By: Siphilile Shelembe | Thu 18 Jun 2015, 15:00
Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton shares the lessons that life has taught him on Oprah's Masterclass.
Academy Award winner Billy Bob Thornton spoke on Oprah's Masterclass about some of the experiences that have moulded him into the man that he is today.
One of the first things he spoke about was what it was like growing up with his psychic mother, Virginia Roberta, and his father, William Raymond "Billy Ray" Thornton, who he described as a hard-headed Irish man. Billy Ray, who used to beat young Billy Bob and take him to accident scenes, had a major impact on his son's life.
Billy Bob added that although his dad was morbid and couldn’t articulate himself properly, he did, however, help him develop his curiosity, which came in handy when young Thornton started making movies. Billy Ray died when the Fargo actor was 18 and although he admits that he has never quite understood his dad, Billy Bob says he loved him very much.
Billy Bob decided to get into the drama class as a way to get good grades. His teacher at the time, Maudie Treadway, caught him writing short stories and made him write and stage one of them. She was the first person who believed in him and encouraged him to consider fine tuning his writing skills and venturing into the arts.
Set on seeking fame and fortune, Billy Bob and his lifelong best friend, Tom Epperson, went to New York in 1977. The duo had no idea where they were going and ended up getting lost. They walked the streets of Harlem and eventually found their car with a little help from a cab driver. They then decided to go back home.
All was not lost as they loaded up the car again and headed off to California because there was an opportunity to star in a MGM film. They lived in a motel room and survived on the $90 a week that Billy Bob earned from working at a pizza parlour. The two desperate friends were at their lowest but they believed in their dream and kept going, especially because there was nothing to go back to at home.
Still forging his way to the big time, Billy Bob managed to score a waitering job at a Hollywood do on New Years eve in the 1980s. There were a lot of people and Billy Bob says he felt like a scumbag. He saw a man sitting by the fire and struck up a conversation. They started talking about screen writing and the man advised him to set himself apart and create his own characters and when Billy Bob went back to the bar, he found out that the man was Billy Wilder.
Billy Bob wrote the screenplay for Sling Blade while listening to Holiday in Berlin and used his life influences, like working in a nursing home, to come up with the characters and plot. Although he thought it wasn’t that good, Miramax bought the screenplay from him for “more money than he ever dreamed of”.
The success of Sling Blade made Billy Bob an overnight sensation and he moved on to do movies and series like Bad Santa, Armageddon, Monster's Ball and Fargo, among others. He says he used his strengths and that knowing who he is and having a sense of self has helped him.
Catch Oprah’s Masterclass Sundays at 20:55 on TLC Entertainment.