Billy Bob Thornton
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|William Robert Thornton |
August 4, 1955 |
Hot Springs, Arkansas, U.S.
|Associated acts||The Boxmasters|
Thornton made his first break with co-writing and starring in the 1992 film One False Move and came to international attention after writing, directing, and starring in the highly acclaimed independent film Sling Blade (1996), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He appeared in several major film roles following Sling Blade 's success which brought him a bigger international recognition and critical acclaim including U Turn (1997), Primary Colors (1998), Armageddon (1998), A Simple Plan (1998), which earned him his third Oscar nomination, Monster's Ball (2001), Bandits (2001), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), Bad Santa (2003), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), Love Actually (2003), Friday Night Lights (2004), The Alamo (2004), Eagle Eye (2008) and Faster (2010). In 2014, Thornton starred in the anthology series Fargo and received universal acclaim for his performance, earning a nomination for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie at the Emmy Awards.
Thornton is cited as an "anti-film star" who approaches his roles like a character actor and rarely accepts roles in blockbusters. He has been vocal about his disrespect for celebrity culture, choosing to keep his life out of the public eye. However, the attention of the media has proven unavoidable in certain cases, his marriage to Angelina Jolie being a notable example. As an influential actor, Thornton is known for his diversity, wide range, and prolificacy, appearing in at least one film per year nearly every year since 1991. Thornton has written a variety of films, usually set in the Southern United States and mainly co-written with Tom Epperson, including A Family Thing (1996) and The Gift (2000). After Sling Blade, he directed several other films, including Daddy and Them (2001), All the Pretty Horses (2001), and Jayne Mansfield's Car (2012).
Thornton has received President's Award from Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, Special Achievement Award from National Board of Review and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award, four Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. In addition to film work, Thornton began a career as a singer-songwriter. He has released four solo albums and is the vocalist of a blues rock band The Boxmasters.
Thornton was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the son of Virginia Roberta (née Faulkner), a psychic, and William Raymond "Billy Ray" Thornton (November 1929 – August 1974), a high school history teacher and basketball coach who died when Thornton was 18. Thornton was one of three brothers with Jimmy Don (April 1958 – October 1988), who died of a heart attack at 30, and John David (born 1969), who resides in California. Jimmy Don wrote a number of songs, two of which ("Island Avenue" and "Emily") Thornton has recorded on his solo albums. During his childhood, Thornton lived in Alpine, Arkansas, and Malvern, Arkansas. He was raised a Methodist, in an extended family in a shack that had neither electricity nor plumbing. He graduated from high school in 1973. A good high school baseball player, he tried out for the Kansas City Royals, but was released after an injury. After a short period laying asphalt for the Arkansas State Transportation Department, he attended Henderson State University to pursue studies in psychology, but dropped out after two semesters.
In the mid-1980s, Thornton settled in Los Angeles to pursue his career as an actor, with future writing partner Tom Epperson. He initially had a difficult time succeeding as an actor, and worked in telemarketing, offshore wind farming, and fast food management between auditioning for acting jobs. He also played drums and sang with South African rock band Jack Hammer. While Thornton worked as a waiter for an industry event, he served film director and screenwriter Billy Wilder. Thornton struck up a conversation with Wilder, who advised Thornton to consider a career as a screenwriter.
Acting and filmmaking
Thornton's first screen role was in 1980's South of Reno, where he played a small role as a counter man in a restaurant. He also made an appearance as a pawn store clerk in the 1987 Matlock episode "The Photographer". Another one of his early screen roles was as a cast member on the CBS sitcom Hearts Afire. His role as the villain in 1992's One False Move, which he also co-wrote, brought him to the attention of critics. He also had small roles in the 1990s films Indecent Proposal, On Deadly Ground, Bound by Honor, and Tombstone. He went on to write, direct, and star in the 1996 independent film Sling Blade. The film, an expansion of the short film Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, introduced the story of a mentally handicapped man imprisoned for a gruesome and seemingly inexplicable murder.
Sling Blade garnered international acclaim. Thornton's screenplay earned him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, a Writers Guild of America Award, and an Edgar Award, while his performance received Oscar and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Actor. In 1998, Thornton portrayed the James Carville-like Richard Jemmons in Primary Colors. He adapted the book All the Pretty Horses into a 2000 film of the same name. The negative experience (he was forced to cut more than an hour of footage) led to his decision to never direct another film; a subsequent release, Daddy and Them, had been filmed earlier. Also in 2000, an early script which he and Tom Epperson wrote together was made into The Gift.
In 2000, Thornton appeared in Travis Tritt's music video for the song "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde". His screen persona has been described by the press as that of a "tattooed, hirsute man's man". He appeared in several major film roles following the success of Sling Blade, including 1998's Armageddon and A Simple Plan. In 2001, he directed Daddy and Them while securing starring roles in three Hollywood films: Monster's Ball, Bandits, and The Man Who Wasn't There, for which he received many awards.
Thornton played a malicious mall Santa in 2003's Bad Santa, a black comedy that performed well at the box office and established him as a leading comic actor, and in the same year, portrayed a womanizing President of the United States in the British romantic comedy film Love Actually. He stated that, following the success of Bad Santa, audiences "like to watch him play that kind of guy" and that "casting directors call him up when they need an asshole". He referred to this when he said that "it's kinda that simple... you know how narrow the imagination in this business can be".
In 2004, Thornton played David Crockett in The Alamo. Later that year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 7, 2004. He appeared in the 2006 comic film School for Scoundrels. In the film, he plays a self-help doctor, which was written specifically for him. More recent films include 2007 drama The Astronaut Farmer and the comedy Mr. Woodcock, in which he played a sadistic gym teacher. In September 2008, he starred in the action film Eagle Eye. He has also expressed an interest in directing another film, possibly a period piece about cave explorer Floyd Collins, based on the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins.
During the late 1990s, Thornton, who has had a lifelong love for music, began a hobby as a singer-songwriter. He released a roots rock album titled Private Radio in 2001, and three more albums, The Edge of the World (2003), Hobo (2005) and Beautiful Door (2007). Thornton's manager, David Spero, helped his Edge of the World album get off the ground with a summer tour. Thornton was the singer of a blues rock band named Tres Hombres. Guitarist Billy Gibbons referred to the band as "The best little cover band in Texas", and Thornton bears a tattoo with the band's name on it. He performed the Warren Zevon song The Wind on the tribute album Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon. Thornton recorded a cover of the Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire" for the Oxford American magazine's Southern Music CD in 2001.
- Studio albums
Relationships and children
Thornton has been married five times, with each marriage ending in divorce, and he has four children by three women. From 1978 to 1980, he was married to Melissa Lee Gatlin, with whom he had a daughter, Amanda. Thornton married actress Toni Lawrence in 1986; they separated the following year and divorced in 1988. From 1990 to 1992, he was married to actress Cynda Williams, whom he cast in his writing debut, One False Move (1992). In 1993, Thornton married Playboy model Pietra Dawn Cherniak, with whom he had two sons, Harry James and William; the marriage ended in 1997, with Cherniak accusing Thornton of spousal abuse.[dead link]
Thornton was engaged to be married to actress Laura Dern, whom he dated from 1997 to 1999, but in 2000, he married actress Angelina Jolie, with whom he starred in Pushing Tin (1999) and who is almost 20 years his junior (Jolie's father Jon Voight is almost 17 years his senior and her late mother Marcheline Bertrand was 5 years his senior). The marriage became known for the couple's eccentric displays of affection, which reportedly included wearing vials of each other's blood around their necks; Thornton later clarified that the "vials" were, instead, two small lockets, each containing only a single drop of blood. Thornton and Jolie announced the adoption of a child from Cambodia in March 2002, but it was later revealed that Jolie had adopted the child as a single parent. They separated in June 2002 and divorced the following year.
Since 2003, Thornton has been in a relationship with makeup effects crew member Connie Angland, with whom he has a daughter, Bella. The family lives in Los Angeles, California. Thornton has said that he likely will not marry again, saying that he believes marriage "doesn't work" for him.
During his early years in Los Angeles, Thornton was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with myocarditis, a heart condition brought on by malnutrition. He has since said that he is vegan and "extremely healthy."
Thornton has obsessive–compulsive disorder. Various idiosyncratic behaviors have been well documented in interviews with Thornton; among these is a phobia of antique furniture—a disorder shared by Dwight Yoakam's character Doyle Hargraves in the Thornton-penned Sling Blade, and by Thornton's own character in the 2001 film Bandits. Additionally, he has stated that he has a fear of certain types of silverware, a trait assumed by his character Hank Grotowski in 2001's Monster's Ball, in which Grotowski insists on a plastic spoon for his daily bowl of chocolate ice cream. In a 2004 interview with The Independent, Thornton explained: "It's just that I won't use real silver. You know, like the big, old, heavy-ass forks and knives, I can't do that. It's the same thing as the antique furniture. I just don't like old stuff. I'm creeped out by it, and I have no explanation why...I don't have a phobia about American antiques, it's mostly French—you know, like the big, old, gold-carved chairs with the velvet cushions. The Louis XIV type. That's what creeps me out. I can spot the imitation antiques a mile off. They have a different vibe. Not as much dust."
A baseball fan, Thornton's favorite team is the St. Louis Cardinals. He has said that his childhood dream was to play for the Cardinals. He narrated The 2006 World Series Film, the year-end retrospective DVD chronicling the Cardinals' championship season. Thornton is also a professed fan of the Indianapolis Colts football team.
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- Official website
- Billy Bob Thornton at AllMovie
- Billy Bob Thornton at AllMusic
- Billy Bob Thornton on Discogs
- Billy Bob Thornton at the Internet Movie Database
- Billy Bob Thornton at the TCM Movie Database
- Works by or about Billy Bob Thornton in libraries (WorldCat catalog)