Actors’ Spotlight #42: Billy Bob Thornton

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Billy Bob Thornton (born August 4, 1955) is an American actor, filmmaker, singer, songwriter, and musician.

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

In the 2000s, he achieved further 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.

He has been vocal about his disrespect 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. Thornton has appeared in at least one film per year nearly every year since 1991. Thornton has written a variety of films, usually set in the Southern United States and mainly co-written with Tom Epperson, including A Family Thing (1996) and The Gift (2000). After Sling Blade, he directed several other films, including Daddy and Them (2001), All the Pretty Horses (2000), and Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012).

Thornton has received the President’s Award from Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, a Special Achievement Award from National Board of Review, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also nominated for an Emmy Award, four Golden Globes, and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. In addition to film work, Thornton began a career as a singer-songwriter. He has released four solo albums and is the vocalist of a blues rock band The Boxmasters.

Billy Bob Thornton has always been one of those great actors who has proven his talents outside acting, he’s been a writer, a director, and a singer/songwriter, he’s done a lot in his over two decades in the entertainment business.

He’s definitely done his fair share of bad movies in his career, so let’s take a look at 5 of his worst movies as an actor:

5. Entourage

What happens when you take a TV series that was great for the first six of its’ eight season run and then say ‘screw you’ to continuity, well, the Entourage movie is pretty much that, a pointless feature film adaptation that does absolutely nothing different than what the last two seasons did and suffers because of it.

4. Mr. Woodcock

This was right after the success of Bad Santa where they were giving Billy Bob Thornton every raunchy comedy out there hoping to replicate the success of Bad Santa and boy, was this a mess of a movie. It had potential to be something funny but it just didn’t come together well at all.

3. Going Overboard

A brief role and an early role for Thornton here and honestly, he was one of the only things that was legitimate funny in this gigantic mess that was also Adam Sandler’s first feature film.

2. On Deadly Ground

Leave it to somebody like Steven Seagal to make an environmentally friendly action thriller come off even worse than it actually sounded. My god, this was bad.

and the #1 worst Billy Bob Thornton movie is…

Armageddon

But not as bad as Armageddon, which is just a horrendous mess all around, terribly written, poorly acted, no thrills here whatsoever. What more would you expected from Michael Bay?

Those are the worst, now let’s look at the best:

5. Bad News Bears

The remake of the 1976 Walter Matthau comedy is definitely strengthened on the performance of Billy Bob Thornton as Buttermaker and it’s kind of an interesting approach for Richard Linklater to take to direct this to see him do a mainstream remake like this, kind of makes you wonder what his Incredible Mr. Limpet remake would’ve been like.

As far as the rest of the film goes, it’s about on par with the original with a few modern exceptions and a few more raunchy scenes but other than that, it’s just the original Bad News Bears all over again, which is fine but when it comes to the Bad News Bears, nothing tops the original film.

4. Bad Santa

Ignore the obviously going-to-be-bad sequel that’s out right now, the original Bad Santa worked because it wasn’t afraid to admit that it was an obnoxious, lewd, crude comedy but also have a little heart to it. While it’s certainly no masterpiece by any means, Bad Santa is still a slick and funny raunchy holiday comedy, probably one of the first R rated Christmas comedies to actually work.

3. Friday Night Lights

The movie that lead to the brilliant TV series, which actually made a lot of people forget there was actually a movie beforehand. It’s pretty much the M*A*S*H effect, everybody remembers the TV show but not the original 1970 movie with Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould but that movie was equally as enjoyable as the TV show was and the same can be said for Friday Night Lights. The TV show is excellent but the movie is just as good.

2. Sling Blade

One of the first movies that put Thornton in the spotlight, a film that was brilliantly written, directed, and acted by Thornton.

and the #1 best Billy Bob Thornton movie is…

The Ice Harvest

The Ice Harvest starring John Cusack & Billy Bob Thornton and directed by Harold Ramis is well acted and directed and features some great supporting performances by Oliver Platt, Connie Nielsen, & Randy Quaid. While I don’t think this film is any of these actors or director Harold Ramis’ best work, it still a really great little comedy that got overlooked by a number of other films and shit like In The Mix with Usher.

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