It’s been a couple of years, but the last time actor Billy Bob Thornton was in Toronto, he raised the ire of Canadians after a radio interview with Jian Gomeshi went horribly awry. See, Jian wasn’t supposed to ask the actor, who was here plugging his music, about, well, acting. Gomeshi mentioned the dread ‘a’ word, and Billy proceeded to sulk for 10-plus minutes (don’t believe us, watch the video below).
Well, Billy was back in town Thursday night for the North American premiere of Janye Mansfield’s Car, but this time he was all smiles. The actor signed autographs for fans and happily posed for photos.
Written and directed by Thornton (his first directorial feature in over 10 years), the film is a southern family drama that follows the Caldwell clan (featuring Thornton, Kevin Bacon, Robert Patrick, Katherine LaNasa and led by the acerbic Robert Duvall), who have to come together after they learn that the mother and wife that abandoned them many years before has died.
Her new hubby (played by John Hurt) arrives in town to help bury her and, as you can imagine, Duvall’s long-simmering anger threatens to boil over.
The group does disfunction well, Duvall says. And that’s thanks in part to Thornton’s directing style.
“We just got together and did it,” Duvall told reporters. “(Thornton) said, ‘Rehearsal’s for pussies.’ So, it was just two takes and that was it. He’s very quick. If you talk about it too much, it can become too actor-ish.”
Working with the troupe of actors Thornton assembled was “divine,” LaNassa added.
“You can’t even be bad,” she smiled. “You’re only going to be bad if you try to manipulate the scene. It’s like riding on a river of chocolate working with those guys. They’re fabulous.”
Still, she had a trick for dealing with Thornton’s improvisational style.
“Letting go and beer,” LaNassa said laughing.
By the time Thornton had snaked his way down the red carpet, he was in a delightful mood and had high praise for his co-stars.
“The chemistry was so terrific. There’s a scene towards the end of the movie that features myself, Kevin Bacon and Robert Patrick and when we were editing it, I was thinking how much we seemed like brothers and I was real proud of that.”
Thornton was also asked what it was like to be back in the city, premiering the film at TIFF.
“It’s a great town for a festival… You don’t feel like you’ve gone someplace else where you don’t know how to act,” he said laughing.
Janye Mansfield’s Car screens again Sept. 14, 11:30 a.m., Ryerson Theatre; Sept. 15, 12:00 p.m., Scotiabank 1