TORONTO — Actor Billy Bob Thornton has laid claim to his own Joaquin Phoenix moment.
An ornery Thornton appeared on CBC radio’s Q on Wednesday morning to promote his band, the Boxmasters, and was alternately belligerent and bizarre before drawing host Jian Ghomeshi into an argument about the way his appearance on the show had been promoted.
Thornton, the band’s singer, took issue with Ghomeshi’s introduction to the interview, which included references to the star’s career as a Hollywood actor, director and screenwriter.
Through the first half of the in-studio conversation, Thornton refused to answer any of Ghomeshi’s questions directly — responding to questions about his band by mumbling “I don’t know what you’re talking about” or some variation of that — before bringing the issue to a head after Ghomeshi mentioned Thornton’s passion for music.
“Would you say that to Tom Petty?” Thornton questioned.
The Oscar-winning star of Sling Blade continued that Ghomeshi had been instructed ahead of time not to talk about his film career at all.
The radio host suggested that Thornton’s past was relevant to provide context for listeners.
“There’s plenty of context without all that,” Thornton fired back.
When Ghomeshi pointed out that his refusal to acknowledge his film career was odd, Thornton responded:
“I think it’s odd that you have to smoke inside a white stripe outside,” apparently referring to a no-smoking policy at buildings in the city.
Phoenix, who abandoned acting to pursue a career in rap music, made headlines when he sulked his way through an interview on Late Show With David Letterman earlier this year.
Wearing a heavy beard and dark sunglasses, the uncommunicative Walk the Line star prompted Letterman to crack: “Joaquin, I’m sorry you couldn’t be here tonight.”
That clip immediately achieved YouTube fame, and Thornton might not be far behind.
His Q appearance has already been posted on American gossip website TMZ, and a CBC spokesperson says the show has received over 1,600 emails and blog responses at the public broadcaster’s website — by far the most attention they’ve ever received since Q began almost two years ago.
While Thornton was more antagonistic than Phoenix, he also showed a cryptic side.
When pressed for details on his music, Thornton instead provided a non sequitur about a magazine he subscribed to called Famous Monsters of Filmland and a model-building contest he once entered.
Thornton — who’s in the midst of a six-city swing with his band north of the border — also found the time to criticize Canadian crowds during his appearance.
“Canadian audiences seem to be very reserved,” said the 53-year-old.
“We tend to play places where people throw things at each other. Here, they just sort of sit there. And it doesn’t matter what you say to ’em. … It’s mashed potatoes but no gravy.”
When his band closed the Q appearance with a song, Thornton refused to sing and they played without vocals.
Ghomeshi said later in a telephone interview that Thornton left without saying goodbye or thanking the host.
“His band members, however, were very cordial, and thanked me and, I dare say, I’m speculating, seemed almost apologetic, though they didn’t say sorry,” Ghomeshi said.
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