Billy Bob Thornton returned to the director’s chair for his upcoming feature Jayne Mansfield’s Car, for which he also penned the script and stars. Thornton discussed what it was like to get back behind the camera in an exclusive interview with Uinterview.

Thornton, 58, hadn’t directed a film since 2001 prior to helming Jayne Mansfield’s Car. The actor ascribes the sabbatical from filmmaking to a busy acting schedule and not having a story he felt passionate enough about. “Well, directing a film’s very hard. It takes a long time, and, you know, you have to live with it for quite some time,” he told Uinterview. “I think I’m only the best guy to direct the things that I’m very close to. And I just didn’t have a story that I wanted to tell for a few years, and then this one had been rolling around in my head so I just thought it was time.”

Jayne Mansfield’s Car takes place in Alabama in the late 1960s and follows three World War II vet brothers and their father as they deal with the passing of their estranged matriarch. The death also sets in motion some conflicts between the Caldwell men and the late wife and mother’s London clan, the Bedfords.

Thornton, who plays one of the Caldwell brothers, finds it easier to have a hand in all aspects of the film. “There’s no middle man, you know?” he said. “I mean, especially when you’ve written the script and you kind of know it inside and out, there’s not a lot of explanation, you know, that has to take place.… When you’re in the middle of a scene, you can feel if it’s working or not.”

The veteran actor believes that his time spent away from directing served the film well, enabling him to recapture the “nervous excitement” he believes makes a good artist. Furthermore, after working and befriending numerous fellow actors in Hollywood, he was able to assemble an incredible cast, which includes Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon, John Hurt and Robert Patrick. With these guys, Thornton says, “You just call ‘Action’ and ‘Cut.’ There’s nothing to it.”

Thornton’s dramatic comedy Jayne Mansfield’s Car, rated R, is currently in limited release.

– Chelsea Regan

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