Oscar Actors: Thornton, Billy Bob–Background, Career, Awards (Cum Advantage, Emmy, Globe)

Updated July 8, 2020
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Billy Bob Thornton (born August 4, 1955) is an American actor, writer, director, and musician.

Oscar Record

Thornton had his first break when he co-wrote and starred in the 1992 thriller One False Move, and received international attention after writing, directing, and starring in the independent drama film Sling Blade (1996), for which he won Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and was nominated for for Best Actor. He appeared in major films in the 1990s, including Oliver Stone’s neo-noir U Turn (1997), political drama Primary Colors (1998), sci fi disaster film Armageddon (1998), the highest-grossing film of that year, and the crime drama A Simple Plan (1998), which earned him his third Oscar nomination.

In the 2000s, Thornton achieved success in starring dramas Monster’s Ball (2001), The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), and Friday Night Lights (2004); comedies Bandits (2001), Intolerable Cruelty (2003), and Bad Santa (2003); and action films Eagle Eye (2008) and Faster (2010). In 2014, Thornton starred as Lorne Malvo in the first season of the anthology series Fargo, earning a nomination for the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie at the Emmy Awards and won Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Film at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards. In 2016, he starred in an Amazon original series, Goliath, which earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Drama.

Thornton has been vocal about his distaste 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.[1] Thornton has written films, usually set in the South and mainly co-written with Tom Epperson, including A Family Thing (1996) and The Gift (2000). After Sling Blade, he directed Daddy and Them (2001), All the Pretty Horses (2000), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012).

Thornton has received the President’s Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, a Special Achievement Award from the National Board of Review, and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has also been nominated for an Emmy Award, 4 Golden Globes, and 3 Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Thornton is also involved as a singer-songwriter. He has released four solo albums and is the vocalist of the blues rock band The Boxmasters.

Billy Bob Thornton was born on August 4, 1955, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the son of Virginia Roberta (née Faulkner), a self-proclaimed psychic, and William Raymond “Billy Ray” Thornton (November 1929 – August 1974), a high school history teacher and basketball coach.

His brother Jimmy Don (1958 –1988) wrote a number of songs; Thornton recorded two of them (“Island Avenue” and “Emily”) on his solo albums He is of part Irish descent. He has another brother, John David Thornton.

Thornton lived in Arkansas during his childhood, including Alpine, Malvern, and Mount Holly. He was raised Methodist in extended family in a shack that had no electricity or plumbing.

He graduated from Malvern High School in 1973. A good high school baseball player, he tried out for the Kansas City Royals, but was released after an injury. 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 2 semesters.

In the mid-1980s, Thornton settled in Los Angeles to pursue acting career, with future writing partner Tom Epperson. He had difficult time as an actor and worked in telemarketing, offshore wind farming, and fast food management between auditions. He also played the drums and sang with South African rock band Jack Hammer. While working as waiter for an industry event, he served film director Billy Wilder. He struck up a conversation with Wilder, who advised Thornton to consider a screenwriter career.

Thornton’s first screen role was in 1980’s South of Reno, where he played small role as a counter man in a restaurant. He also appeared as pawn store clerk in the 1987 Matlock episode “The Photographer.

He was cast on the CBS sitcom Hearts Afire and in 1989 he appeared as an angry heckler in Adam Sandler’s debut film “Going Overboard.”

In 1992, his role as the villain in One False Move, which he also co-wrote, brought him critical attention.  He also had small roles in 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. The film, based on his short “Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade,” concerned mentally handicapped man imprisoned for a gruesome, seemingly inexplicable murder.

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.

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”. 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.” He referred to this when he said that “it’s kinda that simple… you know how narrow the imagination in this business can be.”

In 2004, Thornton played David Crockett in The Alamo.  He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 7. He appeared in the 2006 comedy School for Scoundrels, in which he plays a self-help doctor, which was written specifically for him. 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, based on the book Trapped! The Story of Floyd Collins.

In 2014, Thornton starred as sociopathic hitman Lorne Malvo in the FX miniseries Fargo, inspired by the 1996 film, for which he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Mini-Series.

Thornton made a guest appearance on The Big Bang Theory in 2014, where he played a middle-aged urologist who gets excited about every woman who touches him.

“Goliath,” a television series, features Thornton as a formerly brilliant and personable lawyer, who is now washed up and alcoholic. It premiered on October 13, 2016, on Amazon Video. Amazon announced the series had been renewed for a second season.

In 2017, Thornton starred in the music video Stand Down by Kario Salem (musically known as K.O.). It received the Best Music Video award from the Toronto Shorts International Film Festival[22] and has had 13 million views on Facebook and counting.

From the time he was 10 years old, Thornton has been in bands. His first performance was on drums at a school PTA meeting where his band played “The Ballad of The Green Berets” instrumentally. Several bands followed, with Thornton’s first recording experience coming at Widget Sound in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1974. Later in the 1970s, Thornton was the drummer 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.[23]

In 1985, Thornton joined Piet Botha in the South African rock band Jack Hammer, while Botha worked in Los Angeles. Thornton recorded one studio album with Jack Hammer, Death of a Gypsy, which was released in 1986.

In 2001, Thornton released an album titled Private Radio on Lost Highway Records. Subsequent albums include The Edge of the World (2003), Hobo (2005) and Beautiful Door (2007). 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” with Earl Scruggs, for the Oxford American magazine’s Southern Music CD in 2001.[24] The song also appeared on Scruggs’ 2001 album Earl Scruggs and Friends.[25]

Thornton has been married six times. The first five marriages ended in divorce, and he has four children by three women. From 1978 to 1980, he was married to Melissa Lee Gatlin, who in her divorce petition cited “incompatibility and adultery.” They had a daughter, Amanda (Brumfield), who in 2008 was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the death of her friend’s one-year-old daughter.

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.

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 was 20 years his junior. The marriage became known for the eccentric displays of affection, which included wearing vials of each other’s blood around their necks; Thornton later clarified that the “vials” were two small lockets, each containing only a single drop of blood. 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. They separated in June 2002 and divorced the following year.

In 2003, Thornton began a relationship with makeup effects crew member Connie Angland, with whom he has a daughter named Bella. He and Angland were married on October 22, 2014, in Los Angeles.

During his early years in Los Angeles, Thornton was admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with myocarditis. He has since said that he follows a vegan diet and is “extremely healthy”, eating no junk food as he is allergic to wheat and dairy.

Thornton suffers from OCD, 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.[39] Additionally, he has stated that he has a fear of certain types of silverware, a trait assumed by his character in 2001’s Monster’s Ball, in which Grotowski insists on plastic spoon for his ice cream.