LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A decade has passed since Billy Bob Thornton has written a screenplay, which is what helped him break from the pack of Hollywood wannabes and made him a star. But now, he has picked up his pen again.
“Sling Blade” (1996) earned Thornton an Oscar for his writing, as well as a nomination for his starring role in the film. And it put him on the map of Hollywood stars.
But the low-budget film he wants to make will have to wait for financing, and until then, there is big-budget “Faster,” which debuts in theaters on Wednesday. Thornton portrays a cop with a dubious habit on the trail of a vengeance-seeking killer, played by Dwayne Johnson. Thornton talked to Reuters about the movie, his music and, once again, his writing.
Q: I know you’ve been concentrating on your music and band, and we haven’t seen you in a big film in a few years. Why?
A: “I did spend about two years mostly touring with the band, recording a lot of records. The last movie was ‘Eagle Eye,’ and then we decided to hit the road. Then I did ‘Faster.’ With the economy, they aren’t making as many movies, so when you see a good one you got to grab it, and ‘Faster’ was that.”
Q: What about “Faster” made you want to work in it?
A: “The great thing about every character in (it), pretty much, there’s sort of an ambiguity to all of them, and I always like characters like that. I don’t know that there are any good guys or bad buys, everybody in it’s got a pretty heavy past.”
Q: It’s billed as a throwback to 1970s action with big thrills and car chases, not much CGI or animated effects.
A: “The great news about it is, and I don’t know how they did it, but somehow they managed to get a very contemporary look to this movie even though it seems like a throwback to the ‘70’s movies. But I think everybody loves those ‘70’s action movies, you know, Steve McQueen and “Bullitt,” or whatever they are. It does have a very ‘70s feel, and yet it seems like something that kids who play videogames would like to see, too. It’s got both things. It’s big and fast and loud.”
Q: Switching to music and your band the Boxmasters. Any new album on the horizon?
A: “We have two records that are ready to go. Sometimes we get ahead of the label, and they say, ‘you know, you can’t turn out nine records a year.’ But we just keep recording. We just love it, so we keep doing it. The more we record, the better we get and the more we find out who we are as a band...But yeah, we got a record called ‘Bellflower’ that will be the next one on Vanguard.”
Q: What does music bring, creatively, that acting can’t?
A: “They’re very different, but to me it’s all the same thing, especially if it comes from the writer in you. Writing songs, writing movies, they are all — at least the kind of songs we do — stories. At the end of the day, I just love all of it and I get the same thrill out of everything I do. And these days and times, I’m just glad to have something to do.”
Q: And what about writing? Will there ever be a return to screenwriting? You know, as you mature, maybe you have a bit more patience to sit down and write?
A: “That’s true. In some ways, I’d like to start writing more screenplays. It’s been about 10 years since I wrote a screenplay, but I just finished one. I wrote it with Tom Epperson. He and I wrote ‘The Gift’ and ‘One False Move’ and ‘A Family Thing.’ We just finished this one, and I’m going to star in and direct it. Kind of like we did ‘Sling Blade.’ Now, it’s just a matter of financing it for the proper amount of money.”
Q: Why now?
A: “I think because of the nature of movies they are making these days. They are really not my bag as much. I figured that instead of sitting around complaining that I really don’t want to be in a superhero movie or cartoon or a 3D vampire movie and all that kind of thing, I’ve written movies before, so why not write one. And that’s really, probably, the main reason I started to write this one.
“But then when you get into it, then it’s like, ‘oh yeah, I remember why I like doing this.’ I think it’s one that any audience — that whatever audience I might have had or have now — it’s a movie I think they are really going to love. So, we’re anxious to get it out there.”
Q: Can you tell us what it’s about?
A: It takes place in 1969 in Alabama. It’s a comedy drama, and it’s about human relationships. This one deals a lot with how different generations view war and also it examines the randomness of life and death.
Editing by Jill Serjeant