"Getting the nomination is like gravy. Winning would be like whatever is better than gravy." Billy Bob Thornton (on his Academy Award Best Actor nomination for Sling Blade, 1996).
Actor, occasional screenwriter and director Billy Bob Thornton broke into the Hollywood scene with his low-budget, independent drama Sling Blade (1996, he wrote, directed and starred), which won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
First noticed while costarring with Bill Paxton in the film One False Move (1992, he also co-wrote), Thornton continued to gain recognition with the films A Simple Plan (1998, nominated for an Oscar), All The Pretty Horses (2000, he directed and produced), Bandits (2001), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), Bad Santa (2003, Golden Globe Best Actor nomination) and The Alamo (2004). Also an aspiring musician, Thornton has released two albums, "Private Radio" and "The Edge of the World," and reportedly has completed his next album, "California Possibilities."
6' tall Thornton's trademark may be his Houston Colt .45's hat. He was linked to Danielle Dotzenrod (dated in 2003) and actress Laura Dern (born on February 10, 1967; together 1997-1999). Thornton has been married five times (his latest wife was actress Angelina Jolie) and is currently engaged to special effects expert Connie Angland, with whom he has a daughter.
"The Angelina ship has sailed for me. I have a new kid with my girlfriend. Brad and Angie seem happy together. Why not make a movie for him? It will be one big happy family." Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in October of 2004. A string of upcoming film works are waiting, one of which is Peace Like A River, a film produced by Brad Pitt's production company.
Childhood and Family:
"I was the fattest baby in Clark County, Arkansas. They put me in the newspaper. It was like a prize turnip." Billy Bob Thornton
In Hot Springs, Arkansas, Billy Bob Thornton was born on August 4, 1955, to Irish decent father Billy Ray (basketball coach and history teacher; died of lung cancer in 1973) and Italian/Cherokee Indian mother Virginia (psychic). The heaviest infant in Clark County at 30 pounds (he was seven months old at that time), Billy has two younger brothers: John David (born in 1969) and Jimmy Don (musician; born in 1958; died of heart problems in 1988). He is also the cousin of wrestlers Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr. Billy spent his childhood in the dirt-poor backwoods town of Alpine and lived with his grandparents in a house with no electricity or indoor plumbing. He also began a life-long friendship with future screenwriting partner and aspiring novelist Tom Epperson.
An aspiring musician, Billy played drums in a band called "Stone Cold Fever" and cranked out Creedence Clearwater Revival songs while in high school. He was also a popular local baseball star with a talent for pitching and tried out as a baseball player for the Kansas City Royals. However, a broken bone ended his athletic career and Billy returned to music. He joined bands like Lighthouse and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and let his hair grow very long. Malvern High School's drama teacher, Maudie Treadway, helped with Billy's acting skills. He studied psychology at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, but dropped out after two semesters.
"I've been married five times, and people think that's some bizarre thing, yet I've got buddies who refuse to get married and have sex with 15 people a week. I'm like, 'Which is better?' At least I was trying." Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton has married five times. He married Melissa Lee Gatlin in 1978, but they divorced in 1980. Six years later, in 1986, Billy tied the knot with actress Toni Lawrence, but they separated in 1987 and divorced in 1988. Billy's third wife was his One False Move (1992) costar, actress Cynda Williams, whom he married in 1990 and divorced after two years of marriage. In 1992, he met Pietra Dawn Cherniak and they married on February 18, 1993. This marriage also ended in divorce in April of 1997, with claims of spousal abuse. On May 5, 2000, Billy eloped in Las Vegas with his Pushing Tin (1999) costar, actress Angelina Jolie, but they divorced on May 27, 2003.
Billy Bob has three sons: Maddox (adopted in 2002 with Angelina Jolie), Harry (born in 1994; mother: Pietra Cherniak) and William (born in 1993; mother: Pietra Cherniak). He also has two daughters: Bella (born in September 2004; mother: Connie Angland) and Amanda (mother: Melissa Gatlin).
A Simple Plan
"When a studio treats me badly, I remember it. I have no patience for studio executives who treat me like an idiot or tell me how my characters should talk." Billy Bob Thornton
A talented musician and baseball pitcher, Billy Bob Thornton began writing short stories when he was in the third grade. His first acting performance was playing a wise man in a school nativity play and his first directing gig was for a grade-school production of "Dracula." He also starred in the school play "Egad, What a Cad."
After having numerous jobs such as janitor, grocery store clerk, painter, drill press operator in a machine shop, bulldozer driver and sawmill worker, Billy Bob and his best friend Tom Epperson tried their luck in New York in 1977. Shortly afterward, they moved to Los Angeles and Billy Bob began his performing career as a rock singer and drummer. He began taking acting lessons in 1983, and in 1984, he suffered heart failure brought on by malnutrition, caused by eating nothing but potatoes. With the help of a kind doctor, who treated Billy Bob without charging him, Billy Bob recovered and settled in East Hollywood.
Robert C. Hughes' adaptation of Jere Cunningham's novel, Hunter's Blood (1987), was Billy Bob's film acting debut. He also made his first TV appearance in an episode of "Matlock" and the TV movies The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains (1987, based on Robert E. Burns' novel) and CBS' Circus (1988). After playing roles in the films South of Reno (1988), Going Overboard (1989) and Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1989, costarring Jamie Rose), Billy Bob made his TV series debut on Fox's "The Outsiders" (1990, inspired by S.E. Hinton's novel, alongside David Arquette). He was also spotted as a guest on Harry Thomason' produced series "Evening Shade."
Billy Bob next appeared in Mark Rydell's acclaimed musical comedy For the Boys (1991, starring Bette Midler and James Caan). In the next year, he co-wrote (with Epperson) Carl Franklin's crime thriller One False Move, in which Billy also costarred with Bill Paxton and then-wife Cynda Williams, playing the psychopathic redneck Ray. The film received critical reviews and won an International Fantasy Film Award for Best Screenplay. That same year, Billy played Billy Bob Davis, John Ritter's fellow employee, a childhood friend and fellow Vietnam vet, on the CBS sitcom, Thomason-produced "Hearts Afire" (1992-1995).
While working on the series, Billy Bob appeared in the 1993 films Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun (V), The Killing Box, Trouble Bound, Indecent Proposal, Bound by Honor, and Tombstone.
After appearing in Peter McCarthy's Floundering, Billy Bob wrote the short drama thriller Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (both in 1994), the basis for the Oscar-winning feature Sling Blade. George Hickenlooper directed the film and Billy starred as Karl Childers, a twenty-five years sentence double murderer who is about to be released from an insane asylum. Billy Bob also played roles in 1995's On Deadly Ground, The Stars Fell on Henrietta, and Out There (TV). He made his TV screenwriter debut in the HBO's Don't Look Back (1996, also acted in) and teamed with Epperson again co-writing Richard Pearce's drama film A Family Thing (1996, starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones).
Billy Bob's feature directorial debut, Sling Blade (1996, costarring Dwight Yoakam), which he also wrote and starred, proved to be Billy Bob's breakthrough film work as well. The film is about the tale of Karl Childers (played by Billy Bob Thornton), a mildly retarded man faced with a complex moral dilemma. It garnered critical reviews, winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and received an Academy Award Best Actor nomination.
Subsequently, Billy Bob costarred with Vincent D'Onofrio and Rebecca DeMornay in Alex Cox's screen version of Wendy Riss' play, The Winner (1996), with Jim Metzler in Stefani Ames' A Gun, a Car, a Blonde (1997) and with Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Jennifer Lopez in Oliver Stone's adaptation of John Ridley's book, U-Turn (1997, as a psychotic mechanic). He also played a reluctant religious convert in actor-director Robert Duvall's Oscar-winning The Apostle (1997) and lent his voice to the animated Mononoke-hime (1997, a.k.a. Princess Mononoke). More significant roles arrived in the following years.
Billy Bob portrayed a devious political advisor in Mike Nichols' dramatic comedy, inspired by Joe Klein's novel, Primary Colors (starring John Travolta and Emma Thompson), starred as a would-be marijuana tycoon in Stephen Gyllenhaal's Homegrown and costarred as the NASA Administrator in Michael Bay's Armageddon (opposite Bruce Willis).
Another Academy Award Best Actor nomination arrived in 1998 when Billy Bob starred as Bill Paxton's brother, unemployed slob Jacob Mitchell, in Sam Raimi's tight, effective thriller, adopted from Scott B. Smith's novel, A Simple Plan (also with Bridget Fonda and Brent Briscoe). Afterward, Billy Bob played John Cusack's rival in Mike Newell's dramatic comedy Pushing Tin.
South of Heaven, West of Hell, The Last Real Cowboys and CatDog: The Great Parent Mystery (TV, voice) was Billy Bob's film works before he starred as laconic, chain-smoking barber Ed Crane in the Coen brothers' edgy film The Man Who Wasn't There (2001, opposite Frances McDormand). The film was screened at the Cannes and garnered numerous awards for Billy. He then directed, wrote and starred (as Laura Dern's husband) in the drama comedy Daddy and Them (screened at Montreal Film Festival), played Bruce Willis' hypochondriac partner in Barry Levinson's Bandits (also with Cate Blanchett) and portrayed a racist prison guard who falls in love with the African-American wife (Halle Berry) of the last prisoner he executed in Marc Forster's Monster's Ball. He also directed the film version of Cormac McCarthy's novel, the western drama All the Pretty Horses (2000, starring Matt Damon) and co-wrote Sam Raimi's Southern Gothic thriller The Gift (also in 2000, starring Cate Blanchett) with Tom Epperson.
The subsequent years saw Billy Bob starring as a small town sheriff in Robby Henson's The Badge and joining Natasha Richardson, Patrick Swayze and Charlize Theron in Jordan Brady's romantic comedy Waking Up in Reno (both in 2002). He also starred as ex-con Manuel Jordan in Ed Solomon's Levity (opposite Morgan Freeman and Kirsten Dunst) and costarred with George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Coen brothers' Intolerable Cruelty (both in 2003).
2003 best remembered Billy Bob as a criminal who disguises as Santa Claus in Terry Zwigoff's crime comedy Bad Santa, for which he nabbed a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. The following year, Billy Bob starred in Ray McKinnon's touching tale of a man coming to terms with a life left in tatters, Chrystal (opposite Lisa Blount), portraying the larger-than-life living legend Davy Crockett in John Lee Hancock's true-event based The Alamo (alongside Dennis Quaid) and become coach Gary Gaines of the winning team Permian High Panthers of Odessa, Texas, in Peter Berg's football drama film, based on H.G. Bissinger's book, Friday Night Lights.
More recent, director Richard Linklater handed Billy Bob the lead role of a grizzled little league coach in his remake of Walter Matthau classic, the baseball comedy Bad News Bears. He will soon also star as John Cusack's unsavory associate in Harold Ramis' soon-to-be-released crime comedy The Ice Harvest (also with Monica Bellucci) and play the title role in Craig Gillespie's comedy Mr. Woodcock. He is also scheduled to star as NASA astronaut-turned-farmer in actor-writer-director Michael Polish' The Astronaut Farmer, costar with Jon Heder in writer-director Todd Phillips' comedy School for Scoundrels and play the lead role in the screen version of Leif Enger's novel, Peace Like a River. Filmmaker Michael Cristofer cast Billy Bob to star as a schizophrenic screenwriter in the thriller Fade Out (alongside Milla Jovovich and Dylan McDermott).
Billy Bob Thornton, who co-owns a production company with Dwight Yoakam, is also an aspiring musician. He appeared on the album "Hollywood Goes Wild" (RPH Productions), a benefit CD for the Wildlife Waystation animal sanctuary, before releasing his two CD's: "Private Radio" (2001) and "The Edge of the World." He also performed the Warren Zevon song "The Wind" on the tribute album "Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon." More recent, he reportedly has finished recording his latest album, "California Possibilities," and is preparing for his next tour.
"Acting is playing... it's actually going out on a playground with the other kids and being in the game, and I need that. Writing satisfies that part of myself that longs to sit in my room and dream." Billy Bob Thornton
- Online Film Critics Society: Best Actor, The Man Who Wasn't There, 2002
- Florida Film Critics Circle: Best Actor, Bandits, 2002
- London Critics Circle Film: Actor of the Year, The Man Who Wasn't There, 2002
- Russian Guild of Film Critics: Golden Aries - Best Foreign Actor, The Man Who Wasn't There, 2002
- Southeastern Film Critics Association: Best Actor, The Man Who Wasn't There, 2001
- Paris Film Festival: Grand Prix, All The Pretty Horses, 2001
- Broadcast Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1999
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- Boston Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- San Diego Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- Online Film Critics Society: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- Chicago Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, A Simple Plan, 1998
- National Board of Review: Special Achievement Award in Filmmaking, Sling Blade, 1996
- Chicago Film Critics Association: Best Actor, Sling Blade, 1996
- Writers Guild of America: Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Sling Blade, 1996
- Independent Spirit: Best First Feature, Sling Blade, 1996
- Academy Award: Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, Sling Blade, 1996
- International Fantasy Film: Best Screenplay, One False Move (1993, shared with Tom Epperson).