Billy Bob Thornton has had an illustrious career. His first stint as an actor came in 1986 when he appeared on an episode of “Matlock.” The following year he came out in the made-for-TV movie “The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains.” Since then, Thornton has been in such films as “Tombstone” (1993), “Armageddon” (1998), “Monster’s Ball” (2001) and “Intolerable Cruelty” (2003), to name a few. Thornton has also been nominated three times for Academy Awards for Best Actor with his portrayal of murderer Karl Childers in “Sling Blade” (1996) and for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jacob Mitchell in “A Simple Plan” (1998). He won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing “Sling Blade.”
Now, Thornton takes on the role of Texas legend Davy Crockett in the film “The Alamo,” which opens nationwide on April 9. It’s a role he says, “was like walking into history.”
Recently in San Antonio for the world premiere of “The Alamo,” I got the chance to talk with the accomplished actor about his newest film.
In your final scene your character Davy Crockett says his own name as Mexican soldiers surround him. To me that line meant that you realized your own mortality. What did that scene mean to you?”
That’s exactly what it meant. The day we shot that scene I asked (director John Lee Hancock) first, “May I do this?” The point was that this guy (Crockett) grew up with this legend that he was like this mythic character and sort of a rock star of his own time. And in his final moments he’s like, “What does that really mean? Who cares? I’m gonna end up being killed like everybody else.” So he just looks at the ground and he found that at his last moments it was sort of ironic and humorous because there’s a guy wearing his coonskin hat in the Mexican Army like it’s some type of souvenir. Here I am on my knees with my hands tied behind my back and they are about to axe me to death. “Davy Crocket? I guess I was!” Now, this thing that has been said about me this whole time, how I wrestle grizzly bears. Now, I really got to do it.
Do you think this final scene is going to cause controversy? Some people think Crockett fought to the death. Some people think Crockett begged for his life.
In terms of any controversy…Who do you know…Have you ever met anybody walking around asking, “What do you really think happened to Davy Crockett?” Nobody. All of a sudden there’s a movie about it and everyone’s talking about it. There’s not controversy about it. There was a diary of a Mexican lieutenant that was found that said Crockett was executed. He died with dignity and courage and was well behaved. Those were the exact words the guy said. Do they really know? Do they really know Jim Bowie died shooting his pistols at the last minute? Who knows about that? Nobody was there that’s around now. I think it’s kind of fucked up when people want to create controversy. They always want to create controversy about everything.
Like in “Monster’s Ball,” for example?
Yeah, I mean, “Monster’s Ball” is a terrific movie. I think Mark Forrester is a wonderful director, but if Halle Berry and I hadn’t had a 12-minute sex scene in it, it probably wouldn’t have done what it did because that was a controversial scene here. But here it is. You’ve got a lot of people in American that turn their noses up at explicit sex scenes but what they do is go to the store and rent European movies.
Did you get a chance to talk to Davy Crockett’s great-great-great-grandson? He was here wasn’t he?”
Yeah. I also got to talk to his fourth generation granddaughter. She is graduating from school and wanted to know if I would be her date to the prom. Swear to God. I said yes.