Rick Bentley

Tony Cox dealt with prejudice; Dwayne Johnson sings out

Tony Cox never gave up hope that even after 13 years, there would be a sequel to “Bad Santa.” He held on to the idea because the film gave him something he couldn’t get during his early years in Hollywood.

“The only jobs I could get when I moved here was costumed characters,” Cox says.

In the 1980s and ’90s, the majority of roles for little people had them dressed as characters. Even when he would read for roles where he could be himself, Cox faced various forms of prejudice.

That happened when he auditioned for the original “Bad Santa.” When he read for the director, Cox asked if he could perform the part, but with a twist. The director was open to the idea.

“I remember him laughing so hard that tears were running down his face,” Cox says. “After I read it, he said that he had good news and bad news. I couldn’t believe he had bad news because he had just laughed until he cried.

“He said the good news was that was a great read. But he said the bad news is this role calls for a Caucasian and not an African-American. When he said that, I thought, ‘Here we go again.’ Then he said that he needed to think about changing the role.”

Cox went home and turned to his strong Christian faith, praying the director would make the changes. He did, and Cox became part of the dark comedy family.

As for why the franchise has been so popular, despite it being as politically incorrect as possible, Cox thinks it became a hit because it was different from other Christmas movies.

“What really brought it together was the relationship Billy (Bob Thornton) had with the kid,” Cox says. “No matter how bad a person he was, he couldn’t get the kid out of his mind.

“To me, the kid brought it all together.”

With a song in his heart

Dwayne Johnson has fired guns, beat up countless people, driven fast cars and even took over for the tooth fairy in films. It’s rare when he gets to sing.

He grabbed a ukelele in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” for a quick performance of “What a Wonderful World.” He gets more of a chance to croon in the new Disney animated film, “Moana.” As the demigod Maui, Johnson performs an entire musical number.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, who handled the music for “Moana,” has been repeatedly asked how he was able to get the Rock to sing. It was never a problem.

“When Dwayne accepted the role he said, ‘So what are you giving me to sing?’ and he was really excited for this,” Miranda says.

A series of videos on YouTube of Johnson’s days as a professional wrestler showed Miranda that Johnson has always been ready and willing to break into song. He would often pull out a guitar and taunt the residents of whatever town he was visiting.

“I got a really good sense of his vocal range from that 10-minute super cut and then the rest of it was just writing lyrics that embody the spirit of Maui, who is this amazing demigod, trickster god,” Miranda says. “Once I had the title, ‘You’re Welcome,’ which only Dwayne can pull off and still have you love him and root for him, we were off to the races.”

Johnson wanted to sing a song as a way of challenging himself. Although Miranda had written the song in Johnson’s musical range, there were some parts of the song that pushed him a bit.

He was happy Miranda made him stretch his vocal skills.

“I had such a great time, one of the best times I’ve ever had in my career was actually working on this project and certainly working on that song because also like we all love challenges and this was a challenge that the bar is set so incredibly high in a Disney film to sing,” Johnson says.

Other news

Killer deals: Dexter Morgan’s kill room costume and Miami Metro ID Card are items in the upcoming Dexter Prop and Costume Auction. Prop Store will produce an online auction event of original props, costumes, scripts and other memorabilia used in the making of the Showtime series, “Dexter.”

There are close to 150 lots that will be offered in the auction, which can be seen at http://www.propstore.com/auction/ Bidding on all lots will be open through Friday.

Back to work: Season two of “Teachers,” starring the improv group The Katydids, returns at 10 p.m. Jan. 17, followed by “Throwing Shade” at 10:30 p.m., the late night series based on the podcast and Funny or Die web series hosted by Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1