Billy Bob Thornton has spent so much time in front of the camera, it’s easy to forget he is also an accomplished writer and director. The 57-year-old -- who catapulted to fame in 1996 after writing, directing and starring in “Sling Blade” -- is back with his first directorial effort in more than a decade, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car.”
The film, set in rural Alabama in 1969, depicts two sides of a large, multigenerational family: One side is American, the other is British. The feuding relatives come together for a funeral after the family matriarch dies. The movie boasts an all-star cast, including Oscar winner Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, Tippi Hedren, John Hurt, Katherine LaNasa, Frances O’Connor, Robert Patrick and Ray Stevenson, as well as Thornton himself.
Thornton -- who last both wrote and directed 2001’s “Daddy and Them” -- told Yahoo Movies the long break from working in those capacities was due to his acting career. “You get busy as an actor,” Thornton said. “And that’s predominately what I am is an actor.”
Thornton also said he only directs films that have a deep personal meaning to him. “Those kinds of things are fewer and further between. ... You don’t want to do it until you have something that you really want to do that is personal to you.”
As for the title of the film, Thornton told Yahoo Movies it was inspired by an event in his childhood. “My father took me to see [Jayne Mansfield’s car]. They brought it around to our town; you paid about 50 cents to go inside.”
Thornton admitted to being fascinated by the cultural turmoil of the late 1960s, referring to the time period as his “formative years.” He added, “I wanted it to take place in ’69 because this movie is really about how different generations view war.”
As for the question of when he will direct another film, Thornton isn’t in any hurry. “It won’t be until I see something else that I know is worth it to me to take out that much time, and something I think I could do a good job at,” he said.
Meanwhile, check out the official trailer for “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” below. The film is available via video on demand Aug. 20, with a limited release in theaters scheduled for Sept. 13.