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Billy Bob Thornton

Angelina Jolie called him “a hillbilly Orson Welles.” Actor Billy Bob Thornton joins us with his new memoir.

Actor Billy Bob Thornton of "Manure" poses for a portrait at the Gibson Guitar Lounge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. (AP)

Actor Billy Bob Thornton of "Manure" poses for a portrait at the Gibson Guitar Lounge during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009. (AP)

The first that Angelina Jolie heard of Billy Bob Thornton was from friends in Hollywood that there was this guy out of Arkansas who was like, she says, “the hillbilly Orson Welles.” She learned a lot more about Billy Bob. So have we all.

Actor, screenwriter, director, Oscar-winner, iconoclast, with the soul-patch whisker on his chin and a barrel full of Arkansas attitude. He’s played and told a lot of stories. In Sling Blade. Monster’s Ball. Many more. Now he’s telling his own. The psychic mom. The fear of French furniture.

This hour, On Point: The Billy Bob Tapes. We sit down with Billy Bob Thornton.

-Tom Ashbrook


Billy Bob Thornton, actor and author of the new book The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts.

From Tom’s Reading List

ABC News “Billy Bob Thornton has played an outlaw, Davy Crockett, even the president of the United States in film, but in reality, this stone-faced actor says he suffers from deep insecurities, which he says cost him his marriage to Angelina Jolie.”

San Francisco Chronicle “Billy Bob Thornton has a crippling fear of public places and feels as though he is subjected to a “witch hunt” every time he leaves home. The actor suffers from a mild form of agoraphobia, which leaves him feeling vulnerable when he steps outside, and his condition has become increasingly worse over the years.”

The New York Times “Like many Southerners, Mr. Thornton, who grew up in Arkansas, is a gifted storyteller, with an eye for the telling detail and a moving way of blending comedy with tragedy. One story he tells about the burn-scarred transvestite he met while living at a shady motel during his early days in California is a heartbreaking gem.”

Excerpt: The Billy Bob Tapes

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“Blue Waltz” — Daniel Lanois (from “Sling Blade”)

“Opening Title” from “Monster’s Ball,” composed by Asche & Spencer

“I Made a Lover’s Prayer” — Gillian Welch (from “The Astronaut Farmer”)

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  • Hidan

    Dudes great, I thought his movie “LEVITY” was a great movie. I recommend it if anyone never seen it. He takes on a totally different character than most his movies. Honestly I thought it was going to suck but it turned out really good.

    Thanks Onpoint for hosting him.

  • JGC

    Proceed very carefully, Mr. Ashbrook.  A respected CBC Radio host, Jian Ghomeshi (sort of the Terry Gross of the CBC), had a  bizarrely infamous interview with Mr.Thornton a little while back.  Mr. Thornton was described in Canadian media as being “strangely evasive, sarcastic and rude”  in the interview. It turned out he was miffed at being introduced as an actor and screenwriter, when he was in town to play in a band, and wanted his musicianship at the forefront.

    I see he is here today to publicize his new book.  Mr. Thornton has his author hat on today, and you would do well to primarily talk about that, and limit the film discussion, unless it is well cleared ahead of time with him. 

    • JGC

      I listened to the program today: a great, thoughtful and interesting conversation.  Don’t know what happened in Canada.  Maybe he doesn’t like Canadians.  But wait, everyone likes Canadians!  Except maybe Quebeckers…

  • Anon

    My favorite movie from Billy Bob Thornton remains the little-known “Pushing Tin”, about two air traffic controllers and one woman. I can’t find the line he had asking about how there are people associated with those little dots….

    • Jeanne Turner

       I saw this movie too and thought it was excellent.  I’m surprised it was not mentioned in today’s interview.  I believe it was the film where he connected with Angelina Jolie.  Great interview today overall.

  • J__o__h__n

    Psychics are frauds. 

    • Prairie_W

      How do you know?

      • J__o__h__n

        My crystal ball told me. 

        • MyCommentIs…

          I had a feeling you’d say that

  • Sam

    Did he always wanted to be an actor/director, since he was a child? Or is that something that just “came about”?

    Does he like to direct or act more?

    Thank you

  • Jax Jr

    I have three books/screenplays in my head. I need help withthose ideas. Is there help? BBT

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    So Billy Bob, if a screenplay has good characters and real drama with comic relief without vampires, spaceships or a high school football team, what get’s it past the gate keepers to actually be considered to be made into a real movie?

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    I must be the only person left on the planet that remember how great he was with John Ritter in  the “Hearts Afire” sitcom.   It is like looking at an entirely different person, literally, from then to now.

  • Matt Goudey

    Mr. Thornton. You likely wouldn’t remember, but we had breakfast together, along with Dwight Yoakam and Mark Collie, at the Sunset Marquis. (I was picking up Mark Collie.) I live in Vermont, and you mentioned you might come to VT for Christmas. If you want a home cooked Christmas supper with a little familiarity, give me a call, we’d love to have you.

  • Osullivan

    I heard a funny story about BB smoking a cigarette in an irish pub in NYC…… can you ask him?

  • Jen Butson

    From our capital town of Montpelier, I heard Billy was touting Vermont, and of course – -we would love to host a visit, maybe a small towns bookstore tour?

  • Brett

    If Billy Bob Thornton is “a hillbilly Orson Welles,” then I suppose that makes Jim Jarmusch some kind of midwestern Frederico Fellini or something, I don’t know…

  • Roymerritt19

    I was impressed by Mr. Thorton’s efforts in his initial offering “One False Move” and subsequently such offerings as “Sling Blade” “Monsters Ball”, etc.  His ability to get into a southern character is commendable.  I should think much of his work is similar to Welles in some ways, most specifically his choice of movie vehicles, which he now seems to have a tendency to appear in late in his career.  For the most part tripe.  If he wants to continue in the vein of Welles perhaps he’ll come out with something like “Face of Evil” that Welles brought to the screen and much acclaim revealing just how much talent he possessed. Especially in making Charlton Heston seem like an actual Mexican prosecutor.  I’m curious does anyone think the reaction to Thorton had anything to do with the appearance of the governor of Arkansas on the national stage?  After all he garnered a lot of praise for “Primary Colors”, which was a little disguised story surrounding Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency.  Suddenly Arkansas and the South became red neck chic.  It was a reaction similar to that which “Hee Haw” had when it replaced Tommy and Dicky Smothers that CBS had canceled for dissing the president.   

  • Jim

    The most impressive movie, for me, has to be “One False Move”.  It’s just a totally edge of the seat film as well as being a very edgy film

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