Billy Bob Thornton might not spring to mind right away when you think "animation" and "children's movies," but turns out his Southern drawl is just right for the villainous Jack in 'Puss in Boots,' who -- along with partner Jill (Amy Sedaris) -- has gone beyond fetching water and is trying to take over the world. Thornton talked with Moviefone about staying true to his indie roots, his occasional forays into big-budget action fare, and why his not going to Cardinals games might help them win the World Series.
What made you want to do your first big animated movie?
Thornton: Well, I got the call and it's fun to be in a movie with billboards all over town. It's very different from what I do. I've been acting in live-action movies, so I'm kind of a rookie at it. I'd only done one other (animated) movie and that was a Japanese movie, just revoicing it for English. So this is my first one of those and I was thrilled to do it, it was very fun.

Did you want to do this for your kids?
Yeah, my daughter is seven and she loves cartoons and dinosaurs and things. My boys are 17 and 18, but they like animated movies too.

Did you get to record with any costars or were you in a booth by yourself?
I was by myself. I imagine we would have had fun doing it together, but I think we might have had too much fun and it might have slowed the process down.

Your cohort-in crime in this is Amy Sedaris. Did you know her before this?
I didn't know her before yesterday. We were doing this press junket and we did our television interviews together and we had the best time. It was so easy for me because she's so entertaining. She talks so fast and I was able to just sit there and listen to her, I didn't have to do much work. She's a really funny and terrific personality, I like her a lot.

Your characters are obviously not the traditional Jack and Jill; they've been described as Southern rednecks, would you agree with that?
Well, yeah, I think they decided on that, based on me and Amy doing it, you know. She went for a more Southern accent -- she's originally from North Carolina. Personally, I think my character looks more like Henry the 8th. It's kind of funny to see yourself on the big screen like that.

Why should people go see 'Puss in Boots?'
It's very entertaining. Sometimes you forget you're watching an animated movie. I was on the edge of my seat a couple of times. It's done very well. I'm a very small part of the movie. It's all Antonio [Banderas] and Salma [Hayek] and Zach [Galifianakis], they make the movie. They're so much fun. Certainly don't go see it on my account. For the three of them, they're wonderful in it. I think people are really going to enjoy it.

Are you following the World Series? You're a big Cardinals fan.
I'm so nervous right now, you have no idea. If they had won [Game 2] in St. Louis, I think we'd be doing a lot better. That was our chance.

Are you going to go to any of their games?
I have so many superstitions, you have no idea. I did go to a series games last time in 2006, but -- this year -- I think it's best if I stay away. I sort of stayed away when they were winning, so I think my presence would be a jinx right now.

Do they know about this?
Yeah, I've talked to their manager, Tony La Russa. Baseball players have a lot of rituals and superstitions and you'll hardly ever talk to a baseball player who doesn't, so they understand this.

So by staying away, you're guaranteeing them a win?
By staying away, I'm giving them a better chance.

What's up next for you?
I just finished directing a movie called 'Jayne Mansfield's Car' with myself, Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon. It's in post-production. It's a comedy-drama about a family in 1960 and about the how different generations deal with war and the effects of it. It's an examination of life and death.

How many times have you worked with Duvall?
I've known him since the late '80s, I wrote a movie with Tom Epperson called 'A Family Thing' [that starred Duvall] and he played my father in 'Sling Blade.' My first movie I did with him was called 'Stars Fell on Henrietta,' years ago. So he's kind of been my mentor. He was the old guard, that guy that I've tried to emulate as an actor.

Is there anyone you're mentoring?
Yeah, there are younger actors who are fans of mine. And sometimes I speak for groups of actors of young writers, that kind of thing. Nobody where it's official. [Laughs] Not that they come to the office everyday or anything like that.

What kind of advice are you giving young actors?
Mainly to do what they know the best. Not to do what's popular. That's a way to make a living, but it's not a way to be an artist. I think they need to write about what you know the best and not just try to write something that falls into the most popular category that's going right now, because it's not going to be your best work.

Do you feel you've been able to do that, stay true to what feels right to you?
For the most part. I mean, every now and then I'll do a big, more action-type movie that's not really my bag because you have to make a living. But I've been fortunate to be in a couple of good ones, you just have to pick the best ones, not just go do something for money that's not so good. You have to pick one that's well written that you think they're going to do a good job of it.

Does that include 'Armageddon?'
'Armageddon,' 'Eagle Eye,' they did a good job on that. DJ Caruso's a terrific guy and director. You just want to do one where they're not going to throw tomatoes at you! [Laughs]

Which was the most fun of the big movies?
I'm good friends with Bruce Willis. I always love hanging out with Bruce. So we had a great time making 'Armageddon' and he was in 'The Astronaut Farmer' with me and he and I did a movie called 'Bandits,' with Cate Blanchett. We had a great time on it. Probably the most fun I ever had in terms of the locations and hanging out with the cast. It came out at a very unfortunate time, right after 9/11.

Is that one you wish people would go back and catch up on?
It was one that people loved. It did very well on DVD, so we always try to say something about that movie, because it was overlooked at the time. You can't whine about it or start complaining about your movie at a time like that, but it's a fun movie. That was one of my best experiences, but I've been fortunate, I've had a whole lot of good experiences and I've worked with a lot of great people. You hear horror stories, that this person was awful or that person, but I've been real lucky.

[Photo: Getty]

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Puss in Boots
Based on 24 critics

The notorious cat (Antonio Banderas) and two companions scheme to steal a gold-laying goose. Read More

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July 23, 2016
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categories Interviews, Movies