Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Billy Bob Thornton

If you want an idea of the range of what this guy is capable of as an actor, watch these films (he co-wrote “One False Move” and wrote and directed “Sling Blade,” but for the purpose of this post I am only thinking about his acting):

  • One False Move (1992)
  • Sling Blade (1996)
  • A Simple Plan (1998)
  • Monster’s Ball (2001)

Watching these films back to back you could be forgiven if you didn’t recognize this was the same actor. The only thing that they have in common is that they’re all played by Billy Bob Thornton. He has this way of portraying very nuanced, flawed men, but then somehow imbuing them with vulnerability, often searching for change and redemption. Many great actors might nail the broad strokes of the characters, but Billy Bob somehow makes them real by showing their flaws and pain. I don’t think he’s capable of playing a role without delivering a fully formed complex human.

With great actors everything they do is integral to the role. For example, look at how nuanced his clothes are, but more than that, it’s also about the way he wears them. The emotional weight he gives each of these parts is astonishing – it’s like he’s not acting a character, he is the character. It’s quite a magic trick.

If you’re an actor this is a pretty high bar.

Good luck with that.

One False Move
Sling Blade
A Simple Plan
Monsters Ball