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The Untold Truth Of Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton is a talented actor and songwriter who can be a little bit weird at times. For example, he doesn't like it when fans ask him to sign their "Sling Blade" DVDs at his concerts (GQ via Cinemablend). Also, he once shared his concern that too many people touch the door handle in public restrooms after already washing their hands, and he insisted that this wouldn't be an issue if all bathroom doors were pull-to-enter, push-to-exit. He told Oprah's Master Class he would gladly host fundraiser concerts to make this a reality. What he's saying makes a lot of sense, even if it's an awfully strange cause to dedicate a whole fundraiser concert to supporting.

However, an actor who is an interesting character makes for an even more interesting character actor. Anyone familiar with Thornton's filmography can attest to that. If anything, Thornton's eccentricities are what make his contributions to the film world so unique. For instance, he told The Hollywood Reporter that Terry, the anxious bank robber he plays in "Bandits," is based a little bit on himself (minus the bank-robbing part). Terry's character is even richer as a result.

To celebrate the weirdness of Billy Bob Thornton, we've compiled all of his most fascinating quirks below.

Thornton has several irrational phobias

We all have something that we're scared of, but Thornton's personal phobias may be a little surprising. For one, he can't stand Komodo dragons. "Why wouldn't you be afraid of a Komodo dragon?" he told GQ. "It's a dragon." As well, he finds antique furniture creepy. "I don't mind a chair," he told The New York Times, but he's unsettled by "old dusty heavy drapes and big tables with lions' heads carved in it. Stuff that kings were around ... It creeps me out." He shudders at the thought of Benjamin Disraeli's beard — or more accurately, he's bothered by the beard of George Arliss, who played Disraeli in an old movie Thornton once watched. He told The Hollywood Reporter that between Arliss's facial hair and the old furniture in the movie, it was enough to put him off the TV dinner he was eating.

Luckily, Thornton has found ways to manage his anxiety and his phobias. According to GQ, he watches DOGTV and puts on some "massage music." He shared in an interview with Oprah's Master Class that identifying his anxiety is half the battle, because once he recognizes what it is, it's easier to deal with. All he needs to do is "understand that it's a fear" and not let it control him.

Thornton relied on Method acting for an iconic Bad Santa scene

One memorable moment from "Bad Santa" wasn't in the script. In fact, Thornton wasn't even aware he was doing it. In a classic moment of Method acting, Thornton actually got drunk for the scene where his character Willy shows up to work inebriated. According to an interview with Couch Surfing, Thornton had three glasses of red wine for breakfast before switching to vodka and a few beers.

On the Dan Patrick Show, Thornton recalled being so drunk he could barely stand up. He'd been getting into position at the foot of the escalator when he announced, "I'm on the verge of maybe passing out here ... just nudge me when they call 'action,' will ya? Because I'm gonna lay down here for a minute." By the time they started the escalator, he had drifted off, even though he was supposed to be standing up. "So it kind of dumped me out up there," he said, "and I woke up, and I'm like, 'Oh yeah. I'm in this movie.'" Needless to say, they kept this take in the final film.

Some might say he took his Method acting a bit too far, but it's hard to argue with his choice in this case, because it's impossible to imagine this hilarious scene any other way.

Thornton follows a very particular diet

As a self-proclaimed "vegan who cheats" (via AARP), Thornton needs to be very selective about what he puts on his plate, because he has multiple food allergies (including a wheat allergy and a dairy allergy.) No junk food for Thornton, unfortunately. He told People magazine that he can't exactly be daring with his dietary choices: "For me, something indulgent would be to cut up two bananas into my oatmeal instead of one." As writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner observed when interviewing Thornton for GQ, a typical breakfast for Thornton involves one of Bobo's Oat Bars slathered with Earth Balance butter substitute. Whenever he goes on tour with his band, the Boxmasters, he gets his own special compartment in the band's refrigerator to store the only kinds of food he's able to eat.

Even when his food allergies don't get in the way, Thornton will still draw the line at what he's willing to eat. According to GQ, he refused to eat a roast chicken that was served to him propped up as if it was standing upright. "That's a little guy," he announced. "I'm not eating a little guy."

At first he didn't even consider becoming an actor

Was acting a lifelong dream for Billy Bob Thornton?

Not exactly. "I never expected to be a movie star," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's not that I didn't want to be, I didn't think about it." Sure, he signed up for an acting class when he was younger, but he wasn't into acting at the time. According to an interview with Blount County's Daily Times, Thornton only joined the class for the girls and for a grade.

In his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Thornton also recalled a drama teacher named Molly Treadway, whom he describes as "the first teacher who ever encouraged me." She read one of the stories he'd written as a kid and loved it so much that she suggested he turn it into a theatrical performance — which he did. After he had staged it, Treadway told him that he should seriously consider doing it for a living. It's a lucky thing she did; otherwise we might have never gotten "Sling Blade" and so many others.

Music is just as important to him as acting

Not many Billy Bob Thornton fans know that he's also a musician, and this annoys Thornton to no end. He is a member of a band called the Boxmasters, whose musical style falls somewhere between hillbilly country and British invasion. Thornton calls it "modbilly" (via GQ).

It frustrates him that most people forget that he was a musician long before he was an actor. In fact, he told Couch Surfing, "I was really out there for music, anyway." Yet somehow his reputation as an actor has always overshadowed everything else, with Thornton telling GQ that it stings to hear fans treat the Boxmasters as just a side gig. For Thornton, the worst possible insult is for him to perform onstage with the Boxmasters and then afterwards get a fan asking him to sign their "Sling Blade" DVD. Thankfully, says Thornton, people are starting to appreciate his band's work in its own right. He told the Daily Times that he is no longer swarmed at concerts by fans asking him to sign their DVDs; instead, they actually talk about the music.

Thornton insists that he doesn't prefer music over acting, or vice versa. When asked which passion he would pursue if he could only choose one, Thornton told The Spokesman, "That's like asking which one of your kids would you give up."

Thornton gave cheeky answers in a notorious interview

Thornton's movie career can be a touchy subject for him, due to his pet peeve about discussing his filmography when he's touring with his band. However, he once unleashed this pent-up frustration in an interview that nearly destroyed his career.

While on tour with the Boxmasters, Thornton was interviewed by Studio Q, a Canadian radio program. After interviewer Jian Ghomeshi briefly mentioned Thornton's film career, an upset Thornton began giving answers that were cryptic, disruptive, or downright cheeky. For instance, Thornton deflected a question about his band's founding by saying, "I don't know what you mean." Later, when asked about his tour with Willie Nelson, Thornton replied, "I've never met him." He even compared Canadian audiences to "mashed potatoes without gravy." Considering that Ghomeshi couldn't tell if Thornton was being serious or not, MTV News judged that he handled the situation extremely well.

According to Thornton (via The Toronto Star), the show's producers had promised him they would only ask him about his music, not his acting, although it seems like Thornton hadn't communicated that a brief reference to his film career and Oscar in the show's intro would violate that agreement. A spokesperson for Thornton pointed that the actor had indeed been offended by the questions, but conceded that the band had given no explicit "instructions" to Ghomeshi about which topics were taboo, telling Entertainment Weekly, "We don't tell people what questions they can or cannot ask."

He won't direct movies anymore

Just as fans often forget Billy Bob Thornton is a musician, he doesn't get as much attention for his directing credits, either. To be fair, though, he hasn't directed a film in almost a decade. Part of the reason is simply that Thornton no longer has the time, since filmmakers are constantly inviting him to take acting roles (via Entertainment Weekly). But another factor is that the experience is no longer satisfying for him. "Pretty much everything after 'Sling Blade' soured me on directing ever again," he told The Wrap.

In particular, his experience directing "All the Pretty Horses" was extra unpleasant, because former Miramax Films head Harvey Weinstein had a vicious battle with Thornton behind the camera. According to Entertainment Weekly, Thornton's version of the film would have been two hours and 42 minutes — and in fact Miramax expected the movie would be close to three hours — but Weinstein made him cut it down to under two hours. 

What's more, Miramax marketed it as a love story, even though the love interest played by Penelope Cruz only appears for half the movie. To add insult to injury, they also tried to whitewash the roles of the Mexican characters and completely replaced the movie's score, according to GQ. Thornton shared that now it's just too draining for him to devote a year or two directing a very personal project, only to "have people either s*** on it or not see it."

Thornton had a difficult relationship with his father

Billy Bob Thornton had a rough childhood, in part thanks to his abusive father. For instance, Thornton's father wouldn't let him take piano lessons. "He thought that piano was for sissies," Thornton told AARP. He also recalls that his school had a policy for punishing students: "They gave you a choice, you could get 10 licks with whatever implement that teacher preferred or you could be suspended for three days," he told The Hollywood Reporter. Thornton always chose the whipping, because he knew that if his dad found out he was suspended, he would just get a much bigger whipping at home. According to Thornton, he didn't have any other father figures in his life for comparison, so he told The Saturday Evening Post that he assumed that all parents were supposed to act that way, which made life extremely scary.

After Thornton's father passed away, his influence on Thornton never really faded. Some of Thornton's most iconic performances draw from his experiences with his father. For instance, he told The Hollywood Reporter that when he portrayed a controlling father in "Monster's Ball," the character was more or less a reflection of his own dad. Knowing what his father was like, Thornton goes out of his way to be extra gentle with his own kids. Oftentimes, he jokes (via Oprah's Master Class), he will assure his sons that he loves him, and they'll say, "Dad, I'm just going to the kitchen."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

He is not a fan of movie critics

Most celebrities don't like negative reviews, but Thornton has a passionate loathing for movie critics in general, in part because of some previous bad experiences with them.

For instance, he feels that the critical response to his film "Jayne Mansfield's Car" was unduly harsh. "If it had come out in '96 or '97, it would've done probably as well as 'Sling Blade,'" he told Entertainment Weekly. According to Thornton, reviewers wrote off the film's unique combination of drama and dark comedy as tonally inconsistent. He argued that a common excuse used by critics to dismiss a hard-to-classify movie is to say it "couldn't make up its mind what it was." In a 2016 interview with GQ, Thornton predicted that critics would tarnish his enjoyment of "Bad Santa 2" as well.

The actor believes that critics should only write reviews for films they enjoyed; if they don't enjoy a film, then they should keep it to themselves. He told GQ that he doesn't get why reviewers feel "responsible for warning the world about this atrocity [they just watched]." He added that there's a lot of negativity going around on the Internet in general, saying that he can barely visit two websites without stumbling upon an Internet troll with something bad to say about him.

Thornton enjoyed playing a sociopath in Fargo

Thornton won a Golden Globe playing a contract killer named Lorne Malvo in Season 1 of "Fargo" –- and he had loads of fun doing it, too.

When Thornton was a guest on Couch Surfing, he summed up his approach to Malvo perfectly: "I played that character as if I weren't human." Specifically, he told The Wrap that he always thought of Malvo as a cobra, a deadly animal that not even the predators at the top of the food chain want to cross. Unlike his process for most other roles he played previously, Thornton saw no reason to even think about Malvo's backstory, telling The Wrap, "Since [Malvo] doesn't have a conscience, he probably doesn't think about his past either."

What Thornton found most fascinating about the character was his twisted sense of humor. Malvo took sadistic pleasure in taunting other characters; you couldn't tell if he was joking or serious until he put a bullet in your head. "For him, that's his own social life, just messing with his victims," he explained in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Even Thornton admitted there was something vaguely attractive about Malvo's personality, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "I think the reason people connected with the character is because he said things to people that we all want to say every day."

He doesn't like attending publicity events

The runaway success of "Sling Blade" (which is still considered one of the best Billy Bob Thornton movies) launched the actor into stardom, but it turns out he has never fully adjusted to the lifestyle of a celebrity. "I just don't fit in that world at all," he told Oprah's Master Class. Thornton says that he only attends all the premieres and parties out of necessity, because it's expected of him as a famous actor. He made it clear that he doesn't choose to go to these events himself.

In an interview with GQ, he admitted, "I'm real uncomfortable around rich and important people." Anytime he attends a fancy dinner with multiple sets of forks and knives, he can never tell which utensil he's supposed to use first. He told GQ he'd like to keep it that way, because he couldn't care less about which fork he's supposed to use. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he only owns two suits, which he wears to all formal events. "When one's wrinkled up in the closet I'll wear the other one," he said.

In some ways fame has taken its toll on him. He told The Hollywood Reporter that being a celebrity can be frustrating "when you're trying to do just a simple thing that humans do every day but [your fans and the press] won't let you do it without bugging you about it."

Thornton feels like the world has become more cynical

Billy Bob Thornton is convinced that the world has grown uglier and more unfeeling since he was a kid — or even since the 1990s, when his film career first took off. Nowadays, Thornton told Oprah's Master Class, "Everybody wants to see failure." For proof, Thornton simply points to contemporary reality TV shows, where viewers always seem to get their kicks from watching the misfortunes of others. There's even an intensely competitive show about baking cupcakes. "Does it need to be [a] competition?" he asked. "Do you have to have 'Cupcake Wars'?"

In an interview with GQ, Thornton expressed his frustration with the world's increasing desensitization. Comparing fans' reactions to his 2003 film "Bad Santa" and the 2016 sequel, Thornton concluded that "Bad Santa 2" doesn't seem as edgy to viewers simply because the world has changed. What was shocking to audiences 15 years ago is considered normal today. "It's not just because of movies and TV," he told GQ. "It's because of what's happening in the world. It's like, well, surely no one's ever, like, killed a bunch of rabbits with a hatchet and then ate them in front of a group of kindergarteners, and you look it up and, sure enough, somebody did it."

Thornton said in another Oprah's Master Class conversation, "We've lost our sense of magic and our sense of wonder."

He believes My Little Pony offers an important life lesson

Billy Bob Thornton will do anything for his daughter Bella. "She has me wrapped completely around her finger," he told Oprah's Master Class. One time he even dressed up like a ladybug to match his daughter's Halloween costume (via People).

Thornton felt quite comfortable sharing with GQ that he watched "My Little Pony" with his daughter. (Of all the ponies, Fluttershy is the one he likes the most "because she kind of talks like Marilyn Monroe.") In fact, there was one particular sequence of episodes that he felt contained an important takeaway for Bella. In Equestria, each of the ponies bears their own distinctive "cutie mark," but in one episode, Starlight Glimmer starts convincing her fellow ponies to all get identical cutie marks. In other words, it's a classic example of peer pressure. 

"[It's] like a Jim Jones cult," said Thornton, adding that it pleased him that the Mane Six (the show's leads) basically passed because they liked themselves exactly the way they were. That, he said, was an important lesson for his daughter: stay true to yourself, rather than following the crowd.