About Billy Bob Thornton
Born on Aug. 4, 1955 in Alpine, AK, Thornton was raised in a poor family by his father, Billy Ray, a basketball coach, and Virginia, a psychic. Until he was eight or nine years old, Thornton lived with his grandparents in a small house in a small town that had no electricity nor running water. In fact, the only illumination came from the sun or coal oil lamps. He then moved to a larger town called Malvern - about 20 miles from Hot Springs - where life revolved around the local high school football team. It was around this time that he met future writing partner, Tom Epperson. While in high school, Thornton began acting and eventually decided to pursue a performing career. After graduation, he attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AK, where he majored in psychology until dropping out after two semesters. In 1977, he and Epperson briefly moved to New York before heading westward to Hollywood. Once they settled in Los Angeles, Thornton worked variously as a rock singer, drummer and actor. He and Epperson wrote scripts which they attempted to sell, although they met with little initial enthusiasm.
On the small screen, Thornton played the conveniently named Billy Bob in the busted pilot "Circus" (ABC, 1987) before making his series debut as an ex-greaser who was a surrogate brother to a gang in "The Outsiders" (Fox, 1989). After making his feature debut in the forgettable direct-to-video release "Hunter's Blood" (1988), he carved a niche portraying good ole' boys in sitcoms like "Evening Shade" (CBS, 1990-93) and "Hearts Afire" (CBS, 1992-95). He earned acclaim for his featured role in Carl Franklin's "One False Move" (1992), which he co-wrote with Epperson. His portrayal of a sociopathic ex-con involved with a black woman (Cynda Williams, who was briefly Thornton's third wife) earned him critical praise and, more importantly, industry recognition, which led to supporting roles in "Bound by Honor" (1993), "On Deadly Ground" (1994) and "Dead Man" (1995). With his career on a roll, Thornton collaborated with Epperson again on, "A Family Thing" (1996), an earnest drama about a white man (Robert Duvall) who discovers he has a black half-brother (James Earl Jones). Duvall brought the germ of the idea to the writing duo, who fashioned a vehicle for the Oscar-winning actor. With Epperson, Thornton co-wrote "Don't Look Back" (HBO, 1996), directed by Geoff Murphy and starring Eric Stoltz as a musician-addict who stumbles onto drug money with near fatal results.
Thornton finally became a Hollywood player with "Sling Blade" (1996), a film in which he did triple duty as star, screenwriter and director. The project had its genesis in a monologue he created to channel his frustrations on the set of his first television movie, "The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains" (HBO, 1987). Thornton created Karl Childers, a mentally-challenged murderer, and nurtured the character for close to a decade; first performing the soliloquies on stage then in the short film "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade" (1994). By the time he expanded the story to feature length, Thornton had made a deal to direct as well as write and star in "Sling Blade," a film that propelled Thornton into stardom. With close-cropped hair, a clean-shaven face and using slow, raspy vocals punctuated with growls, Thornton was barely recognizable as Karl, whose close bond with a young boy (Lucas Black) leads him to confront and eventually repeat his dark past. And though the film alternated between static set pieces - betraying its stage origins - and leisurely-paced exterior scenes, "Sling Blade" featured a strong cast that included Natalie Canerday as the boy's mother, John Ritter as a gay man for whom the boy's mother works and Dwight Yoakam as the mother's bigoted, abusive boyfriend. In an Oscar year dominated by independent films, "Sling Blade" was a critical darling that earned Thornton an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and another nomination as Best Actor.
Thornton's career - which had gradually been building steam - exploded with the success of "Sling Blade." He signed a three-picture deal with Miramax Films and was suddenly one of the most sought-after actors working in Hollywood. He was nearly unrecognizable as a psychotic mechanic in Oliver Stone's "U-Turn" (1997) before playing a reluctant religious convert in Duvall's "The Apostle" (1997). The following year found him as a would-be marijuana kingpin in "Homegrown" (1998), a wily southern political advisor patterned after real-life spin doctor James Carville in "Primary Colors" (1998) and the Mission Control leader in the summer blockbuster "Armageddon" (1998). Thornton earned more critical kudos for playing Bill Paxton's half-wit brother in "A Simple Plan" (1998), a tense character study about three friends whose lives fall apart after finding and trying to keep $4 million. Once again, Thornton significantly altered his appearance on his way to earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Meanwhile, Thornton returned to the director's chair to helm "All the Pretty Horses" (2000), which he adapted from Cormac McCarthy's novel.
Thorton's most critically acclaimed role since "Sling Blade" came when he starred opposite Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball" (2001). Thornton played a hardened jail warden whose life is emerged in his own bitter history and ingrained racism. His character transforms and ends up falling in love with a black woman whose husband he executed. Thornton's exquisite portrait of an agonized man trying to embrace love for the first time in years earned him an impressive array of critical plaudits and award nominations, though in the end he was overshadowed by Berry's Oscar-winning performance. Thornton may have been his own worst enemy when it came to competing for Oscar gold, as he also turned in particularly fine performances in two other films that same year with a comedic turn in Barry Levinson's "Bandits" (2001) and a sharp, haunting role as the barber drawn into a dark melodrama in the Coen Brothers' loopy noir "The Man Who Wasn't There" (2001). Oscar-watchers suggested that Thornton split his own vote among the three roles, resulting in zero nominations for the actor.
Thornton's always-reliable acting was also often overshadowed by his bizarre tabloid-made relationship with the much-younger actress Angelina Jolie, who became his fifth wife in 2000 after the two met on the film "Pushing Tin" (1999) and he broke off his engagement with Laura Dern. Their surprise union was characterized by dramatic, obsessive affectations which included acquiring tattoos of each other's names and wearing vials that contained a drop of the other's blood when separated. But the marriage lasted only two years: Jolie filed for divorce in 2002, shortly after adopting a Cambodian orphan who took Thornton's name. On screen in 2002, the actor appeared in a pair of low-profile duds, playing a philanderer in the offbeat comedy "Waking Up in Reno" which also starred Charlize Theron, Patrick Swayze and Natasha Richardson, then a parolee who becomes involved with the unknowing wife of the man he killed in "Levity." But Thornton was in fine, appropriately over-the-top form when he reunited with the Coen Brothers' screwball effort "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003), playing a Texas billionaire who's about to become the latest victim of a gold-digging serial divorcee (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The actor followed with a pleasing low-key cameo as a libidinous U.S. president in the witty British romantic comedy "Love, Actually" (2003).
Thornton returned to center stage in peak form in director Terry Zwigoff's deliriously cynical holiday comedy, "Bad Santa" (2003) - based on a one-line concept by the Coen Brothers - playing the whiskey-slugging, womanizing safecracker Willie T. Stokes who annually arises from a hazy hibernation to team up with three-foot-tall, foul-mouthed mastermind Marcus (Tony Cox) and - under the benevolent cover of Santa and Elf - clean out the department store where they are employed. Thornton's performance was a comedic masterstroke, especially when he let loose with his stinging, profane and sarcastic invective. He followed with a measured, intelligent portrayal of high school football coach in the gridiron-obsessed small town of Odessa, TX, in the hit film "Friday Night Lights" (2004). He took on a less serious sports-minded project when he accepted the role of Little League baseball coach Morris Buttermaker (originally played by Walter Matthau) in the remake of the classic "The Bad News Bears" (2005). As a high school baseball sensation who once earned a Major League tryout in his youth, Thornton was well-suited to the role of the inebriated, washed-up Buttermaker riding herd over a profane team of young misfits. But the film suffered in its adherence to the original and a refusal to sharpen the story's edges for a more contemporary audience.
Thornton took on his second anti-Christmas-themed film with "The Ice Harvest" (2005), director Harold Ramis' film noir with pitch black comic undercurrents, playing the potentially untrustworthy partner in crime of a mob accountant (John Cusack) who steals a bundle from his boss and endures a perilous Christmas Eve as they prepare to flee. For his next feature, Thornton wasted his talents as a lifestyle coach for losers in "School for Scoundrels" (2006), a lame and rather predictable comedy from Todd Phillips about a top secret confidence-building class run by a deviant huckster (Thornton) whose tough love tactics and compulsion for prying into his students' lives leads them to overcome their deep-rooted anxieties to exact revenge. Thornton remained productive in the following year, starring in "The Astronaut Farmer" (2007), a satirical look at an astronaut forced to leave NASA to save his family's farm, and "Mr. Woodcock" (2007), which featured Thornton as a sadistic gym teacher who terrorizes a best-selling self-help author (Seann William Scott) in his youth and is now ready to marry the writer's widowed mother (Susan Sarandon). He next played a government agent hunting down two fugitives (Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan) in the paranoid thriller "Eagle Eye" (2008).
|Danielle Dotzenrod. Dated from 2002-2003; no longer together|
|Laura Dern. Began dating in March 1997; announced plans to marry in 1999; Thornton abruptly ended their relationship by marrying Angelina Jolie in Las Vegas, NV on May 5, 2000|
|Angelina Jolie. Co-starred in "Pushing Tin" (1999); eloped in Las Vegas, NV May 5, 2000; sexually charged marriage was subject of much tabloid fodder that included carrying vials of each others' blood around their necks; Jolie had tattoo on her arm that read "Billy Bob"; separated June 2002; Jolie filed for divorce July 17, 2002; divorced May 27, 2003|
|Connie Angland. Mother of Thornton's daughter Bella|
|Cynda Williams. Married 1990; co-starred in "One False Move" (1992); divorced 1992|
|Melissa Lee Gatlin. Married 1978; divorced 1980|
|Toni Lawrence. Married April 5, 1986; divorced 1988|
|Pietra Dawn Cherniak. Married Feb. 18, 1993; divorced April 1997; claimed spousal abuse in her divorce filing|
|Jimmy Don Thornton. Born c. 1958; died in 1988 of heart problems|
|John David Thornton. Born c. 1969|
|Amanda Brumfield. Born June 30, 1979; mother, Melissa Lee Gatlin; indicted on several charges - including first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated manslaughter - in connection with the October 2008 death of a 1-year-old girl she was baby sitting; in June 2011 was convicted of aggravated manslaughter, but acquitted of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges; on Oct. 6, 2011 in Orlando, FL, Brumfield was sentenced to 20 years in prison for aggravated manslaughter of a child|
|Bella Thornton. Born Sept. 22, 2004; mother, Connie Angland|
|Billy Ray Thornton. Died of lung cancer c. 1973|
|Harry Thornton. Born June 19, 1994; mother, Pietra Thornton|
|Maddox Chivan Jolie-Pitt. Adopted from Cambodia in 2002 with then wife Angelina Jolie; gave up parental rights after their in 2003|
|William Langston Thornton. Born June 27, 1993; mother, Pietra Thornton|
|Henderson State University, Arkadelphia , Arkansas|
|Published the memoir The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts|
|Voiced the animated character Jack (opposite Amy Sedaris' Jill) in the "Shrek" spin-off "Puss in Boots"|
|Co-starred with Dwayne Johnson in the action drama "Faster"|
|Joined an ensemble cast for the film adaptation of "The Informers"; based on a collection of short stories by Bret Easton Ellis|
|Played the title character in "Mr. Woodcock," the titular evil high school gym teacher who is dating the mother of one of his former students|
|Played a NASA astronaut who gives up his dream job to try and save his family farm in "The Astronaut Farmer"|
|Played a teacher of a confidence-building class in Todd Phillips' "School For Scoundrels"|
|Co-starred with John Cusack in Harold Ramis' dark comedy "Ice Harvest"|
|Cast in the Walter Matthau role for Richard Linklater's remake of "The Bad News Bears"|
|Played a high school football coach in "Friday Night Lights," based on the book by Pulitzer Prize winning H.G. Buzz Bissinger|
|Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame|
|Played a chain smoking, criminal minded Santa Claus in "Bad Santa"; earned a Best Actor Golden Globe nomination|
|Starred as a parolee who returns back to the town for which he committed his crime in "Levity"|
|Co-starred with Natasha Richardson in the comedy "Waking Up in Reno"|
|Played a racist prison guard who falls for the black widow of an executed prisoner (Halle Berry) in Marc Forster's "Monster's Ball"|
|First solo album, Private Radio|
|Played the lead role in the Coen brothers' "The Man Who Wasn't There"|
|Directed the film "Daddy and Them"; also wrote and starred|
|Directed the film adaptation of "All the Pretty Horses" with Matt Damon and Penélope Cruz|
|Co-wrote (with Epperson) the gothic thriller "The Gift" starring Cate Blanchett|
|Cast in Mike Newell's "Pushing Tin" alongside John Cusack, Cate Blanchett, and then-wife Angelina Jolie|
|Re-teamed with Bill Paxton to play brothers in "A Simple Plan"; earned a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination|
|Joined ensemble cast in the disaster flick "Armageddon"|
|Portrayed the James Carville-like political advisor in Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors"|
|Played a reluctant religious convert in the Duvall-directed "The Apostle"|
|Feature directorial debut, "Sling Blade"; also wrote and starred; earned Best Actor Oscar and SAG nominations|
|Co-wrote with Epperson, "A Family Thing"; starred James Earl Jones and Duvall|
|TV debut as screenwriter, the HBO film "Don't Look Back"; also acted|
|First asociation with Robert Duvall, "The Stars Fell on Henrietta"|
|Wrote and starred as Karl Childers in the short film "Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade"|
|Landed a recurring role on the CBS sitcom "Hearts Afire" (CBS) as Billy Bob Davis; first collaboration with John Ritter|
|First produced screenplay (co-wrote with Tom Epperson), "One False Move"; also co-starred|
|TV series debut as actor, "The Outsiders" (Fox)|
|Appeared onstage in various productions as Karl Childers, refining the monologues and story|
|First created character of Karl Childers (the protagonist of "Sling Blade") for "The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains" (HBO)|
|Made film debut in "Hunter's Blood"|
|Took acting classes in Los Angeles|
|Began performing career as a rock singer and drummer|
|Began acting as a high school student|
|Met writing partner Tom Epperson at age eight|