http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmp..._thornton_dc_1 Billy Bob Thornton to Take Santa Role Thu Apr 18, 3:53 AM ET By Michael Fleming NEW YORK (Variety) - Billy Bob Thornton is set to play the title role in "Bad Santa," a Dimension Films comedy targeted for a Christmas 2003 release. Production will begin July 8, with Terry Zwigoff directing. The "Crumb" documentarian made his dramatic debut on last year's "Ghost World." "Bad Santa" follows two conmen who go on a road trip to malls dressed as Santa and his elf. Rather than spreading good cheer, the duo's motive is to rob each establishment, a strategy that becomes complicated when they encounter an 8-year-old who teaches them the true meaning of Christmas. "Bad Santa" has been a priority picture at Dimension, the genre arm of Miramax Films. According to company co-chairman Bob Weinstein, the picture is shooting for an R rating. "It is very much in the spirit of Terry Zwigoff and the Coen Brothers, with Santa as an alcoholic womanizer," Weinstein said. "At the same time, its hard edge is offset by its great heart, a combination which makes the film all the more appealing." Weinstein lauded Thornton as an actor who can pull off the tone. Signing the Dimension deal brings the thesp back to the Weinsteins, who made "Sling Blade," the film that brought him a writing Oscar and defined him as an actor and filmmaker. Aside from last year's Coens encounter, Thornton most recently starred in "Bandits" and "Monster's Ball." The thesp just wrapped the Ed Solomon-directed "Levity" and has been touring with his band in Europe. The U.S. leg of Thornton's musical foray starts May 17 at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles.