Magazine article Newsweek

Sling Blade

Magazine article Newsweek

Sling Blade

Article excerpt

The deep Southern voice of 'Sling Blade'

BILLY BOB THORNTON WILL GO ON any number of tangents to avoid talking about his new movie, Sill Blade. He will tell you about his friend Mickey, who is, he says, "the cheapest person in history. One time in Galveston, Texas, we went to Whattaborger. I said, 'Oh my God, I've forgotten my money, Mickey.' And I could see him tense up. Over a $1.50 cheeseburger." He win tell you about how his film distributor, Miramax, hired a limousine to drive him from L.A. to New York, because he won't fly and Aretrak was booked. "We'd stop in these little towns in Illinois and Oklahoma to get gas," Billy Bob says. "And it'd cause a huge stir. We pulled into places that had never seen a limousine." He glances around the posh New York restaurant where he is supposed to be eating lunch and talking about his movie. He looks more or less like you'd expect a Billy Bob to look: stubbly beard, gray army sweatshirt, lint-attracting blue blazer, jeans, loud cowboy boots. The waiter brings a plate of gravlax with a huge, jagged shard of toast on top, and he eyes it suspiciously. "What happened is," Billy Bob says, "a part of the roof fell in."

"Sling Blade," which Thornton wrote, directed and stars in, is so important and personal to him that he's almost afraid to talk about it. It's the story of Karl (Thornton), a mildly retarded man who killed his mother and her boyfriend when he was a child and comes out of a mental hospital 25 years later. He returns to his Arkansas hometown and meets Frank (Lucas Black), a bighearted kid who becomes his best friend; Vaughan (John Bitter), a beleaguered homosexual, and Doyle (country singer Dwight Yoakam), an abusive alcoholic. Yoakam and Bitter give image-breaking performances, and Thornton is stellar. Karl walks funny, talks in an eerie grunt and wears his pants too high around his waist, but Thornton gives him the unexpected poignancy of a true hero. …

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