Now you and Bruce Willis have worked together before, just like you and Cate Blanchett. What made you and Willis want to work together again, or was it just a coincidence that you two were starring in Bandits together? ^ Bruce and I, fortunately, had done Armageddon together, but in a movie like Armageddon it’s not really about the acting. Acting is not the first priority. That movie is about the event, it’s not really about the characters or about the interaction between the people so much. So Bruce and I talked about doing a comedy together, but there wasn’t one out there at the time. And then he called me up and said, ‘hey listen, there’s this movie and I really want you to do it with me.’ So Bruce is actually the guy who got me to do the movie. So the order was Bruce was attached and then me, then Barry and then Cate.
Did you and Bruce have any say as to who directed the film since you both were attached before the director? ^ Bruce and I were asked which directors out of this group of people do we like and we picked Barry. He’s just great. I mean, the variety of movies he has done… he’s done everything from “Diner” to The Natural.
Being a director yourself, how did you feel about the actors having a say on who directs the picture? ^ It wasn’t like we had final say or the choice so much. It’s just that these were the people that were interested in doing it and that the studio was interested in directing it, and did we have any thoughts on it. They wanted Barry to do it and we did too, so in other words it wasn’t like we said, ‘no, no way, he killed my father’ or anything like that. He’s just a terrific director and a great guy. I had never worked with him before but I was a big fan of his. He understands humor so well– he was just the perfect guy for this.
I heard that there were some mishaps during the shooting of Bandits… some improvised scenes, let’s say? ^ Well, there weren’t mishaps. (Laughing) In the movie there is a scene where we are fighting and Bruce yells, ‘You bit me!’ and I actually bit him. He shoved me and pushed me and we were fighting for real, but fighting like kids do–just like little kids would fight.
What made you decide to actually bite Bruce? ^ I don’t know, it just came up. There was his shoulder and there was my mouth so I did it.
One of the opening sequences in the film is a pretty intense action scene which involves you and Bruce escaping from prison. Did Bruce do his own stunt driving during the scene, or was there a professional stunt driver on-set for that scene? ^ When you see the exterior shots of the vehicle being driven, that’s a stunt guy driving that. But when we are inside the truck, it’s on another vehicle. It’s this really low, flat, weird-looking thing– almost like a military vehicle– and there’s a guy inside driving it and just the body of the truck over it. It’s much like a float in a parade– all you see is the float, but there is really something under there. So that’s how they do that.
Both you and Bruce share a love for music. Did you two ever do any jamming on the set while filming Bandits? ^ He did. He had his band come up and they actually played for the crew one weekend. That weekend I wasn’t feeling good, I felt kind of a fever coming on–you know that thing where you know you are going to get the flu or something– so I stayed in that weekend to make sure I was going to be there on Monday. But I heard that they jammed for a while and it was really cool. On A Simple Plan though, I had my guys come around and we jammed every weekend on “Sling Blade.” On A Simple Plan, I’m good friends with the guys from ZZ Top and their bass player and the guitar player from my old band came up to Minnesota and we did a whole set of ZZ Top songs for the crew one weekend. So I have done that on occasion.
Speaking of your band, you recently released your debut CD, “Private Radio.” Do you plan on doing any touring for it? ^ We are actually going to tour in the spring– March, April and May of next year. My wife is going to come with me. We were going to do it this fall, but it’s just not a really good time so we’re doing it this spring instead.
How involved in Angelina in your musical profession and what made you decide that now, when you are practically at the height of your success in the movie industry, was the right time to release your CD? ^ The studio is in the house, so she comes down quite a bit when we are recording. She’s been really supportive and great about it. Music is my first love and I have been playing in bands my whole life. The reason I made a record right now though is because Mercury Records heard my demos and wanted to sign me based on the music and not my name, which is what I have been waiting for. I didn’t want any label just to sign me based on my name– to put out some actor’s project.
So Mercury didn’t know who you were when they signed you? ^ They knew it was me, but Mercury has a label called Lost Highway which is a very serious label for singers/songwriters. It has Lucinda Williams and people like that. In other words that told me they were serious about it. Otherwise they would have put me on a more commercial label.
You have accomplished so much in your career. You’ve won an Academy Award, you’ve proven yourself as an actor, a writer and a director and now you even have a CD in stores. At this stage of your life, what really satisfies you? ^ Playing good characters in good movies, no matter how well they do. I want the movies to do well, obviously, but if they don’t and I know it’s a good movie and a good experience, that’s really what does it. I also love it when my wife likes the stuff I do and my mother. My kids can’t really see most of the things I do– they are only 7 and 8– but I think Bandits they may be able to see.
Have they seen Monster’s Ball? ^ No, and neither can you! (Laughs) Monster’s Ball is pretty heavy.
Monster’s Ball is going to be released during Christmas, which is also dubbed as the Oscar season. Do you think this is the kind of serious film, along the lines of “Sling Blade,” that will really be in there competing for the Oscar? ^ Yes, I could conceive of that. I got to tell you. Monster’s Ball… you don’t see many movies like this one. It’s a very, very heavy movie and I saw it the other day and it’s a very good movie. It’s one of those that when it was over I was like, ‘wow, I was in that, huh?’ That and the Coen brothers movie and Bandits are three things I am really proud of. They are all really different and what I have coming out between now and March… I feel so blessed I can’t tell you. To have done the three movies I have done now and the one coming out in March, which is Waking Up in Reno… I’m just really proud of all these movies.
Is Monster’s Ball anti-capital punishment? ^ I don’t know. Monster’s Ball doesn’t really particularly draw conclusions about anything. It doesn’t really point you in any direction. That’s why, in many ways, it’s darker. It’s a pretty dark, dark movie. It’s a very realistic movie.
It seems that these days almost every film has two or three different versions on DVD — Special Edition, Ultimate Edition and Collector’s Edition. You have four films coming out in the next six months that all star you in them, but what about your days as a director? Do you plan on putting out a director’s cut of All the Pretty Horses in the limited amount of free time you have? ^ I had plans to, but the studio called and told me that they decided it’s too expensive to put out a director’s cut. Maybe they just don’t want anybody to see my cut– who knows? (Laughs)
Now with all the films you have about to be released you are bound to get a lot of press for them. But whether you have a film out or not you never seem to be a stranger amongst the press. How do you and your wife feel about the media’s constant interest in your love life? ^ We laugh at it. I think the most different thing about us is that we tell the truth– we really are crazy about each other. That’s probably why people think we are different. But frankly most of it is just silly so we don’t pay much attention to it. People do like us together though, so it’s not like we get upset about it. I mean you guys (reporters) are always pretty kind. It’s just, ‘hey, here is the weird thing they did this week,’ but it’s always good stuff about us being together and being in love with each other, so who cares. The fact of the matter is though that we are probably more boring than people would like to think. People would be disappointed if they know how not weird we were. We don’t have a dungeon– there is just a recording studio in the basement, which I am very fond of–, I eat many more food types than orange, we don’t drink blood… most of the stuff is just crap.
Get the rest of the interview in part four of BILLY BOB THORNTON UNDREssED>>>