus Willie T. Stokes.”

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How this mistake happened I have no idea. But somebody put the name Willie T. Stokes on the Bad Santa DVD, and it spread from there, even though the actual movie very clearly called him something else. Either way, the new movie definitely thinks he’s Willie Soke (the name’s in the official synopsis and on his mugshot in one scene). So from here on out, let’s just agree. The guy in Bad Santa is named Soke. Anyone who says otherwise gets a lump of coal in their stocking.

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