IAR INTERVIEW: Billy Bob Thornton Talks 'Fargo' TV Series and Why Warren Zevon Deserves to be Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Monday, 14 April 2014 14:14 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Billy Bob Thornton Talks 'Fargo' TV Series and Why Warren Zevon Deserves to be Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Academy Award-winner Billy Bob Thornton is best known for his work as a screenwriter, director, and actor in both critically acclaimed and financially successful feature films. But now the actor will tackle the small screen with his new FX series Fargo, which premieres April 15th and is based on the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers movie. 

Thornton first gained attention as a screenwriter and supporting actor for One False Move, which earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Screenplay. He would go on to write and star in the short film Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade, which was directed by the late George Hickenlooper (Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse). He reprised his role as Karl Childers in the feature length adaption of the short film, simply entitled Sling Blade, which he also wrote and directed. The film earned him an Academy Award-nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, as well as winning an Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay). He would later direct All the Pretty Horses, Daddy and Them, and Jayne Mansfield’s Car, as well as co-write Sam Raimi’s The Gift

However, Thornton is also a celebrated actor having appeared in such beloved films as Tombstone, Dead Man, The Apostle, U Turn, A Simple Plan (which earned him an Academy Award-nomination for Best Supporting Actor), Armageddon, Primary Colors, Monster’s Ball, Bandits, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Bad Santa, Love Actually, Friday Night Lights, Bad News Bears, The Astronaut Farmer, Eagle Eye, Faster, Puss in Boots, and Parkland. He will be seen next on the big screen in the feature film version of the hit HBO series Entourage, and is rumored to reprise his role in a possible Bad Santa 2. 

In Fargo, Thornton plays a drifter named Lorne Malvo who arrives in a small Minnesota town and influences the population with his malice and violence, which including an insurance salesman named Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman). In addition to Thornton and Freeman, the exceptional cast also includes Allison Tolman (TV’s Prison Break), Colin Hanks (High School), Bob Odenkirk (Nebraska), Kate Walsh (TV’s Full Circle), Adam Goldberg (Saving Private Ryan), Jordan Peele (Wanderlust), Keegan-Michael Kay (Hell Baby), Joey King (Oz the Great and Powerful), and Oliver Platt (X-Men: First Class). Academy Award-winning writers and directors Joel and Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis) return as executive producers, along with Noah Hawley (Bones), and also penned three of the show’s episodes. 

I recently had the absolute pleasure of briefly speaking to Billy Bob Thornton while on a conference call promoting Fargo. The Oscar-winning actor and I discussed how his previous work on a Coen Brothers film prepared him for his role on Fargo, and why his good friend - the late great musician Warren Zevon ("Werewolves of London," "Lawyers, Guns And Money"), should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Here is what Billy Bob Thornton had to say about Fargo and why Warren Zevon deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

IAR: To begin with, since you worked previously with the Coen Brothers on The Man Who Wasn’t There, I imagine that really gave you an understanding of their unique comedic sensibilities as writers and directors. Did you feel that you had an advantage coming into Fargo having worked with them in the past, and did that experience help you better understand the tone of the material in order to shape your performance?

Billy Bob Thornton: Oh, yes, there’s no question about it. Having known the Coen Brothers for so long and having worked with them, I mean I can plug into that pretty easily. I just love their stuff and love their vibe, so I think having worked with them and having known them definitely helped me. I didn’t need a lot of explanation about what we were up to. It was pretty clear and then you just go try to pull it off.  But the set was very similar in some ways, other than the rush and the different directors. With the Coen Brothers, obviously you’re dealing with just the two of them, but it was very helpful having worked with them before.

Finally, I’m a huge fan of the late great Warren Zevon and his music, and I know he was a really close friend of yours. Since the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony was just last week, what do you think as fans and friends of Warren’s that we need to do to get him on that ballot next year and finally get him into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  I think he certainly deserves to be inducted, don’t you?

Thornton: Boy, he certainly does deserve it! I’m not sure how political it is because I’ve never been near the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame much. I’ve had some friends inducted and maybe there’s some politics involved, I really don’t know. But I’ll certainly do my part. At least I’ll yap about it and call whomever I can. But I would say the main thing that they need to look at is that the real true artists of this world are ones who are unique and had a voice that hadn’t been heard before. By voice I mean the whole body of work. If there’s only one of somebody, then they need to be in the Hall of Fame. And there was only one Warren Zevon!

To sign a petition to induct Warren Zevon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, please click here

Fargo premiers April 14th on FX. 

To watch Warren Zevon play "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner" on his final The Late Show with David Letterman appearance, please click on the video player below. 

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