April 10, 2009

The Billy Bob Conundrum.

If you haven't heard the bizarre and offensive interview Billy Bob Thornton gave to Jian Ghomeshi of CBC Radio a few days ago, this post won't make sense and you will also have missed out on one of the weirder celebrity rants since Christian Bale's on-set meltdown. Check it out here.

Highlights from the interview include (but are not limited to)...

DJ: Billy Bob, You guys formed only in the last couple of years right?
BBT: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know what you mean by that.

DJ: Given that you seem to be quite passionate about music. I was wondering about your…
BBT: Would you say that to Tom Petty?

DJ: Would I say that he’s passionate about music, yeah.
BBT: Would you explain why it’s not a hobby?

DJ: Would I explain why it’s not a hobby? Are you reacting to the fact-
BBT: Yeah, I am. I am. Since you’re instructed not to talk about sh*t like that. Yeah I am reacting like that.

DJ: I’m not really instructed. You guys are here as a band, you’re performing.
BBT: The producer is instructed.

DJ: Because I mentioned that you’re an actor?
BBT: First of all, that wasn’t supposed to be mentioned either.

DJ: That’s just giving context, right? I’m happy to interview you guys as a band. For the listeners we’re giving context for who you are. That’s part of your trajectory, isn’t it?
BBT: Not really. No

DJ: You would prefer me to only do this interview not mentioning at all… that you’ve ever done anything in terms of acting, screenwriting?
BBT: That’s correct.

DJ: I know you’ve made a lot… how long have the Boxmasters been here for?
BBT: I don’t know.

DJ: A couple of years maybe. Even the greatest bands in the world… part of the attention that you’re getting is because of the great career you’ve had in other ways… I’m not trying to be insulting to your musical…
BBT: What I’m explaining is that we said do not talk about sh*t like that and we also said that we didn’t want to hear anything about how this is my first love. You wouldn’t say that to Tom Petty, would you? ‘I understand music is your first love.’ Well my first love was a chick named Lisa Cohen.

A lot of things strike me sort of simultaneously about the whole event. Let me sort them out for you.

First, Jian Ghomeshi, adhering to the common (and frequently true) belief that Canadians are unfailingly polite on many occasions, doesn't bow to Billy Bob Thornton's special brand of crazy ire but does consistently treat him with courtesy and professionalism while remaining firm in his stance. The CBC, which is a highly professional and well-regarded broadcaster in its own right, has a gem of an interviewer in him and now everybody around the world knows it.

Second, Billy Bob Thornton comes across as a possibly high, rude, arrogant, self-absorbed douche.

Third, "Boxmasters"? *snicker*

But what really makes the interview such a gem is the fact that Billy Bob Thornton, perhaps best known for winning the Best Screenplay Writing Oscar and being nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for 1996's Sling Blade, has host of Hollywood hits to his name (Bad Santa, Love Actually, Monster's Ball, Pushing Tin, Armageddon, etc) including two as-yet-unreleased films but does not want any of that mentioned in relation to his band. It's a move that's arrogant to the point of distraction, yes, but more importantly it's symptomatic of delusions of grandeur to the point of self-defeat. Billy Bob is saying that his music is so important to him that he doesn't want it sullied with talk about anything that came before because the music is a pure force unto itself. Except that all of the moderate success the Boxmasters have enjoyed in their brief two-year career together has been because of Billy Bob's fame and name in Hollywood. No unknown start-up band of the "cosmic hillbilly" variety is going to be putting out their third album in a year and opening for country legend Willie Nelson unless there is something else that assists in audience recognition and demand. And that thing is Billy Bob's acting/writing career. The same thing he refuses to discuss. If he gets his wish of removing all context of his Hollywood career from Boxmasters promotion, he'll see the band slip into the sort of obscurity it would take an Oscar-winning career to pull it back out of. It's ironic to the point of painful to listen to him with half a brain, actually.

I watched Wolf last night (don't ask) and there's a line that Jack Nicholson lays on Michelle Pfeiffer that perfectly captures the Billy Bob conundrum:
"You know, I think I understand what you're like now. You're very beautiful and you think men are only interested in you because you're beautiful, but you want them to be interested in you because you're you. The problem is, aside from all that beauty, you're not very interesting. You're rude, you're hostile, you're sullen, you're withdrawn. I know you want someone to look past all that at the real person underneath but the only reason anyone would bother to look past all that is because you're beautiful. Ironic, isn't it? In an odd way you're your own problem."

"Would you say that to Tom Petty?"
Well no, Billy Bob, of course he wouldn't bring up Tom Petty's Oscar-winning film career because, unlike you, Tom Petty doesn't have one. He truly is all about the music and has been since 1976. If your success and fame are such a tremendous burden to you, they can easily be taken away. Hollywood is a fickle mistress and you'd do well to remember that without her support you're just the aging cantankerous front man in a wannabe hillbilly band on the fast track to nowhere.

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