Billy Bob Thornton takes 'Goliath' outsider role to heart

MIKE CIDONI LENNOX
Associated Press
1 / 3
In this Oct. 3, 2016 photo, actor Billy Bob Thornton poses for a portrait while promoting his upcoming Amazon series "Goliath" at The London hotel in Los Angeles. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP)

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Billy Bob Thornton was honored with an Oscar nearly 20 years ago, but he still feels like a Hollywood outsider.

That's one of the reasons the actor says he took on the role of down-and-out lawyer Billy McBride in the latest drama from executive producer David E. Kelley ("Boston Legal," ''The Practice"), "Goliath," debuting Friday on Amazon.

"I feel like there's a parallel (to Billy) in my own life, in some ways," Thornton said in a recent interview.

"I've never really been much of a part of Hollywood. I'm either at home or I'm working, that's about it, and so I kind of kind of responded to a guy like this because I've always felt like I was a little guy against the system, to a degree."

"Goliath" casts Thornton and William Hurt as former law-firm partners on the opposite sides of a major trial.

"This was the type of character that I was looking to play. ... someone who was kind of down-and-out, looking to reclaim his life, seeking redemption and trying to get his dignity back," said the actor, who won an Oscar in 1997 for the "Sling Blade" screenplay.

Thornton, who appeared in the big-screen legal drama "The Judge," said he learned a lot about the law on the "Goliath" set.

"I learned ... that there are ways that you can insult a judge, you can do all kinds of things and not necessarily be carted off in a straitjacket," said the actor.

Later this year, Thornton will return to movie theaters with "Bad Santa 2," a sequel to the 2003 comedy that was something of a four-letter-word, live-action, gin-soaked "Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

"I think this one is a little more emotional than the first one was," Thornton said.

"It's got more of the story arc, but we still have the nasty-funny stuff and some of that went even further. But we didn't go out and make a goofy sequel where we just pulled out everything, including the kitchen sink. ... We stayed in the world of the first one with a new story."

At age 61, Thornton has already triumphed in film and television, and also found success as a recording artist. And yet he continues to dream.

"I think I still haven't made all the things that I want to make. I haven't said all that I want to say," said Thornton.

"And then you realize that you're not 25 or 30 anymore and so you have to adjust a little bit and realize that when they call you up and say, 'Hey, will you play so-and-so's dad?' whereas maybe there was a point where I would say, 'No. I'm not playing his dad. Are you kidding me?' Now you go, 'Yeah, I will and I'll do it with everything I have.'

"It takes a lot of humility once you pass 50 and you have to start to realize that the parts are going to be different, the nightlife is going to be different for you, your social life is different," he said.

But he still dreams "that one day that maybe one of these movies that I make myself that nobody sees, maybe there will be a time when they will."