Q&A: Eagle Eye star Billy Bob Thornton

The famously eccentric star holds forth on Heath Ledger, his haunted house, and his ex "Angie."
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The famously eccentric star holds forth on Heath Ledger, his haunted house, and his ex "Angie."
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You’ve made your share of hits and flops. Which of your films are you proudest of?
My favorite performances are Sling Blade, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and A Simple Plan. Toss Bad Santa and Monster’s Ball in there, too. I’m not an indie snob who only likes films about a guy who lives in a closet. I’d say the characters I could barely get out of, because I kind of am them, were the ones in A Simple Plan and The Man Who Wasn’t There. Shaking those guys was tough.

Word has it your Beverly Hills mansion is haunted by a female ghost. True?
I’m pretty sure of it. We’ve heard lots of things in the house that just didn’t make any sense. And on my last solo record, there were a couple of noises that didn’t seem to come from anyplace we could identify. There’s been a couple of times I’ve been writing a song, and I’ll get stuck on a line, and all of a sudden I’ll come up with something out of nowhere. Maybe the ghost is helping me out.

The house was built in the 1920s. We heard that you didn’t like old things, that you were afraid of antique furniture.
I’ve never gone for creepy old places, but it doesn’t matter with Spanish-style houses—they all look the same anyway. But, say, an old Tudor? No, I’m not big on those at all.

Guitarist and legendary party guy Slash owned the house before you. He must have left a few skeletons behind.
He’s really happy I bought it. Slash was over last week, and it makes him feel good that the place is up and running.

Did a wicked jam session ensue?
Not really. We don’t jam together. Truth told, we play pretty different kinds of music.

On your new album with our band, the Boxmasters, there’s a song called “No WhiskEy in Heaven.” Would it be a buzz-kill if there were no liquor in the afterlife?
I hope there’s no whiskey in heaven. The rec­ord is about the lower middle class, their problems with relationships, alcoholism, drugs. The songs are about the kind of people that are stuck in the underbelly of life.

It’s been a tragic year in Hollywood, with Heath Ledger dying so young. You worked with HIM on Monster’s Ball…
Heath was a friend of mine, so that was pretty tragic. Just the other day, I was looking through my bag, and I found a scrap of paper on which he’d written his new cell number—I had run into him in New York one night late last year at the Four Seasons. I was just looking into my man-purse, and I opened it up and fell upon that number. It broke my heart. He worked so hard on Monster’s Ball.

So what attracted you to Eagle Eye?
This is the kind of movie my manager likes me to do. He said: “Every now and then, you have to have your face on a bus stop.” This one has a terrific script. You have to choose them care­fully, because most of them are crap.

You’re costarring with Shia LaBeouf. How’s he to work with?
That kid is a really good actor. There wasn’t much for me to teach him. He’s just a natural.

How has being in your 50s changed you?
These days, when I have to pee, I have to go right now! There’s no waiting around. I have
arthritis in my neck. I’ve also had a bunch of injuries. This whole right side of my body was
broken to pieces in a horse-riding accident: broken collarbone, six broken ribs, cracked pelvis, a concussion.

Is it true your mother is a clairvoyant?
My mom is a renowned psychic in the South. She’s semi-retired. But she’s done work for the police—missing persons and stuff like that.

Do you predict you’ll marry again?
Probably not. I told Connie [Angland, his live-in girlfriend] I didn’t want to put her through that. We do fine. We’ve been together for four years now. We have a child together. If we get married, then the press will start calling her “Number Six.”

Most people don’t see their ex’s face staring out from billboards everywhere. Is that ever bizarre?
No. Especially not when you’re still friends.

Do you have any plans to do another movie with Angelina?
We’ve talked about it plenty of times. I’m sure we will. We want to be really careful that we
pick the right one. Maybe a comedy. In other words, we wouldn’t want to do a movie about a husband-wife relationship. That probably wouldn’t be very good.

Back when you were together, she was a wild child. Now there’s the U.N. ambassadorship, the charity work…
Oh, it’s incredible. Angie to me is like the Audrey Hepburn of this generation. All the movies she does, all the kids she has. And now twins? She’s just incredible.

You’re finishing up a new movie called Manure, about the fertilizer business. You realize you’ve given the film critics a born one-liner, right?
Oh, absolutely. We’re handing them shit on a silver platter.