TCU Daily Skiff Wednesday, April 14, 2004
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Billy Bob Thornton is Davy Crockett on, off set

By Cassie Fauss
Skiff Staff

Billy Bob Thornton grew up wanting to be Davy Crockett.

But then again, who didn’t?

“The way we grew up Davy Crockett was sort of, in a way more of a cartoon character,” he said, “a larger than life bear-hunter who wore a coonskin hat – perfect for kids.”

Like Thornton, many of us associate Crockett with the many myths that bear his name, never realizing the stark distinction between Davy, the legend, and David, the person behind it.

“Crockett has always been portrayed simply as a frontiersman, this wild man from the hills,” said John Lee Hancock, writer-director of “The Alamo”, “but I was always interested in both sides of Crockett.”

Hancock used the film as an opportunity to create the interplay of Davy versus David.

“Billy Bob has that dichotomy as well,” said Hancock, referring to the similarities between the actor and the character he portrays. “I don’t think there’s anybody else who could do this role,” he said.

Thornton said when he was asked to play Crockett in “The Alamo,” he didn’t have to think twice.

“When you read about his personality, how he was with people, I’m sort of the same guy,” Thornton said. “There are myths about my life too.

“Normally I play maybe parts of myself, but certainly not exactly myself,” Thornton said. “In this one I kind of do that. It’s maybe the first time I have ever done that.”

Thornton said he is not as weird as some people make him out to be, but he often feels compelled to fulfill the image that has been created for him.

“I’m a little more normal than people say,” he said, “so every now and then you have to throw people a bone: ‘Okay, so I ate a cat.’”

Thornton said he thinks that is also the way it is with the Davy Crockett legend.

“He had to ultimately become that thing that had been told about him,” he said.

Thornton said his biggest concern with portraying Crockett was the pressure of having to live up to such a legend, while still portraying him as just a regular guy.

“He was just a guy who liked people, a storyteller, just a friendly guy who at the same time had this sort of crazy edge to him,” Thornton said. “He perpetuated his own legend.

“I don’t know if I’ve perpetuated mine so much, but people have done it for me a lot,” he said. “So, in that sense I relate to that.”

One of the biggest controversies regarding “The Alamo” is its historical accuracy, especially concerning Crockett’s execution of which there are many theories.

Hancock used his authority to play out the most heroic of these stories, a decision that Thornton felt was best because it shows what everyday heroes are made of.

“We used to have heroes and now it’s like bad guys have a better crack at being heroes these days,” Thornton said. “I think the world has become pretty cynical and we could use people like Davy Crockett.”

Crockett’s execution in the film follows a description found in a diary from a Mexican general who said Crockett died “with courage and dignity and was well behaved.”

“Now I didn’t do it very well behaved,” Thornton said, “but I did that for Texas.”

In addition to his heroic feats, Crockett is remembered for his unique style of oratory which was sure to draw a crowd.

Cast and crew members said Thornton portrayed the quirky side of Crockett both on and off the screen. His offbeat humor kept the set from going stale.

“I was kind of Crockett-like on the set, but I think I’m Crockett-like on the one I’m doing now,” Thornton said. “I try to rally the troops around all the time.”

Thornton is currently working on a film titled “Friday Night Lights,” about another Texas legacy — football — that should be finished later this year.

“Probably one of the greatest feelings of anything I do is when I’m finished with something and I can just sit back and say ‘Good grief,’” Thornton said.

Well, I think it’s that time, Billy.

Good grief.

Billy Bob Thornton
On-screen fight
TCU Daily Skiff ©2004
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