One of Hollywood's few celebrators of the "Southern bad boy" image, country musician turned actor-screenwriter-director Billy Bob Thornton consistently engenders a reputation -- via chosen onscreen parts and fervent tabloid reports of his allegedly wild off-camera life -- as an iconoclastic American hellraiser with lightning in his veins. But appearances can deceive, for Thornton also reveals depth and complexity as one Hollywood's most articulate interviewees, graced with intelligent, sensitive observations, cultural allusions, and poignant reflections on his experiences as a thespian and film artist. Moreover, this acute insight evidences itself equally in Thornton's craftsmanship as a screenwriter and director. Though his behind-the-camera projects have become increasingly rare over time, his few directorial outings evince surprising control, refinement, insight, and taste.
Born in Hot Springs, AR, on August 4, 1955, Thornton grew up dirt poor in the nearby backwoods community of Alpine. Despite his father's gainful employment as a history teacher, Thornton was forced to live with his parents and grandparents in a house without electricity or indoor plumbing. After high-school graduation, Thornton landed a steady job and got married; neither the job nor the marriage lasted, as Thornton divorced two years later and returned to college to study psychology; however, that didn't last, either -- he decided that his heart lay in rock & roll, and tried and failed to make it in New York. So Thornton returned to his job for awhile until he and Epperson renewed their dedication to a music career. Eventually, he would travel to California to write screenplays. It was a difficult time for Thornton who, in addition to living in poverty, also suffered a near-fatal heart attack.