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July 2005
The Bad News Bears: Press Conference Interview with Billy Bob Thornton

The Bad News Bears : Press Conference Interview with Billy Bob Thornton

By Wilson Morales

Billy Bob Thornton has been on tear recently with Bad Santa and Friday Night Lights receiving rave reviews and doing well at the box office. In Bad Santa", he displayed this wicked dark humor worked really well with audiences. Well, the writers of that film have collaborated with Thornton once again to recreate the baseball classic film, "Bad New Bears" with Thornton playing the role of the coach, previously played by Walter Matthau. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Thornton talks about his role and working with Director Richard Linklater.

You're filling some big shoes by taking over a Walter Matthau role. Did you feel that pressure?

Billy Bob Thornton: Yeah. You always kind of do. Anytime you're playing either a real person or a part that somebody has made iconic, it makes you a little nervous. But I was a big fan of Walter Matthau and the original movie. I thought he was great. So I would never even pretend that I would ever be as good or as funny as he is, so I didn't even try. I just kind of did my thing.

Did you watch the original?

Billy Bob Thornton: I purposely didn't watch the old movie before we did this. I'd seen it years ago, but I didn't watch it so I wouldn't pick up any of his mannerisms because I didn't want to imitate him or anything. But yeah, it always makes you a little nervous. I mean at least Davy Crockett's not around, so nobody knows what he was like. Did you feel like this was "Bad Santa Goes to Baseball?" Like an unofficial sequel to that movie?

Billy Bob Thornton: In terms of the Bad Santa thing, the guy curses and drinks beer so I guess there's a similarity there - and curses at children - so I was prepared for people to draw comparisons, but I guess it's not a bad comparison to draw. If it had been a movie which made like $30, maybe they'd say, oh no, not all. But I mean from the very beginning, we kind of thought - yeah, this might be a kind of a, not really a sequel (obviously it's different people and everything) but a nice way to be able to play a character like that, because people for some reason seem to like that type of person, when it kind of rolls off my tongue I guess.

You're on quite a roll.

Billy Bob Thornton: Yeah, I feel like everything's good right now. I feel real lucky, and I've gotten really good scripts and been working with good people, so I feel pretty fortunate right now.

What's your favorite little league memory?

Billy Bob Thornton: Ah, well I loved Little League, so all the memories are pretty fond. But I broke my thumb. That wasn't a lot of fun. I think probably the first time I pitched (I started out as a first base man) and the first game I pitched in Little League, I struck out 10 batters. I had a curve ball a little early (laughs). You're not really supposed to have one when you're 12, but I did, so I first game I struck out 10 batters. That's possibly my fondest memory.

If you were a star athlete, what would you be?

Billy Bob Thornton: Well, I was a baseball player. And that's what I would have done definitely. When I was growing up, I had no idea I would be an actor. I really wanted to pitch for the St. Louis Cardinals; that was all I wanted to do. I played all the way through high school and through and through the minor league and did pretty well. And actually had a try-out with the Kansas City Royals and had my collarbone broken in their camp. But I was a (sounds like: junk or jug) pitcher, pretty good one, so I guess I would have liked to have been a pitcher for the Cardinals or maybe a curling coach.

What other sports are you following?

Billy Bob Thornton: Well, I'm a big sports fan, period. I follow pro football, college football, college basketball, but mainly I'm a baseball guy, and in terms of curling, when I was making Pushing Tin up in Canada, the only sports they had on there was curling. I watched it all the time, and I still don't know what they're doing. I have no idea. I don't know any of the rules. When I was growing up in Arkansas and Texas, we didn't have hockey or any kind of ice type thing, and my kids are in a hockey league out in Malibu, and when I go to their hockey matches, I have to watch the other parents to see when they cheer cause I don't know the rules to it. I know when our gang puts the puck in the net, that it's a good thing. Other than that, I have no clue. But one of the things I got hooked on this year was NCAA women's softball. I got obsessed with it. My team is the Texas Longhorns and they have this pitcher, named Cat Osterman, and she's like 20 years old or something. She's six two, and I dunno - I'm afraid of them. I don't know if I'd ever want to meet any of them - I'm afraid of women softball players - but I sure like watching them on TV.

What are you like as a dad? Do you throw beer cans at your kids?

Billy Bob Thornton: You know, I'm like the least strict dad in the world. My boys' mom, she's fairly strict with them. She's a good disciplinarian. I just let 'em have whatever they want. It's stupid. Anything they want to do - I mean within reason, you know. And then my little girl's only nine months old, so she's not able to do a whole lot yet, but - no, I'm the dad where . . . when the boys are with me, it's like - oh, we're going over to the Rock House - Rock And Roll House, I should say. Rock House is something else, right? Yeah Rock And Roll House.

What were you like as a kid? Did you get in trouble?

Billy Bob Thornton: I was pretty innocent kid until I was up to - I don't know. Really until I got in high school. I was kind of like Ernie Douglas on My Three Sons. And then I got in high school and I was in a band and I was playing baseball and stuff and I got more popular, and I think with popularity came trouble. And that's never stopped (laughs).

Have your kids seen your movies?

Billy Bob Thornton: They were on the set of Bad Santa but I tried to keep the headphones away from them. My kids have seen Sling Blade, they've seem Armageddon, Bandits and Friday Night Lights. They have not seen Monsters Ball, nor will they ever, even when they're 60 (laughter). I will leave it in my will that they can never see it.

Back in 1976, when the original came out, it was considered pretty subversive. But kids are exposed to a lot more these days. So will it still have that same subversive quality?

Billy Bob Thornton: Well, I think when we were growing up, we weren't exposed to as much as kids are now. Kids pretty much know everything now. I don't think you can show much that is going to shock them - other than maybe somebody being kind. I don't really know if it would have the same impact in that sense. I think what's good about it - and it's really the reason we made the movie - is because the message to the movie is pretty good, and I think kids might need to hear that now. So I think, as it opposed to being a sort of shocking and subversive thing for this time, I think more so it will be a pretty decent message for kids to hear, which is - all this obsession with winning and being the best and everything and being a loser or a misfit, you don't have to be that. If you just go up there and try and find your own group of people - that you can live in society and not have to feel so bad about yourself - I think that's a pretty decent for them.

Why remake "The Bad News Bears?"

Billy Bob Thornton: I've never been that crazy about remakes, but this one, because of that message, and sort of the state of affairs these days, I thought it would be a nice thing to remake, and kids tend not to watch older movies, and and at least we've told them they shouldn't watch black and white movies for some reason - I have no idea because some of them are the best ever - but since we've updated it and that kind of thing, they'll go see this and it might make them watch the other movie, you know. I hope that they do.

What are Richard Linklater's strengths as a director?

Billy Bob Thornton: Well, I think of his strengths, one of the things that makes me the happiest, is that he really thinks more like an independent filmmaker, so even when he's doing a big film, he still has that sensibility. Because this, as I said earlier, could have turned into one of those big splashy goofy studio comedies, and he kept the tone of the original movie, I think. So I think no matter what he's making, he thinks like an independent filmmaker - is the main thing. Plus he's a laid-back guy. On the set, he's not a really intense sort of screaming kind of director guy. He kind of takes things as they come, which thrills me, and I looked his other film about the music kinds, the Jack Black movie, School Of Rock. I liked that one. I also liked Dazed And Confused. He had an animated film that he showed me when we were on the set (Waking Life). It's really good. I was surprised by that film. I didn't know what I was going to see, like a Daffy Duck cartoon or something. I had no idea. It was really great.

What's next for you?

Billy Bob Thornton: I'm supposed to be going off pretty soon, as soon as they make a deal on it, the next movie I'm supposed to do is called Fadeout. It's written by Michael Christofer and directed by him also that would star myself and Milla Jovovich. It's a movie about a schizophrenic screenwriter - so well (laughs) there you go - who's married to an actress.

Is it autobiographical?

Billy Bob Thornton: Not really. I'm sure it's autobiographical about someone, but that's a more sort of independent film which is nice for me because I've done 2 o3 3 bigger movies and comedies - I just finished Mr. Woodcock for New Line with Susan Sarandon and Seann William Scott, a very dark comedy that I thinks going to be a good one, and you guys are going to like it, and then Bad News Bears of course and Bad Santa, and all that - so I've done a lot of comedy lately which I'm not accustomed to and had a great time doing it, but this one is more of a psychological drama. I'm happy to get back to more like my roots. After that, I have a bunch of - I've got five movies that I've been offered that I want to do everyone of them, but I can't, so I'm trying to figure out - which is pretty rare. Normally you're lucky to find one you want to do. But there happen to be a few scripts out there that they've offered me that I just love. Mostly dramas, there's one comedy. And I'm just trying to figure out now how to arrange it where I can do them and they're all with really cool directors and stuff, so I'm pretty happy with that.

Any plans to return to directing?

Billy Bob Thornton: It looks like I'm going to direct again next spring. Which is kind of big news for me because I haven't directed in several years, and wait till you see my contract this time. It's going to be as tall as this ceiling here. That type of thing.

It won't be for Bob and Harvey?

Billy Bob Thornton: No, but not because I wouldn't do that necessarily. It just happened to be for someone else, but it's not something I'm writing. It's based on a book, but more of a - it's a non fiction book, and I'll be able to talk about it fairly soon, as soon as we put the pen to it and all that kind of thing. But I plan on casting some people that I've worked with before, and a pretty interesting cast actually. Three or four of the main people are actually musicians who are also actors and good friends of mine. I'm really excited about it, and it's based on a true story that happened in 1925. I don't know what else to say about it, other than I think it's going to be a dandy.

How about "Ice Harvest?"

Billy Bob Thornton: Oh yeah. Ice harvest is something I've already done that's coming out in November. That's really John Cusack's movie. I'm sort of just a - just got a little part in it. It's a script that my manager had always loved, and Harold Ramis directed it, and I love working with Harold. He's a great guy. It's kind of a departure for Harold . . . sort of a dark crime drama in a comedic or humorous sort of way. A little along the lines of a Coen Brothers movie, but it stars John Cusack, and the rest of us nutballs are just sort of circling his planet. Randy Quaid and Oliver Platt and Connie Nielsen and myself. We're just the people he runs into along the way.


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