Billy Bob Thornton

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For other people with a similar name, see Robert Thornton (disambiguation).
Billy Bob Thornton
Thornton in February 2012
Born (1955-08-04) August 4, 1955 (age 59)
Hot Springs, Arkansas, U.S.
Occupation Actor, screenwriter, director, producer, musician
Years active 1986–present
Spouse(s) Melissa Lee Gatlin
Toni Lawrence
Cynda Williams
Pietra Dawn Cherniak
Angelina Jolie
Partner(s) Connie Angland
Children 4
Musical career
Genres Country rock, blues rock
Instruments Vocals, drums
Labels Vanguard Records
Associated acts The Boxmasters

Billy Bob Thornton[1][2][3] (born August 4, 1955)[4] is an American actor, screenwriter, director, producer, and musician.

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.

Early life[edit]

Thornton was born in Hot Springs, Arkansas,[1][7][8] 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.[1] 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.[9] During his childhood, Thornton lived in Alpine, Arkansas, and Malvern, Arkansas. He was raised a Methodist,[10] in an extended family in a shack that had neither electricity nor plumbing. He graduated from high school in 1973.[11] A good high school baseball player, he tried out for the Kansas City Royals, but was released after an injury.[12] 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.[1] He initially had a difficult time succeeding as an actor, and worked in telemarketing, offshore wind farming,[12] 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.[1]


Acting and filmmaking[edit]

Thornton at the South By Southwest music festival in 2008

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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] 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".[13] 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".[13] He referred to this when he said that "it's kinda that simple... you know how narrow the imagination in this business can be".[14]

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.[13] 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,[15] based on the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins.

In 2014, Thornton starred as sociopathic hitman Lorne Malvo in the FX miniseries Fargo, based on the 1996 film of the same name.


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.[16] 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.[17] 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.

Personal life[edit]

Relationships and children[edit]

Thornton at a San Francisco concert in 2007

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.[18] 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.[19][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.[13][20] 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.[21][22] 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 resides in Los Angeles, California. Thornton has stated that he likely will not marry again,[23] specifying that he believes marriage "doesn't work" for him.[24]

Health issues[edit]

During his early years in Los Angeles, Thornton was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with myocarditis, a heart condition brought on by malnutrition.[25] He has since said that he is vegan and "extremely healthy."[26]

Thornton has obsessive–compulsive disorder.[27] 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.[28] 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.[28][29] 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."[30]


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.[31]

Thornton is the cousin of professional wrestling legends Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr.[32]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Hunter's Blood Billy Bob
1988 South of Reno Counterman
1989 Going Overboard Dave
1989 Chopper Chicks in Zombietown Tommy
1991 The Dark Backward Patron at Sloppy's Uncredited
1991 For the Boys Marine Sergeant in Korea
1992 One False Move Ray Malcolm Writer
Nominated: Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay
International Fantasy Film Award for Best Screenplay
1993 Tombstone Johnny Tyler
1993 Blood in Blood Out Lightning
1993 Indecent Proposal Day Tripper
1993 Ghost Brigade Langston
1993 Trouble Bound Coldface
1994 On Deadly Ground Homer Carlton
1994 Floundering Gun Clerk
1994 Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade Karl Childers Short film
1995 Dead Man Big George Drakoulious
1995 Stars Fell on Henrietta, TheThe Stars Fell on Henrietta Roy
1996 Sling Blade Karl Childers Writer, director
Won: Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay
National Board of Review Award for Special Achievement in Filmmaking
Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Actor
Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay
1996 Don't Look Back Marshall Writer
1996 Winner, TheThe Winner Jack
1996 A Family Thing Writer
Nominated—Humanitas Prize
1997 Apostle, TheThe Apostle Troublemaker
1997 U Turn Darrell
1997 Princess Mononoke Jigo Voice (English language dub)
1997 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn Himself
1998 Simple Plan, AA Simple Plan Jacob Mitchell Won: Boston Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor
Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated: Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
1998 Armageddon NASA Administrator Dan Truman Nominated—Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-Fi
1998 Homegrown Jack Marsden
1998 Primary Colors Richard Jemmons Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
1999 Pushing Tin Russell Bell
2000 Gift, TheThe Gift Writer
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Writing
2000 The Last Real Cowboys Tar
2000 All the Pretty Horses Director, producer
Nominated: Grand Prix Award
Sierra Award for Best Picture
2001 South of Heaven, West of Hell Brigadier Smalls
2001 Daddy and Them Claude Montgomery Writer, director
2001 Monster's Ball Hank Grotowski Won: Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
2001 Bandits Terry Lee Collins Won: Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
2001 Man Who Wasn't There, TheThe Man Who Wasn't There Ed Crane Won: Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Russian Guild of Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Actor
Southeastern Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated: American Film Institute Award AFI Actor of the Year
Saturn Award for Best Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
2001 Camouflage Writer
Credited as Reginald Perry
2002 Waking Up in Reno Lonnie Earl Dodd
2002 Badge, TheThe Badge Sheriff Darl Hardwick
2003 Bad Santa Willie T. Stokes Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture
Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie Sleazebag
2003 Love Actually President of the United States Won—Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated: Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
2003 Intolerable Cruelty Howard D. Doyle
2003 Levity Manuel Jordan
2004 Friday Night Lights Gary Gaines
2004 Alamo, TheThe Alamo Davy Crockett
2004 Chrystal Joe
2005 Ice Harvest, TheThe Ice Harvest Vic Cavanaugh
2005 Bad News Bears Morris Buttermaker
2006 School for Scoundrels Dr. P / Dennis Sherman
2007 Astronaut Farmer, TheThe Astronaut Farmer Charles Farmer
2007 Mr. Woodcock Jasper Woodcock
2008 Eagle Eye Thomas Morgan
2009 Informers, TheThe Informers William
2009 My Run Narrator Voice
2009 Smell of Success, TheThe Smell of Success Patrick
2010 Faster Cop
2011 Nashville Rises Narrator Voice
2011 Puss in Boots Jack Voice
2013 Jayne Mansfield's Car Skip Caldwell Writer, director
Nominated — Golden Bear
2013 The Baytown Outlaws Carlos
2013 Parkland Forrest Sorrels
2014 The Judge Dwight Dickman
2014 London Fields Samson Young
2014 Endangered
2014 Cut Bank


Year Title Role Notes
1987 Matlock Pawnshop clerk Episode: "The Photographer"
1990 The Outsiders Buck Merill 10 episodes
1990 Evening Shade Florist Episode: "There Once Was a Boy Named Wood"
1992 Knots Landing Timberman Episode: "Letting Go"
1992–1995 Hearts Afire Billy Bob Davis 54 episodes
1997 Ellen The Grocer Episode: "The Puppy Episode: Part 2"
1998 King of the Hill Boyce Hubert Episode: "Nine Pretty Darn Angry Men"
2000–2005 CatDog CatDog's father 2 episodes
2014 Fargo Lorne Malvo 10 episodes
Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
2014 Robot Chicken N/A Episode: "Bitch Pudding Special"

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2009 Deadly Creatures George Struggs Voice



The Boxmasters[edit]

  • The Boxmasters (Vanguard, 2008)
  • Christmas Cheer (Vanguard, 2008)
  • Modbilly (Vanguard, 2009)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Billy Bob Thornton". Inside the Actors Studio. Season 8. Episode 18. August 18, 2002.
  2. ^ Vigoda, Arlene (February 7, 1997). "Thornton makes a mark with 'Sling Blade'". USA Today. p. 1D LIFE. 
  3. ^ Betsy Model (January 2004). "Rock-a-Billy Bob". Orange Coast Magazine 30 (1). p. 54. 
  4. ^ "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1219) (Time Inc.). August 10, 2012. p. 27. 
  5. ^ Interview with Mark Polish, Michael Polish & Billy Bob Thornton - Combustible Celluloid
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton Biography". The Biography Channel. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  8. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton (American actor, director, and writer)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 30 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton, Astronaut Farmer". 
  11. ^ "Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Pringle, Gill (September 23, 2007). "On the Move: Billy Bob Thornton". The Times (London). Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Billy Bob Hollywood's go-to guy". JAM! Showbiz. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  14. ^ "School is in session". Daily News. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  15. ^ "Interview with "School for Scoundrels" Star Billy Bob Thornton". Retrieved September 25, 2006. 
  16. ^ Deanna R. Adams. "Northern Ohio Live, September 2003". Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  17. ^ "Billy Bob's Music". Archived from the original on August 25, 2006. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  18. ^ Castro, Peter (April 28, 1997). "Sling This: Mrs. Billy Bob Thornton Angrily Seeks a Divorce". People 47 (16). Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  19. ^ Hinckley, David. Billy Bob Thornton accused of stalking former sister-in-law. New York Daily News. May 21, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  20. ^ "What I've Learned: Billy Bob Thornton". 
  21. ^ Smolowee, Jill. Marriage, Interrupted. People. August 5, 2002. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  22. ^ Stein, Ruthe. Billy Bob Thornton Likes Staying Put. "San Francisco Chronicle". April 26, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  23. ^ "Thornton swears off marriage". ShowbizSpy. July 21, 2008. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  24. ^ The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts B.B. Thornton. 2012. Virgin Digital
  25. ^ Billy Bob Thornton Biography Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  26. ^ "Who Got Billy Bob Thornton To Dress Up as A Ladybug," People, 14 June 2014.
  27. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton opens up". April 2, 2004. Retrieved December 6, 2009. 
  28. ^ a b "Billy Bob's Fear Of Spoons". Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  29. ^ "Monster's Ball screenplay transcript". Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  30. ^ Rose, Tiffany (September 3, 2004). "Interview with Billy Bob Thornton: Acting very strange". (London). Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  31. ^ Walton, Brian (July 17, 2005). "Exclusive Interview – Billy Bob Thornton – Part One". Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  32. ^ Terry Funk: The Hardcore Legend. T Funk. 2005. Sports Pub

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