TORONTO — A day after Billy Bob Thornton said Canadian audiences were like mashed potatoes without gravy, the actor professed his love for the Great White North.
Thornton talked briefly to reporters before going into Massey Hall on Thursday night for a performance with his band, the Boxmasters. The group was opening for Willie Nelson.
“I love Canada, absolutely,” said the 53-year-old actor, clad in a sleek black suit and puffing on a cigarette.
The proclamation was a sharp contrast to comments Thornton made Wednesday when he was an unco-operative guest on CBC’s “Q” radio program.
During that appearance, the Oscar-winning star of “Sling Blade” sparred back and forth with host Jian Ghomeshi and found time to insult Canadian crowds.
“Canadian audiences seem to be very reserved,” he told Ghomeshi. “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.”
On Thursday, Thornton was asked why he made the comment if he loves Canada.
“I was talking about the guy who was interviewing me,” he said. “I don’t know his name.”
The actor’s belligerent appearance on the show has already become a viral sensation.
More than 600,000 viewers had watched the clip on YouTube by 8 p.m. Thursday, while a CBC spokesperson said the network had received roughly 3,700 blog responses and emails regarding the appearance.
Meanwhile, media around the world delighted in the story.
“If you can’t wait for the next season of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ to start, this video clip should briefly satisfy your hunger for achingly, all-too-real situation comedy,” wrote a New York Times blogger.
Entertainment Weekly’s website ran the headline, “Billy Bob Thornton: What’s his problem?” and the L.A. Times was similarly damning with its own headline, “Billy Bob Thornton, crazier than Joaquin Phoenix — is that possible?”
Indeed, Thornton seemed to have at least temporarily swiped Phoenix’s mantle as the most erratic actor-turned-musician.
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.”
While Phoenix was aloof in that interview, Thornton managed to be both obtuse and openly antagonistic with Ghomeshi.
Thornton, who was interviewed alongside his Boxmasters bandmates, took issue with Ghomeshi’s introduction, which included references to the star’s career as a Hollywood actor, director and screenwriter.
For much of the interview, Thornton refused to answer any of Ghomeshi’s questions directly, mumbling: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Things came to a head when Ghomeshi mentioned Thornton’s passion for music.
“Would you say that to Tom Petty?” Thornton questioned.
Thornton said Ghomeshi’s producers had been instructed ahead of time not to talk about his film career at all.
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