Billy Bob Thornton: Bad Santa Has Some Good Stories

It seems that most of us don’t really know much about Billy Bob Thornton. Other than his high-profile and noteworthy marriage to Angelina Jolie (once upon a time), Thornton is better known for his eccentric behavior and his commitment to not be part of the glamorous Hollywood superiority. He’s seen it all: tragedy at a young age, poverty, heartbreak, addiction, and more.

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Besides being an incredible actor, writer, and director, he is also a die-hard Southerner to boot. Thornton even has some hidden musical talents. Let us dive into some fascinating factoids about the Bad Santa actor that you may not have known.

A Grandma’s Boy

Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Billy Bob Thornton’s parents were William Raymond Thornton, a high school teacher and baseball coach, and his mother, Virginia Roberta, a psychic. He grew up with two brothers, Jimmy Don (deceased) and John David. Living in the quaint town of Alpine, Malvern, there wasn’t much to do in a town with barely 100 residents.

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Thornton spent most of his childhood in Arkansas. He graduated from Malvern High School and spent two semesters at Henderson State University. Nonetheless, the actor has far more fond memories of traveling to Texas to spend time with his grandmother.

A Culture Clash

Billy Bob has a fascinating ancestry. His father, William aka “Billy Ray,” was an Irishman, and Virginia was half Native American and half Italian. In addition to being a psychic, she regularly exposed her children to many Native American customs.

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Having been brought up in a home with such a diversity of cultures gave Thornton a unique perspective on life, and he says it has a lot to do with the person he is today. Being surrounded by values that sometimes clashed, Thornton says that “that’s how people like me turn out the way they do. It’s like all those mixtures, you know?”

His Psychic Mother

Virginia was a self-proclaimed psychic. Thornton was so inspired by his mother’s abilities and gifts that he based a character on her in his 2000 film The Gift. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2017. Thornton spoke about how his mother once told him that he would work with Burt Reynolds one day.

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Her gift did not disappoint as he appeared in three episodes of the sitcom Evening Shade between 1990 and 1994. Thornton also said that when he was young and reckless, it became practically impossible to come home drunk and pretend that he wasn’t. Virginia always knew!

For the Ladies

Thornton explains that he took drama classes in high school “because girls were there,” but quickly discovered that he loved it. He wanted to push himself. So, he joined some professional acting classes, and in one of them, he was meant to prepare a five-minute monologue.

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For the assignment, Thornton took inspiration from an Andy Griffith piece that retold the story of Cinderella. He decided to perform an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello. So much for five minutes when his monologue ran over half an hour-long, his acting coach was impressed, describing it as “unique and wild.”

Drawing From Real Life

There is no denying he is a talented actor. Thornton’s past roles have been incredibly intense. He believes his best performances come from drawing inspiration from his own life, which was traumatic. Thornton suffered from abuse at the hands of a father, who eventually died of cancer.

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His brother Jimmy tragically passed away in 1988. Before pursuing acting, Thornton worked for a bit for a highway department that would occasionally have to clean up after car crashes. No wonder he can embody some pretty intense characters.

Disorders and Phobias

Thornton lives his life with a rare form of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder). Thornton often associates the close people in his life with actual numbers, and this manifestation of the condition is very exhausting. Thornton also has a few irrational fears that he deals with daily.

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These phobias include the fear of Komodo dragons, antiques (mostly French antiques), and silverware. Thornton admits that he is most afraid of the dragons’ bacteria-infested saliva and is creeped out by old relics.

Dyslexia and Alcoholism

As a child, Thornton developed a severe form of dyslexia. Unfortunately, he went on unproperly diagnosed. He finally received a diagnosis only when he was an adult in university. Thornton felt people saw him as “a moron” at school because of his dyslexia and OCD.

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Later on, when he was studying psychology at Henderson State University, Thornton struggled. He developed a severe drinking problem and dropped out after only two semesters. After that, he went back home and spent a lot of time watching cable TV to escape from his issues.

Defending Santa Claus

You may not be too familiar with B Thornton’s incredible film credits, but we are pretty sure you’re aware of his iconic role in Bad Santa. Unironically, Thornton says he believed in the truth of Santa Claus until he was 12 years old.

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His bubble was burst when a classmate at school told him he was being childish for believing that a man in a red suit came down chimneys and delivered presents to children. The argument led to a fistfight where the young Billy Bob felt the need to fight for Santa’s honor.

Married Six Times

Thornton loves a good walk down the aisle, with six marriages producing four children with three different women. Thornton is now married to makeup artist Connie Angland. It began after divorcing his fifth wife, Angelina Jolie. Thornton and Connie share a daughter, Bella.

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His first wife was Melissa Lee Gatlin. They have a daughter, Amanda Brumfield (42). Then he married actress Toni Lawrence. Marriage number three was to another actress, Cynda Williams, and the fourth time was to Playboy model Pietra Dawn Cherniak. Thornton and Cherniak have two sons together, Harry James and William.

Thornton and Angelina Jolie

Their marriage was all the press could talk about, and throughout it, Thornton says that he never felt good enough for Jolie. He would prefer a life away from the public eye, to be able to spend time with old friends he’s had long before fame came along.

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Jolie lived a lifestyle that involved meetings with politicians, traveling worldwide as a UN ambassador and going to flashy Hollywood events. This eventually led to their split, but they are both still on good terms and regularly catch up with one another.

Love and Chaos

Their marriage set them apart from a typical husband and wife. Really, nothing about Jolie and Thornton’s marriage went by the book. Not only was it a shotgun wedding, but you can’t ignore the 20 year age gap between them.

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They would often send each other strange gifts, such as his and her grave plots. Jolie once said, “I’m just a very normal woman who is crazy about her man. And I’m also a lot of other things.” The couple would swap underwear and even had matching lockets which were topically debated.

The Blood Necklaces

You may have already heard this one. Thornton and Jolie used to wear vials of each other’s blood as a charm. Years later, when Thornton was asked about this, he admitted that it was a bit blown out of proportion.

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According to Thornton, at one point, both couples were working on films; Jolie on Tomb Raider and Thornton on Monster’s Ball, which led to them being apart for a while. Jolie suggested they nick their fingers and carry a tiny amount of blood in a charm so that they would always have a little bit of each other.

Billy Bob and Laura Dern

I wouldn’t say that there are no hard feelings between Thornton and Durn. They dated for three years and were even engaged, but that all ended when Thornton met Jolie on the set of Pushing Tin. Thornton and Jolie were married a year later.

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Thornton never bothered to tell Dern that he was with Jolie; she had to find out from the tabloids. Dern says there never was any closure for her. In 2017, Dern had to applaud as Thornton accepted a Golden Globe award. She couldn’t keep the iciness from her face when the camera panned her way.

Losing and Gaining

Thornton isn’t known for being brawny; he usually maintains a slender appearance. But like many other actors, he managed to get his weight up to 197 pounds for his role as a mechanic in the film U-Turn.

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For his following project, Pushing Tin in 1999, he dropped the weight down to 138 pounds. This kind of extreme weight gain and weight loss failed to interest the newspapers at the time, but you have to admit that’s seriously impressive.

A Talented Writer

With a list of credits such as actor and director, we must not forget that writer is also one of them. He started writing short stories at a young age, and it was during his time spent with his drama teacher that he began to see acting as a possible career.

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Thornton has written and co-written several films over the years. His most notable was The Gift, which included an all-star cast: Keanu Reeves, Cate Blanchett, Hilary Swank, and Greg Kinnear. Thornton also wrote, directed, and starred in the film Sling Blade.

Billy Bob, the Musician

With the jack of all trades vibe he’s got going, you should know that Thornton is also a musician. Along with four solo albums, he is also the frontman of The Boxmasters. The band has seven albums, and they still go on tour, playing at prestigious venues, such as Massey Hall in Toronto.

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The Boxmasters, which started in 2007, describes their sound as “psychobilly” – a mix of British mod, rock and roll, country, and ‘60s surfer pop-rock. The eclectic style truly reflects Thorntons own personality.

Billy Bob’s Tattoos

Like most things with Billy Bob Thornton, his tattoos are a little strange. He had his name on his arm enclosed in a heart with an arrow going through it as his first tattoo. He has “Constance” tattooed along his spine in honor of his current wife.

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His youngest child Bella’s name is tattooed on his arm, along with the words “Remember the Alamo” and the Texan flag, which references his role as Davey Crockett in The Alamo. As far as we know, Thornton has a total of eight tattoos.

He’s a Winner

Billy Bob Thornton has received both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. He was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Sling Blade. Shockingly, the only Oscar he won was not for acting but for his screenplay. The following year, he was nominated for his role in The Simple Plan.

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In 2015, Thornton was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Miniseries for his role in Fargo, and he won. Two years later, Thorton accepted another Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Drama for Goliath.

His Diet and Health

With a diet restricted by dairy and wheat allergies, along with being diagnosed with a heart condition known as myocarditis, Thornton must follow a rigorous vegan diet and stay away from almost all forms of snacks and junk food. Living a vegan lifestyle has kept the actor slim and maintained his health.


Thornton went vegan for other reasons, one of them being his blood type. The actor claims that having the AB-blood type has resulted in fewer digestive enzymes than people with different blood types. Thornton maintains this reason despite the proof that this is not factual.

His Daughter Bella and Dressing Up

If you feel like you’ve been naughty this year, you might want to ask the Bad Santa star to get a little dressed up. But you might end up disappointed. He is not wholly opposed if the right person asks, like his daughter Bella, for example.

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Thornton wore a ladybug costume at Bella’s request. It seems she has her father at her beck and call. Bella is Thornton’s fourth and youngest child; he had her when he was 49 with Connie. Bella is 17 years old now and looks as if she is heading in the same direction as her father after starring in Hodgepodge.

Not a Christmas Music Fan

Thornton may have graced our screens as Santa Claus, and even if he wasn’t the jolliest Saint Nick around, he sure got us in the holiday spirit. Alas, that doesn’t mean the actor simply adores everything to do with Christmas – and that goes for Christmas music, too.

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Once, Thornton said the popular song Jingle Bell Rock “always rubbed [him] the wrong way.” Nonetheless, the actor does seem to have a soft spot for the Christmas albums of Bing Crosby, with I’ll Be Home for Christmas being his personal favorite.

The Billy Bob Tapes

Thornton’s memoir, The Billy Bob Tapes: A Cave Full of Ghosts, was published in 2013. Thornton chose to recite his story orally rather than sit down to write it or hire a ghostwriter, as is expected.

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Thornton invited a small gathering of friends to his home studio for a private retelling of his life story. His friend Kinky Friedman, a fellow musician and writer, transcribed Thornton’s words, creating a unique collaboration.

Billy Bob’s House

In a not very surprising fashion, Thornton bought a house in Beverly Hills. Interestingly, the actual house he lived in was previously owned by Slash, the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, and the supergroup Velvet Revolver.

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During their marriage, Thornton and Jolie lived in that house. After their divorce, Thornton remained in the house until 2012, when he listed it for sale. When Billy Bob purchased it, he paid $3.75 million, but now the house is valued at $10 million.

His Wrestling Cousins

Looking at him, you wouldn’t guess that Thornton has two cousins that were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. The two professional wrestlers, Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr, have both since retired now.

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In honor of the induction ceremony, they asked their cousin if he would be interested in inducting them. The actor respectfully declined, so the brothers were inducted in by their longtime friend and fellow wrestler Dusty Rhodes.

A Lover of the Game

Thornton has a long list of skills, but you should know he is also an avid baseball fan and can even play the game rather well. However, his dreams of a career as a Major League Baseball player were cut short when he suffered a broken collarbone during tryouts for the Kansas City Royals.

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Just because he can’t play doesn’t mean he can’t have a favorite team, which is the St. Louis Cardinals. Thornton insists that his trailers always have a TV in them so that he never misses a game. The Boxmasters even have a song called I’m Watching the Game.

All the Pretty Horses

Thornton has had great success in Hollywood. But he hasn’t always had great filmmaking experiences, especially when there is a big-budget involved. Thornton’s adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, All The Pretty Horses, was a bad experience.

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Thornton says the first cut was between three and four hours long but was edited down to under two hours. The score was also replaced, and in the end, after spending $50 million on production, the film was a commercial flop.

Playing the Villain

There is no denying that Billy Bob Thornton is great at playing the bad guy. He started with 1992’s One False Move, playing a thief, and in 2001, he played a racist correctional officer in Monster’s Ball.

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He personified the thief in Bad Santa and again in the sequel Bad Santa 2. The meanest portrait Thornton has pulled off is probably Lorne Malvo in the series Fargo. Thornton himself claims this is the first true villain he’s played since 1992.

Working On Television and Fargo

Once upon a time, TV was subpar work for professional actors, but these days you can’t deny that TV is where “all the good stuff is.” And films seem to have taken a back seat in many actors’ careers. There seem to be more quality TV roles than there are film roles these days.

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Thornton admits to being a little bit late to the TV party. He was opposed to television for years until he came across the script for the first season of Fargo and Lorne Malvo’s role. The rest is television history.

Billy Bob, the Teacher

Honestly, you would think Thornton can do pretty much anything. While creating films and touring with his band, The Boxmasters, Thornton is also taking the time to teach creative writing.

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In 2015, The Boxmasters performed at the Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center, and afterward, Thornton took the time to teach a class for the center’s special needs students. He taught them all about the art of creative writing.

Slim Shady and the Santa Suit

It’s hard to tell if being personified in a music video is a compliment or an insult. In the case of Billy Bob Thornton and his rendition of Bad Santa, we think it’s safe to say that Eminem may have been honoring the actor rather than insulting him.

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In Eminem’s music video for Just Lose It, he appears in a Santa Claus suit for just a few seconds, and it’s evident that this is a nod to Thornton’s role in Bad Santa. A fun fact regarding his hilarious performance is that Thornton was intoxicated when he shot some of the more drunk scenes.

He Only Ate Potatoes

Thornton has a few medical conditions, including allergies to wheat and dairy. This could be a result of the starvation he suffered when he was much younger. He could only afford potatoes at one point, so that was all he ate.

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This severe malnourishment can badly affect the heart. As a result, his heart muscles became inflamed, causing myocarditis. When Thornton began earning more money, he changed his diet, became vegan, and managed to reverse the effects of his heart condition.

He Was Considered Too Ugly

You would think that a man married to one of the most beautiful women on earth, Angelina Jolie, would hear nothing but praise. Nevertheless, an acting teacher once told him emphatically that he was not good-looking enough.

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Thornton was told by the teacher that rather than rely on getting roles on screen, it would be of better use to him to focus his energy on writing and on writing parts for himself. That was the only way he would break into Hollywood.

He Can Be a Little Touchy

Thornton would like to make us aware that he sees a difference between his career as an actor and his career as a musician. Once Thornton took part in an interview with Jian Ghomeshi, and Thornton insisted that they focus only on his music before the interview even started.

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Ghomeshi disregarded the requests and mentioned Thornton’s acting in his introduction. Thornton was immediately annoyed and would not cooperate for the rest of the interview. The following day Thornton went on the attack towards Ghomeshi and his Canadian audience.

His Daughter Is In Prison

Thornton’s first wife was Melissa Lee Gatlin. The couple had a daughter named Amanda, and in 2008, Amanda Brumfield, as she goes by now, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for manslaughter.

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Amanda was in charge of taking care of her friend’s one-year-old daughter, Olivia Madison Garcia. Brumfield claims the child fell out of her playpen and died. Still, after an investigation, detectives found out the child had suspicious contusions on her head, and eventually, it became known that Brumfield took two hours before she reported the accident.