Billy Bob Thornton backstage at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards

January 9, 2017

by Carla Hay

The 74th annual Golden Globe Awards took place on January 8, 2017, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California.

BILLY BOB THORNTON

Golden Globe win:

Best Actor in a Television Series – Drama

(“Goliath”)

Here is what this Golden Globe winner said backstage in the Golden Globe Awards press room.

Billy Bob Thornton at the 2017 Golden Globe Awards
Billy Bob Thornton at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on January 8, 2017. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

BACKSTAGE INTERVIEW

Can you elaborate on what you said in your acceptance speech about sticking up for people?

I said that it’s easy to talk about people. It’s hard to stick your neck out. And I guess my point about that is a lot of people in the entertainment business get called “privileged” and yet … I came out here in poverty and spent a decade trying to eat. And that does things to you. At the end of the day, what separates people who come to these awards shows and who do television shows or movies or whatever it is or write a score, there are people who are willing to take a chance.

And maybe it was safer to work, but if you wanted to make something out of yourself, you’re willing to go take the chance. And so when people in this day of the social media, and when people are slamming each other left and right, what they have to remember at the end of the day is those who talk about those who do things, that’s not a very good job.

That’s why when the legitimate press … when you write a review or talk about something on your TV show, it comes from a place of knowledge, as opposed to a place of hatred or jealousy or whatever it is, you know. And I think we’re living in that society right now. I let it bother me for a few years. And now, when I accept an award, I accept it with pride, because I know I tried.

Who are you most excited to see tonight?

I was excited to see my wife being happy. I mean, she’s happy every day, but tonight, she’s just proud to be here with me and everything. But in terms of celebrities, I was very excited to see Warren Beatty because he’s one of the guys I admired growing up.

What drew you to your “Goliath” character?

I always wanted to play a lawyer, because I think lawyers and actors have the same job. A lawyer is trying to convince a jury, and an actor is trying to convince an audience. And I did it in “The Judge” with Robert Downey [Jr.] and [Robert] Duvall, but it was kind of a big cameo. It wasn’t really a full part. I’d always wanted to play a lawyer for a period of time, but mainly I wanted to play a guy who was trying to fight his way back from nowhere—and I’ve had to do that a few times, so I kind of related to the character.

You’ve said the “Goliath” was one of the best crews you ever worked with, and you recognized your PA [production assistant] in your acceptance speech. Can you talk a little bit more about the crew?

It was a very, very good crew on “Goliath.” There were people who enjoyed being there every day. They got who the actors were and related to us in that way. Luke Scott was a kid who was only 23 years old, and he passed away last year.

Luke made me want to come to work. He was the guy who, when I got there, I know that his face was such a joyous face. And he was so happy just to be there and have that job and be around a business that he wanted to be around.

To lose your life at 23 years old when you’re just starting something like that, I thought, “I can thank people all night long. I can thank lawyers and agents and everybody, but at the end of the day, the two entities I have to thank are Luke Scott, this PA that made me happy to be there, and Amazon, who was willing to do the show.”

Amazon is a company that was very kind to us and allowed us to be what we wanted to be, and in fact encouraged us to be more than what was there. But if I thank them publicly, then I need to thank every lawyer, and that takes a lot of time. So if I had to pick one out of two, I pick the kid who’s not with us anymore.

How would you say luck or blessings fit in addition to the chances you’ve taken and how good your work is?

In terms of luck and all that, I’ve kind of left it up to providence in a way because if Fred Roos hadn’t seen me in the theater back in the early ‘80s, I’d be nowhere. But then again, if this unemployed actor who I met named Don Blakeley hadn’t met me three or four years before that, I would never have been in the theater were Fred Roos saw me.

People say, “Was ‘Sling Blade’ the turning point?” or “Was ‘Once False Move’ the turning point?” And sure, you can say that in a way, but the fact of the matter is, if it weren’t for Don Blakely, this actor who would feed me when I was starving and who introduced me to somebody and put me in a play in this little theater group where Fred Roos, a big producer came and saw me, then none of that would have happened. So you have to really go way, way back.

So I think, as opposed to those defining moments that people usually pin on movies, I think you really have to think more about those people that led you to that moment. So my hat goes off to Don Blakeley, just like it went off to Luke Scott, a PA who made me want to come to work. I think the little woman and the little man aren’t recognized enough in the trajectory of someone’s career.

We have not heard about the future of “Goliath” from Amazon. What have you heard, and what are your hopes for the show going forward?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you. They would like to do another season, I know that much. This one was written in a way that it had a beginning, a middle and an end, so that was kind of the intention. But once they see what the potential is—and I honestly believe there’s more potential for the show than what was in the first season. I love the first season, but I think there’s so much more to mine.

I think we need to know where this guy came from and what happened and what it is that made him who he is and what his sense of justice actually is and what his desires are and what he does think about these people. And I think another season could unfold that and could answer a lot of those questions and lead the audience down a path that’s much stranger and much darker. I know that Amazon, to their credit, wants to do it, and I think it just depends on if they come up with the right story.

Is there some talent that you’re not so good that you wish you were better at?

Absolutely. I’m the worst dancer, maybe in history. I grew up as a musician, as a drummer, so I have a natural sense of rhythm. It’s not about that. On the dance floor, I freeze up like you can’t imagine. It’s incredible.

When I was in junior high school there was a band called the Yardleys in my hometown of Malvern, Arkansas, and they were like the Beatles to us. And they had a dance in the old high-school gymnasium.

And this senior in high school named Joan Burnett asked me to dance and her boyfriend Bucky Griggs was a drummer in the Yardleys. And she came over and got me by the hand and led me out to the middle of the dance floor because I was friends with her little brother, who was in school with me.

And I stood there sweating, like my hands are sweating, and I thought I was having a heart attack at 13. And I lost my mind I didn’t know what to do. So when I watch people dance and look at the old movies when actors couldn’t just be actors; they had to ride horses, shoot guns, dance, sing, everything—I admire those people so much, because now we can just sit in a room and a chair and talk, but they just have to do everything. I’m so fortunate, because I just can’t dance.