Billy Bob Looks To Joaquin Phoenix For Inspiration

Lucas Jensen | April 9, 2009 9:45 am
There’s this Los Angeles band called the Boxmasters. Heard of ’em? They play country-pop (or “Modbilly” as they like to call it) in the vein of the Byrds, Muswell Hillbillies, and Mike Nesmith. Ring any bells? They put out three albums in the past year! Still never heard of them? Oh, well, their singer and sometime drummer is actor/screenwriter/director Billy Bob Thornton. Now let’s say you’re a journalist. What are you gonna ask about: the music of yet another country-pop band or the fact that your singer is a pretty famous dude in another industry? Yesterday, CBC host Jian Ghomeshi made the unpardonable mistake of placing the Boxmasters’ music in the context of their singer’s more well-known endeavors. He paid the price with an interview that careened from awkward to esoteric to combative.

Sample question and response:

Ghomeshi: And that was true for you, Billy Bob, growing up it was sort of a combo of Stones and Monkees and Buck Owens?

Thornton: I just liked baseball when I was a kid.

Ghomeshi: And you almost became a professional baseball player, right?

Thornton: I don’t know. Maybe.

Ghomeshi: But you didn’t love music when you were a kid?

Thornton: I subscribed to a magazine called Famous Monsters in Filmland, which the publisher was a guy named Forrest J. Ackerman, who passed away recently.

Things got way worse after that, with Thornton getting onto the host about suggesting that “music was his first love,” even going so far as to boast that he is “pretty much a music historian.” Thornton kept bringing up Tom Petty, saying that Ghomeshi wouldn’t ask Tom Petty these questions. He’s right. Ghomeshi wouldn’t ask Petty these questions because Petty has a three-decade career of writing hit songs with only brief dalliances into acting. Sorry, Billy Bob, but if you’d wanted to be thought of only as a musician then you should have started with that. Sorry that Academy Award has forever tainted your ability to devote yourself to being a middling retro-rock musician!

I like Billy Bob Thornton. I love Bad Santa and A Simple Plan. Sling Blade, though flawed, is one of the few movies I’ve seen that depicts the real American South as something more than cornpone accents, mossy plantations, and people fanning themselves in courtrooms. (We have air conditioning here and have had it for some time!) However, it’s unreasonable for him to go through interviews expecting nobody to ask him about his more successful—monetarily and aesthetically—career? Thornton suggests to Ghomeshi that these questions were declared off-limits before the interview, but Ghomeshi says he never heard such a thing. Later, Thornton’s own spokesperson confirmed that they didn’t tell anybody what questions to ask. In my view, Ghomeshi wins this round and Thornton comes off looking like a turbodouche. The other Boxmasters seem like nice fellas, but this probably wasn’t the type of publicity they were seeking when they signed on to that famous guy’s band.

Q TV’s tags of this interview’s YouTube are hilarious:

“billy bob thornton blow up cbc tv qtv jian ghomeshi radio vs ass of himself crazy joaquin phoenix boxmasters perez hilton willie nelson actor music oscars”

Note the de rigeur usage of “joaquin phoenix” as shorthand for “crazy celebrity interview.” Oh, Leaf, you’ve come so far!

Billy Bob Thornton tussles with radio host [EW]