"I am fairly embraced by the Hollywood community, and I love making movies and I love acting, but I'm not real crazy about the Hollywood system. So the fact that they embrace me is a shock to me because I tell them to kiss my a** all the time. I don't understand why they haven't thrown me out on my ear. The other thing is I don't participate much. I have very few friends within the movie community. I hang out with some guys I've known forever. They're all broke and eat me out of house and home. But I stay home mostly and I don't go to the parties. Maybe that preserves me."
William “Billy Bob” Robert Thornton might affectionately be known as Bad Santa, or maybe Sling Blade, or a host of other names from a long career. Sometimes described as "Hollywood’s primo oddball,” Thornton does have a way with crafting memorable performances. Aside from sporting a very stereotypical southern name, there is a lot that fans or casual moviegoers might not know about the actor who turns 63 this year. Here are 42 home grown facts about the one and only Billy Bob Thornton.
1. True Believer
A lot of people who celebrate Christmas lose some of the spirit when they find out Santa Claus is not real; this realization usually comes when we are later into childhood, and for Thornton this moment came around age 12 to be exact. Up until this point he still believed that a man from the North Pole dropped off all the Christmas presents. The blindfold was peeled off when a classmate told him he was an idiot for still believing, leading to a fist fight to defend St. Nick’s honor. Ironic, given what his tenure as Bad Santa has done for old Kris Kringle's reputation.
2. Relationship Goals?
Thornton usually shies away from the spotlight, but he couldn’t really avoid it when he was dating Angelina Jolie. During their time together, the couple attracted even more attention when they started wearing small vials of each other’s blood around their necks. Thornton explained that the practice began while the two were both filming separate projects; he was doing Monster’s Ball and Jolie was doing Tomb Raider. Since the two didn’t see each other much Jolie suggested that they cut their fingers and use the vials to carry a little bit of each other with them. Whatever happened to pictures?
We all wish we had the talent or the platform to become a Hollywood actor, but according to Thornton, talent isn’t an ingredient in his success. He credits a weird life and wide variety of experiences as the key to his abilities, saying he simply borrows emotions from his own past to bring characters to life. Some of his intense experiences have included physical aggression from his father, then dealing with his conflicting feelings when the man later lost his life of cancer. Thornton also worked as part of a highway department, where one of the duties was cleaning up after sometimes-fatal accidents. Between all of the above and the tragic passing of his brother in 1988, Thornton has more than enough to draw from.
4. Let It Go
Although Thornton is known for being a thin man, he actually once gained 50 pounds for a role, getting up as high as 197 pounds, for his role as a mechanic in U-Turn. He then immediately dropped down to 138 for his next film, Pushing Tin. Thornton’s publicist said that the weight loss was a “non-story,” but I'm sure there are other people eager to know how Thornton pulled off the transformation.
5. Southern Roots
While he was born in Arkansas, Thornton also has family connections to Texas. Some of his favorite childhood memories include family gathering at his grandma’s house in the woods, with a lot of family driving in from the Lone Star State.
6. Numero Uno
Thornton has a specific type of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which leads him to associate certain people in his life with numbers, something he says is exhausting. Due to the connection between numbers and people, he says he's constantly “doing mathematics in his head.”
7. Don’t Judge By The Cover
Thornton got into writing when he was a child, quickly finding a preference for short stories. It was Thornton’s writing interests that led one of his drama teachers to suggest acting as a potential career. Thornton would later go on to write or co-write many films, such as the supernatural thriller The Gift (2000).
8. Dad, Not Grandpa
You’re never too old to start a family, as Thornton exemplifies. His daughter from his current marriage, Bella, is now 13 and Thornton’s current wife is ten years his junior. Bella is Thornton’s fourth child and just might follow in her dad’s footsteps, since she has already appeared in a 2013 short film titled Hodgepodge.
Thornton is probably best known as a critically acclaimed actor, but there might be some people who actually know him better as the frontman of The Boxmasters, AKA Billy Bob Thornton and the Boxmasters. He formed the band in 2007, but by then he had already created four solo albums. The Boxmasters describe their music as “psychobilly” (pun intended?), their own eclectic mix of British mod, roots-rock and 60s surf pop rock. The Boxmasters now have seven albums and they still tour, with upcoming appearances at venues such as the Sedalia Center’s Summer Concert Series, and they have previously played at venues such as Toronto's prestigious Massey Hall.
10. Opposites Attract
You might have heard the joke that no matter how beautiful a woman is, some guy is tired of dating her. In this case, Thornton is that guy when it comes to Angelina Jolie. His aforementioned tendency to stay out of the spotlight, preferring instead to remain home and watch his beloved Cardinals, conflicted with Jolie’s glamorous life. This included near-constant meetings with adoption agencies, politicians and other Hollywood elites. Thornton admitted that he never felt good enough for Jolie and that he's usually uncomfortable around “rich and important people.” However, he does say that he's still on good terms with Jolie, and that they still talk every few months.
11. Sixth Time’s Hopefully The Charm
Thornton has been married six times, including his current one to makeup artist Connie Angland. Additionally, he was also engaged to Laura Dern, best known as Dr. Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park. Thornton and Dern actually lived together and dated from 1997 to 1999, but Thornton called off their wedding before marrying Angelina Jolie a few months later. Thornton’s marriage to Jolie then lasted from 2000 to 2003, and he began dating Angland soon after it ended. They were in a relationship for over a decade before finally tying the knot in 2015, and based on his previous track record, you can understand why Thornton would want to wait a little bit.
Some women are into tattoos, and maybe Thornton’s ink contributed to his relationship with Jolie. Thornton has over eight tattoos, mainly on his arms. The first was a heart with “Billy” written across it and an arrow running through. Maybe not the most original, and it's a little weird to get your own name tattooed on your body, but it was a start. Subsequent ones include a “Remember the Alamo” tattoo (referencing his role in the film The Alamo), complete with a small Texan flag. He also has his current wife’s full name, Constance, tattooed along his spine.
Thornton is technically an Academy-Award winning actor, but his only Oscar to date is not actually in the acting category. While he was nominated in two categories for his 1996 drama Sling Blade, his Oscar win was actually as its screenwriter, taking the statue for Best Adapted Screenplay (the film was based on a short film also written by Thornton). While he was nominated for Best Actor, he lost to Geoffrey Rush, who won for his role in the movie Shine.
14. Silver Screen
Thornton’s odd phobias include a fear of silver but it didn’t scare him away from the silver screen. As of 2017, Thornton now has a Best Actor Golden Globe for his role in the legitimate drama Goliath. About time!
I think we all have that one vegan friend who always talks about it. Thornton is hopefully not one of those vegans, but he has converted to a vegan diet due to his wheat and dairy allergies. On top of his veganism, Thornton is generally cautious about what he eats and would consider “two bananas in his oatmeal instead of one” to be an indulgent treat. From the look of him, it seems like that diet is doing a good job of keeping the pounds off.
16. Dress Up
Perhaps due to his tenure as Bad Santa, it seems like Thornton isn't particularly wary of dressing up if the occasion calls for it. Back in 2014, he wore a ladybug costume for Halloween at the insistence of his daughter, Bella, who dressed up as a butterfly. Maybe he just has a soft spot for his daughter though, since he refuses to ever wear the Santa hat when fans ask him to put it on and take a picture with them. To be fair, who would ask that?
I think we can all agree that Christmas music can get nauseating at a certain point, but don’t we all enjoy a little "Jingle Bell Rock" when the season comes around? Well, apparently Thornton doesn't, as he has said that the song “always rubbed [him] the wrong way.” He can’t stand the “peppy” Christmas tunes, and his personal favourite is Bing Crosby’s "I’ll Be Home for Christmas," partly due to how melancholic it is.
Thornton co-authored his memoir, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts, which was released in 2013. He actually recited most of the content orally, while writer and musician Friedman transcribed it. Thornton used a home studio and had a small audience present at his home while he told his life story.
19. Appetite For Destruction
As of 2012, Thornton has lived in Beverly Hills. That in itself is not surprising for a Hollywood actor, but what’s interesting is his house's former occupant: S.lash, the guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and supergroup Velvet Revolver.
20. Beat The Odds
Having trouble reading might seem like an obstacle to becoming an actor, but it seems like Thornton is an exception to the rule. As a child he was diagnosed with severe dyslexia and the related frustration from the disorder let Thornton down a path of alcoholism during his college years. Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
At one point in his life, TV was the only luxury Thornton had. During his earlier years, he was living in his childhood home by himself but was struggling financially. His mom would send him money periodically, but Thornton still had a hard time making enough money to heat his house. He slept in a La-Z-Boy chair and watching cable was a way for him to escape mentally.
Denis Makarenko, Shutterstock
22. He’ll Grow Into It
A lot of people know how much they weighed when they were born, but I bet not too many folks know how much they weighed at seven months. Thornton does though. Why? According to him, he was in Clark County, Arkansas’s newspaper for being the fattest baby in town, weighing a whopping 30 pounds!
They may not be as famous as their cousin, but the WWE’s Funk Brothers managed to build a sizeable following during their tenure with the iconic pro-wrestling league. The two are cousins of Thornton, and he was actually offered the chance to induct them into the 2009 Hall of Fame class. He declined... Sorry cuz.
24. Major League
Thornton’s career as an actor, writer and musician is admirable, but can you imagine him as an MLB pitcher? Thornton actually tried out for the Kansas City Royals, once making to trip to their traveling camp to show them what he could do. According to him, he suffered a broken collarbone a half hour in: He was standing by the coach’s box and caught an errant throw from the third baseman, putting an end to his big league pursuit.
25. Not Now Chief, I’m In The Zone
Although he doesn’t play anymore, Thornton is still an avid baseball fan, and he's a devout supporter of the St. Louis Cardinals. His film contracts all state that he must always have access to a TV with the games during filming. Thornton also wrote a song for his band, the Boxmasters, about a man who's watching the game and wants to be left alone; the song’s creative title is "I’m Watching the Game." Thornton’s soothing voice can also be heard narrating the Cardinals' 2006 World Series DVD.
26. Small Town Boy
We all hear the term small town, and it's usually relative. Some modestly sized cities are seen as tiny by someone coming from a big city. But Thornton truly comes from a small town: Alpine, Arkansas, whose population currently sits at 101 residents.
27. Crystal Ball
When Thornton wrote The Gift, he used his mother as inspiration for the clairvoyant protagonist. Thornton says his mom predicted he would work with Burt Reynolds, which came true when Thornton appeared in three episodes of Evening Shade. Thornton also says it was hard to keep secrets from his mother since he couldn’t come home tipsy without her knowing, and that for a time in his childhood people would stop by their house to get readings.
28. The End
Although Thornton’s career took off through his own writing efforts with Sling Blade, he has since become disenchanted with Hollywood writing/directing pursuits since then. Back in 2000, he directed an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses that he insists was heavily edited. While Thornton’s version was three to four hours long, the theatrical cut was under two. The score was also replaced and then the film went on to become a critical and commercial failure, failing to recoup its $50 million budget. Because of this terrible experience, Thornton believes the time for him to make a name for himself directing smaller, more personal films, as opposed to big blockbusters, has passed.
Thornton took drama classes in high school “just because girls were there.” Later, he took up a friend's offer to join a professional acting class. As part of the course, he had to prepare a monologue. Inspired by comedian Andy Griffith’s unconventional takes on properties like Cinderella, Thornton decided to write his own version of Othello. The end result was well over half an hour long, even though it was only supposed to last three to five minutes. It had to be recited over two lessons, but the teacher believed it was “unique and wild.”
Aside from his psychic mama, Thornton also experienced duality growing up with an Irish dad and a Italian/Native American mother. His mother exposed him to some Native American culture, largely through its folklore. Thornton believes that the clash in his parents' views and values made him the person he was: “That’s how people like me turn out the way they do. It’s like all those mixtures, you know?”
Thornton is aware he has a reputation of being an on-screen badboy, but he has pointed out that Fargo’s Lorne Malvo is the first true villain he has played since 1992’s One False Move, where he played an immortal thief. Fans may disagree with him there, since there was his role as a intolerant jailhouse guard in Monster’s Ball during the interim, but hey, he can have his own opinion on what exactly constitutes a villain.
32. Help From My Friends
Not all awards are created equal, at least according to Thornton. While he appreciates awards bestowed by critics, the ones he values most are the ones where his peers are a part of the selection e.g. Academy Awards. Thornton believes that being respected comes from the respect of peers, meaning other actors in his case. He doesn't care nearly as much what the professional critics think.
33. Professor Thornton
Thornton’s life is already pretty busy between acting and touring with his band, but he also occasionally makes room in his schedule to share his knowledge with others. During a 2015 tour, the Boxmasters performed at the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center, where Thornton took the time to teach a creative writing class for the center’s special needs students.
As far as we know, Thornton doesn’t make enough money to qualify for the financial 1%. However, he is in the 0.6 % of people who have AB- blood. This is part of the reason he has switched to a vegan diet, since he says that his blood type results in him having fewer digestive enzymes. This fact doesn't actually appear to be true, but hey, you do whatever works for you Billy Bob.
35. Times Are A Changing
For years, TV was viewed as a place for less fortunate actors who couldn't make it work on the big screen; meanwhile, the real stars went onto film. This doesn't really feel like the case nowadays, with television seeming to be in a Golden Age of quality, but Thornton caught on to this slower than most. After making it big, he held out on doing a television show for a long time since “TV was a bad word” when he started making a name for himself. As time passed, he finally realized TV is where “all the good stuff is” and committed to a role on FX's Fargo.
36. Slim Shady
For those who remember the video for Eminem’s song "Just Lose It," one of the highlights was the few precious seconds of Eminem in a Santa Claus suit. The costume from the video isn’t completely random though—it's actually a specific reference to Thornton’s character in Bad Santa, complete with the five o’clock shadow.
37. Started From The Bottom
Thornton’s sensitive stomach might have something to do with his diet in his earlier years. Besides the allergies, Thornton suffered from malnutrition before he made it in Hollywood. During this time he could only afford to eat potatoes, with grilling being his preferred prep method. As one would expect, this diet didn’t agree with his body, and he would go on to suffer from an inflammation of the heart muscle known as myocarditis before managing to turn things around. From eating nothing but potatoes to living in Beverly Hills, thank you for the inspiration Billy Bob!
38. The Horror
We might not call them what they are, but we all have our phobias. Spiders and snakes are a pretty common one, but Thornton is more unique with his fear of... antiques. To be fair, he mainly fears the French antiques, “…you know, like the big, old, gold-carved chairs with velvet cushions. The Louis XIV type.” In simpler terms, Thornton is “creeped out” by old items. Why not? He's also said that he has no love for Komodo dragons, mainly due to their bacteria-infested saliva. That one, I think, is more justified, if still a little specific.
39. Fond Memories
Bad Santa might be some fans’ favorite Thornton role, and they'll be glad to hear that the man himself also remembers the film fondly. In his memoir, The Billy Bob Tapes, the actor cites the filming of Bad Santa as one of the moments he would go back to relive. Maybe this selection is influenced by the fact that he was actually tipsy while filming some of the scenes.
40. Tough Love
Thornton’s first professional acting teacher advised him he was too ugly to be an actor. The teacher even went so far as to say that he was even too ugly to be a character actor. Fortunately, the teacher didn’t just have a roast in mind; it was he who suggested that Thornton should write his own characters and use that as an avenue to get into Hollywood. Some harsh truths, but look where Billy Bob is now! Plus, he can go back and tell that teacher that his "ugly" mug was married to Angelina Freaking Jolie.
Thornton can be pretty sensitive about his identity as a musician. In 2009, he had a well publicized outburst during an interview with CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi. Thornton had specifically requested that he not be asked about his acting career, and it appears he was very serious about that stipulation; Ghomeshi mentioned the acting only in the interview introduction, but Thornton still became completely uncooperative for the rest of the interview, referred to Ghomeshi as a**hole the next day, and then said Canadian audiences were “mashed potatoes without gravy.” Ouch, Canada. Though to be fair, he was pretty much on point with regards to the now disgraced Ghomeshi.
42. Family Ties
Back in the 1970s, Thornton was married to a woman named Melissa Lee Gatlin, and the two had a child named Amanda (who later went by Amanda Brumfield). Thornton and Gatlin were only together for two years, and he had little contact with her or Amanda in his later life—something Brumfield had publicly admitted hurt her, saying "I just want him to be around. I don’t want to cry, but it’s not fair to watch him on TV every day, and I can’t even get a call." A few decades later, in 2009, Brumfield was convicted of aggravated manslaughter in the passing of a one-year-old child, Olivia Madison Garcia, who had been under her care. Though Brumfield alleged that the child had simply fallen out of her playpen, the prosecution proved that the wounds to the girl's head could not have possibly been caused by such a small fall. The case was made all the more suspicious by the fact that Brumfield didn't call the authorities until two hours after the accident. She was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in lockup.