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Lauren Graham in Bad Santa, 06.20.02 ...

Variety reports that Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham is making her move to the bigscreen, signing to play the female lead of Bad Santa, the Terry Zwigoff-directed black comedy for Dimension Films. She joins Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac and John Ritter in the comedy about a man who masquerades as Santa, complete with his own elf, for the purpose of robbing shopping malls.

Release Date: Christmas, 2003 (pushed back a year from the Christmas season of 2002, which would have put it up against Disney's The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause).

Distributor: Dimension Films (Miramax). (Picked up out of turnaround from Working Title Films; "turnaround" is a status a project is put in when a studio or production company decides they're not going to make it. This allows other companies to swoop in and do it themselves.)

MPAA Rating: Nothing is official until the MPAA sees the final cut, but Dimension Films is aiming for an R rating.

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham; other cast not announced yet.

Premise: This is the story of two criminals who disguise themselves as Santa Claus (Thornton) and his elf, traveling across the country to major malls, using the good will people have towards Santa to rob the stores blind. The plan is going great until the two baddies meet an introverted 8-year-old boy who reminds them of the true meaning of Christmas.

Filming: Production is scheduled to start in July, 2002 (pushed back from late March, 2002).

Production Company: KL Line Prods., the company of the Coen Bros.

Screenwriters: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (writing team behind Cats & Dogs; they've got a full slate of other projects, including Cats & Dogs 2, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie, a Looney Tunes movie, and Dead Men Walking, a comedy about a prison filled with zombies)

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