Billy Bob Thornton
Occupation: Actor, Director, Writer
Date of Birth: August 4, 1955
Place of Birth: Hot Springs, Ark., USA
Sign: Sun in Leo, Moon in Aquarius
Relations: Father: Billy Ray (educator, coach; deceased); mother: Virginia (psychic); brothers: Jimmy Don (musician; deceased), John David (physician); wife: Angelina Jolie (actress); ex-wives: Melissa Lee Gatlin, Toni Lawrence (actress), Cynda Williams (actress), Pietra Dawn Cherniak; ex-fiancée: Laura Dern (actress); daughter: Amanda (with Gatlin); sons: William, Harry (both with Cherniak)
Education: Dropped out of Henderson State University
AFTER YEARS OF relative obscurity as an actor and screenwriter, Billy Bob Thornton burst into the spotlight in 1996 with his low-budget, independent drama Slingblade. The powerful tale of Karl Childers, a slightly retarded man who is suddenly released from the mental institution where he spent twenty-five years after murdering his mother and her abusive lover, Sling Blade became a sleeper hit and earned Thornton instant acclaim. For his work on the film, which he wrote, directed and starred in, he won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, as well as a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Thornton's knack for interpreting such haunting material was no doubt partially inspired by his upbringing. Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas on August 4, 1955, he grew up dirt poor in the backwoods town of Alpine. Although his father worked as a history teacher, Thornton's family was forced to live with his grandparents in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing. Thornton had few friends during this time, one notable exception being Tom Epperson, who would later become a trusted colleague and screenwriting partner.
After graduating from high school, where he took a few acting classes, Thornton got a steady job and got married; neither the job nor the marriage were to last, as Thornton got divorced two years later and decided to go back to college to study psychology. However, that didn't last either: deciding that his heart lay in rock 'n' roll, he and Epperson attempted to make it to New York before realizing their plan was essentially a pipedream. So Thornton returned to his job for awhile, until he and Epperson renewed their dedication to a music career. They headed for Southern California, where, after meeting with a pronounced lack of musical success, they began writing screenplays. It was a difficult time for Thornton, who, in addition to living in poverty, also experienced a near-fatal heart attack. In an interview he revealed that, during the course of his tribulations, he invented the character of Karl Childers during a particularly bad day on a Hollywood set.
Thornton eventually turned to acting, making his screen debut in the straight-to-video Hunter's Blood in 1987. Subsequent roles in similarly forgettable movies (including Troma's Chopper Chicks in Zombietown) followed--as did a stint on the sitcom Evening Shade--before Thornton wrote and appeared in Carl Franklin's critically acclaimed directorial debut One False Move (1991). A dark crime drama set in a small Arkansas town, the film provided a suitable antecedent to Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, the 1993 short Thornton wrote and starred in. The short (which would later be expanded into Sling Blade) won a number of positive notices, and Thornton subsequently appeared in Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man in 1995 and, with Epperson, co-wrote the screenplay for A Family Thing, a drama starring James Earl Jones and Robert Duvall in 1996. The 1996 triumph of Sling Blade definitively established
Thornton as a major writing and acting talent in Hollywood, and gave him a wealth of previously unheard of opportunities. He followed his success with appearances in Duvall's The Apostle and Oliver Stone's U-Turn in 1997, and more substantial roles in Primary Colors--in which he played a James Carville-like campaign manager--and Armageddon--which cast him as NASA's executive director--in 1998. Also in 1998, he received another Best Actor nomination for his work in Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan. The story of two brothers who descend into the depths of distrust and paranoia after stumbling upon $4 million in the woods, it allowed Thornton to plumb the darker areas of the backwoods’ psyche as only he could do so well. The following year, Thornton--now boasting a Hollywood make-over and a divorce from his fourth wife--starred in Mike Newell's Pushing Tin, a comedy about two dueling air traffic controllers (Thornton and John Cusack) and their respective women (Angelina Jolie and Cate Blanchett).
Thonton also returned to his duties behind the camera, directing, writing and starring in Daddy and Them, a comedy drama about the ups and downs of an eccentric Alabama family. In addition to Daddy and Them, Thornton was attached to a number of projects in 2000, including Wakin' Up in Reno, a romantic comedy about two white trash couples journeying to Reno to see a monster truck show; and South of Heaven, West of Hell, an ensemble Western that marked the directorial debut of country singer Dwight Yoakam.
2000 The Shipping News
2000 South of Heaven, West of Hell
2000 Starkers, Texas
1999 Daddy and Them
1999 Pushing Tin
1998 Primary Colors
1998 A Gun, a Car, a Blonde
1998 A Simple Plan
1997 U - Turn
1997 The Apostle
1996 Dead Man
1996 Sling Blade
1996 The Winner
1993 Indecent Proposal
1992 One False Move
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)