PASADENA, CALIF.—Billy Bob Thornton says he loves Canada.
He’s just misunderstood by some Canadians.
“I’ve always loved Canada and talked about Canada as a great place,” says the musician, Academy Award-winning actor and ex-husband of Angelina Jolie. “I love Canada, I have nothing against Canada.”
Thornton is back in Canada working in Calgary filming the much anticipated FX TV series Fargo, based on the critically acclaimed movie by the Coen Brothers.
But he is perhaps best remembered north of the border as the guy who got into a dust-up with CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi in 2009 when touring the city with his band.
“I don’t have anything against the guy, I don’t know him. I wish I had the opportunity to talk to him before the show started and this whole thing wouldn’t have happened,” said Thornton, after being asked by Torstar News Service whether he still has ill feelings for Ghomeshi or Canadians.
“Instead of taking my side people were saying what a crazy guy I was. It was really hurtful.”
During the live taping, Thornton refused to answer questions and became combative in the interview, which went viral. Thornton was later booed by a Toronto audience for saying Canadians were “like mashed potatoes with no gravy” and his band, the Boxmasters, then cancelled their tour.
“I’ve always been friendly to the press. I never had problems so this was bizarre to me. And it became news,” said Thornton.
Thornton said the blow-up occurred when he asked producers to talk to Ghomeshi before the show. He said he wanted to explain to the “deejay” that he would appreciate it if questions were first about the band and then his acting career afterward. However, he wasn’t able to make contact with Ghomeshi and the questions ended up being about acting, he claimed.
“It was out of respect to my band mates, so they don’t just make it about me,” said Thornton. “So as opposed to yelling or walking out of the room I decided not to answer his questions. It became that I was crazy, but you know what? I really never spoke above a whisper.”
Ghomeshi mentioned in his introduction that Thornton was an “Oscar-winning actor, screenwriter and director” as well as a musician.
“While Billy Bob’s Thornton name is most often linked to his cinematic endeavours, the Boxmasters is anything but a diversion from the silver screen. He’s always intended to make music and he just got sidetracked. These days, music is a major priority in his life and it’s something he’s obviously embracing,” Ghomeshi said.
Ghomeshi then launched into questions about the band’s albums and when they formed, to which Thornton replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Acting wasn’t mentioned again until the 7-minute, 29-second mark of the 13-minute interview, when Ghomeshi asked whether he had offended Thornton by mentioning he was an actor. “You would prefer me to only do this interview not mentioning at all, just to clarify, at all that you’ve ever done anything in terms of acting, screenwriting,” Ghomeshi said.
“That’s correct,” said Thornton.
Ghomeshi said he was just trying to give listeners context, to which Thornton replied, “Well, there’s plenty of context without all that.”
He added, “We said to not talk about s— like that and we also said that we didn’t want to hear anything about how this is my first love. You wouldn’t say that to Tom Petty, would you?”
The interview eventually continued with questions about music.
Thornton said his current favourite Canadian city is Calgary, which is supposed to take the place of the real town of Fargo as the province of Alberta stands in for North Dakota and Minnesota.
“Calgary reminds me the most of the U.S. It is very similar to a Texas town and I find it very easy to work there. The people are great and they couldn’t be more helpful.”
The extreme cold this winter shut the set down for a number of days in December. But that apparently hasn’t dampened Thornton’s appreciation for the city.
“I did a movie called the Simple Plan in Wisconsin that made Calgary look like Hawaii,” said Thornton.
Thornton was in Los Angeles at the Television Critics Association press tour promoting Fargo but will return to Calgary to resume shooting. He plays ruthless, manipulative Lorne Malvo, who meets a small-town insurance salesman and leads him down a dangerous path. The show premieres April 15 on FX in the U.S. and FXX in Canada.
Thornton said “there’s no real way I can describe my character.” The series “reveals things so slowly, so darkly humorous and in such a sinister way that there’s very little you could say. I put it to you this way: I’m the mysterious stranger from out of town.”