Billy Bob Thornton

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Billy Bob Thornton
Thornton in February 2012
Born (1955-08-04) August 4, 1955 (age 58)
Hot Springs, Arkansas, U.S.
Occupation Actor, writer, director, producer, musician
Years active 1986–present
Spouse(s) Melissa Lee Gatlin (1978–1980)
Toni Lawrence (1986–1988)
Cynda Williams (1990–1992)
Pietra Dawn Cherniak (1993–1997)
Angelina Jolie (2000–2003)
Partner(s) Connie Angland (2003–present)
Children 4
Musical career
Genres Country rock, blues rock
  • 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 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 as Lorne Malvo in the anthology series Fargo and received universal acclaim for his performance, and earned a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries 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 accept 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] 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.[8] During his childhood, Thornton lived in Alpine, Arkansas, and Malvern, Arkansas. He was raised a Methodist,[9] in an extended family in a shack that had neither electricity nor plumbing. He graduated from high school in 1973.[10] A good high school baseball player, he tried out for the Kansas City Royals, but was released after an injury.[11] 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,[11] 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, who is famous for films such as Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. Thornton struck up a conversation with Wilder, who advised Thornton to consider a career as a screenwriter.[1]



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. Thornton also made an appearance in a 1987 episode of Andy Griffith's popular show Matlock titled "The Photographer" as a pawn store clerk. Another one of Thornton's early screen roles was as a cast member on the CBS sitcom Hearts Afire with John Ritter and Markie Post. 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 early 1990s films Indecent Proposal, On Deadly Ground, Bound by Honor, Grey Knight, and Tombstone. Thornton put Wilder's advice to good use, and went on to write, direct and star in the independent film Sling Blade, which was released in 1996.[1] The film, an expansion of a short film titled Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, introduced the story of Karl Childers, 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, he portrayed the James-Carville-like Richard Jemmons in Primary Colors. Thornton adapted the book All the Pretty Horses into a 2000 film with the same name, starring Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz. The negative experience (he was forced to cut more than an hour) 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 which starred Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes, Greg Kinnear, and Giovanni Ribisi. In 2000, he also appeared in Travis Tritt's music video for the song "Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde".

Thornton's screen persona has been described by the press as that of a "tattooed, hirsute man's man".[12] He appeared in several major film roles following Sling Blade 's success, including 1998's Armageddon with Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis, and A Simple Plan. In 2001, he directed Daddy and Them, while also securing starring roles in three Hollywood pictures, Monster's Ball, Bandits and The Man Who Wasn't There, for which he received many awards. He played a malicious mall Santa Claus in 2003's Bad Santa, a black comedy that performed well at the box office and established Thornton as a leading comic actor, and in the same year, portrayed a womanizing President of the United States in the British romantic comedy Love Actually. Thornton has stated that, following Bad Santa's success, audiences "like to watch [him] play that kind of guy,"[12] and "they [casting directors] call [him] up when they need an asshole. It's kinda that simple... you know how narrow the imagination in this business can be."[13] In 2004 he played David Crockett in The Alamo.

He appeared in the comic film School for Scoundrels, which was released on September 29, 2006. In the film, he plays a self-help doctor; the role was written specifically for Thornton.[12] More recent films include The Astronaut Farmer, a drama released on February 23, 2007, and the comedy, Mr. Woodcock, in which Thornton plays a sadistic gym teacher. In September 2008, Thornton starred in the big brother action movie Eagle Eye alongside Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan. Thornton has also expressed an interest in directing another film, possibly a period piece about cave explorer Floyd Collins,[14] based on the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins by Robert K. Murray and Roger Brucker. Thornton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 7, 2004.

In 2014, Thornton starred in the hit FX miniseries, Fargo, as Lorne Malvo. The series is based on the Coen brothers' film of the same name.


Thornton at the South By Southwest music festival in 2008

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.

On April 8, 2009, Thornton stopped cooperating with an interview while promoting a Canadian tour of his musical group The Boxmasters on CBC Radio One program Q. Thornton evaded questions and walked off the set early,[17] after explaining he had insisted the interview was not to refer to his movie career.[18][19]

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.[20] 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.[21][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 20 years his junior. 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.[12][22] 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.[23][24] 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,[25] specifying that he believes marriage "doesn't work" for him.[26]

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.[27] He has since said that he is vegan and "extremely healthy."[28]

Thornton has obsessive–compulsive disorder.[29] 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.[30] 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.[30][31] 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."[32]


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.[33]

Thornton is the cousin of professional wrestling legends Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr.[34]


List of film appearances
Title Year Role Notes
Hunter's Blood 1986 Billy Bob
South of Reno 1988 Counterman
Going Overboard 1989 Dave
Chopper Chicks in Zombietown 1989 Tommy
The Dark Backward 1991 Patron at Sloppy's Uncredited
For the Boys 1991 Marine Sergeant, Korea
One False Move 1992 Ray Malcolm Also Writer
Tombstone 1993 Johnny Tyler
Blood in Blood Out 1993 Lightning
Indecent Proposal 1993 Day Tripper
The Killing Box 1993 Langston
Trouble Bound 1993 Coldface
On Deadly Ground 1994 Homer Carlton
Floundering 1994 Gun Clerk
Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade 1994 Karl Childers Short Film
Also Writer
Dead Man 1995 Big George Drakoulious
Stars Fell on Henrietta, TheThe Stars Fell on Henrietta 1995 Roy
Sling Blade 1996 Karl Childers Also Writer/Director
Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Don't Look Back 1996 Marshall Also Writer
Winner, TheThe Winner 1996 Jack
Apostle, TheThe Apostle 1997 Troublemaker
U Turn 1997 Darrell
Princess Mononoke 1997 Jigo Voice Only (English Language Version)
An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn 1997 Himself Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Combo (with any combination of two actors playing themselves)
Simple Plan, AA Simple Plan 1998 Jacob Mitchell 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
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Armageddon 1998 Dan Truman, NASA Administrator Nominated—Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor - Sci-Fi
Homegrown 1998 Jack Marsden
Primary Colors 1998 Richard Jemmons Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
Pushing Tin 1999 Russell Bell
The Last Real Cowboys 2000 Tar
South of Heaven, West of Hell 2001 Brig. Smalls
Daddy and Them 2001 Claude Montgomery Also Writer/Director
Monster's Ball 2001 Hank Grotowski 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
Bandits 2001 Terry Lee Collins 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
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Supporting Actor
Man Who Wasn't There, TheThe Man Who Wasn't There 2001 Ed Crane 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
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
Waking Up in Reno 2002 Lonnie Earl Dodd
Badge, TheThe Badge 2002 Sheriff Darl Hardwick
Bad Santa 2003 Willie T. Stokes Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Teen Choice Awards for Choice Movie Sleazebag
Love Actually 2003 President of the United States Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated—Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Acting Ensemble
Nominated—Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Intolerable Cruelty 2003 Howard D. Doyle
Levity 2003 Manuel Jordan
Friday Night Lights 2004 Gary Gaines
Alamo, TheThe Alamo 2004 Davy Crockett
Chrystal 2004 Joe
Ice Harvest, TheThe Ice Harvest 2005 Vic Cavanaugh
Bad News Bears 2005 Morris Buttermaker
School for Scoundrels 2006 Dr. P/Dennis Sherman
Astronaut Farmer, TheThe Astronaut Farmer 2007 Charles Farmer
Mr. Woodcock 2007 Jasper Woodcock
Eagle Eye 2008 Thomas Morgan
Informers, TheThe Informers 2009 William
My Run 2009 Narrator
Smell of Success, TheThe Smell of Success 2009 Patrick
Deadly Creatures 2009 George Struggs Computer Game
Voice Only
Faster 2010 Cop
Nashville Rises 2011 Narrator
Puss in Boots 2011 Jack Voice Only
Jayne Mansfield's Car 2013 Skip Caldwell Also Writer/Director
The Baytown Outlaws 2013 Carlos
Parkland 2013 Forrest Sorrels
Fargo 2014 Lorne Malvo Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Movie/Miniseries Actor
Pending - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
The Judge 2014 Dwight Dickman Post-production
London Fields 2014 Samson Young Post-production
Endangered 2014 Post-production; also known as Red Machine
Cut Bank 2014 Filming
Entourage 2015 (rumoured) Filming
Bad Santa 2 2016 Willie T. Stokes (rumoured)
Other screen credits
Title Year Role Notes
One False Move 1992 Writer Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay
Nominated—International Fantasy Film Award for Best Screenplay
Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade 1994 Writer
A Family Thing 1996 Writer Nominated—Humanitas Prize
Sling Blade 1996 Director/Writer 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—Satellite Award for Best Original Screenplay
Don't Look Back 1996 Story and teleplay
All the Pretty Horses 2000 Director/Producer Nominated—Grand Prix Award
Nominated—Sierra Award for Best Picture
Gift, TheThe Gift 2000 Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Writing
Camouflage 2001 Story and screenplay as Reginald Perry
Daddy and Them 2001 Director/Writer
Jayne Mansfield's Car 2012 Director/Writer Nominated—Golden Bear



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. ^ "Social Security Death Index". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton, Astronaut Farmer". 
  10. ^ "Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture". Retrieved May 9, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Pringle, Gill (September 23, 2007). "On the Move: Billy Bob Thornton". The Times (London). Retrieved April 26, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c d "Billy Bob Hollywood's go-to guy". JAM! Showbiz. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  13. ^ "School is in session". Daily News. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  14. ^ "Interview with "School for Scoundrels" Star Billy Bob Thornton". Retrieved September 25, 2006. 
  15. ^ Deanna R. Adams. "Northern Ohio Live, September 2003". Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Billy Bob's Music". Archived from the original on August 25, 2006. Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  17. ^ "Thornton clashes with radio host". BBC. April 9, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Thornton obnoxious in CBC interview". UPI. April 9, 2009. 
  19. ^ Marlow, Iain; Andrew Chung (April 10, 2009). "Billy Bob ends Canadian tour". The Star (Toronto). 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Hinckley, David. Billy Bob Thornton accused of stalking former sister-in-law. New York Daily News. May 21, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2011.
  22. ^ "What I've Learned: Billy Bob Thornton". 
  23. ^ Smolowee, Jill. Marriage, Interrupted. People. August 5, 2002. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  24. ^ Stein, Ruthe. Billy Bob Thornton Likes Staying Put. "San Francisco Chronicle". April 26, 2009. Retrieved March 2, 2011.
  25. ^ "Thornton swears off marriage". ShowbizSpy. July 21, 2008. Archived from the original on July 6, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011. 
  26. ^ The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts B.B. Thornton. 2012. Virgin Digital
  27. ^ Billy Bob Thornton Biography Retrieved March 29, 2011.
  28. ^ "Who Got Billy Bob Thornton To Dress Up as A Ladybug," People, 14 June 2014.
  29. ^ "Billy Bob Thornton opens up". April 2, 2004. Retrieved December 6, 2009. 
  30. ^ a b "Billy Bob's Fear Of Spoons". Retrieved September 24, 2006. 
  31. ^ "Monster's Ball screenplay transcript". Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  32. ^ Rose, Tiffany (September 3, 2004). "Interview with Billy Bob Thornton: Acting very strange". (London). Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  33. ^ Walton, Brian (July 17, 2005). "Exclusive Interview – Billy Bob Thornton – Part One". Retrieved November 15, 2009. 
  34. ^ Terry Funk: The Hardcore Legend. T Funk. 2005. Sports Pub

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]