Note: This is a re-post of my interview with Billy Bob Thornton and my review of the film that I did from the 2012 Austin Film Festival. “Jayne Mansfield’s Car” is playing at AMC Barrett Commons 24.
I attended the screening of the closing night feature film of the 2012 Austin Film Festival, “Jayne Mansfield’s Car”. The film takes place in 1969 Alabama, where two families, the Caldwell’s, a proud southern family led by Jim (Robert Duvall), and the Bedford’s, a British family led by Kingsley (John Hurt), come together due to a tragedy. I had the great pleasure of interviewing writer / director / actor Billy Bob Thornton on the red carpet.
You co-wrote the script, you directed the film and you also act in it. Is it tough handling all those roles on a film project, because it seems like you did just about everything on this film?
No, not really. I did it on “Sling Blade,” so I’ve done it before. It’s not that hard. Probably the hardest part was having to do all those things in 105 degree weather in Georgia. That heat would just melt your face right off. That was the toughest thing, it was such a demanding shoot due to the weather, just shooting in that heat. And we had Robert Duvall and John Hurt, who are old friends of mine, and I was always worried that, due to the heat, I was going to go out and kill these guys. So we kept them cool and kept them hydrated.
What was it like to give direction to such great actors like Duvall and Hurt?
Well, they are both old friends of mine, and Robert Duvall has been my mentor for a number of years, so we had a relationship already, so it wasn’t as hard as if I didn’t know them. If that was the case, I would have been terrified. But, I knew them both and I had directed Robert in Sling Blade, so I was pretty comfortable.
Music is extremely important to this film, and it’s set in 1969, a groundbreaking year in rock music. How did you use music to help the story of the film?
Most films that take place around that time generally use music from Jimmy Hendrix or Cream. But, we didn’t do that for two reasons. One reason was we didn’t have the money to buy the big songs of the time period. Since I knew we didn’t have the money, I thought, you know, it would be really cool to use garage bands of the time period. Those kind of one hit wonders who maybe had one small hit. And these were the bands of the time, the kind of bands that our characters were listening to. We’ve got some good garage band music, and we hope to put a soundtrack out with those songs.
Thank you so much and good luck with the film.
“Jayne Mansfield’s Car” (2012)
The Caldwell’s are a proud family with deep southern roots, but the family has never recovered from Jim’s (Robert Duvall) wife, Naomi, divorcing him for an Englishman whom she married, and moved to England. Jim is then forced to raise a large family on his own. The family doesn’t see their mother for years. Almost 30 years later, the Caldwell’s learn that their mother died; her final wish is to buried in Alabama. The body will be accompanied by her British family, including Kingsley (John Hurt), the Englishman she married. Both families are full of interesting characters including Skip Caldwell (Billy Bob Thornton), who has never recovered from his stint in the Navy during World War II, and his brother, Carroll Caldwell (Kevin Bacon), also a WWII vet who now has long hair and protests the Vietnam War. The film, set in Alabama in 1969, is a large ensemble piece that has Tennessee Williams overtones. Thornton has made each character just a little too out there, including his own, who has a thing for fast cars and British accents so that they almost come off on screen too one dimensional. I would have liked Kevin Bacon’s part as the Vietnam vet who is now an anti-war protester, bigger as it seemed that there was a much deeper story than what we got to see on screen. I loved the look of the film as cinematographer Barry Markowitz, did an outstanding job showing the back roads and old plantations of the South. The film’s soundtrack uses to great effect music from garage bands of that ear, giving the movie a down to earth feel to the movie. As you would expect, the best parts of the film are when Duvall and Hurt are on-screen, but the film seems to lose its way with such a large cast and never quite figures out how to propel the plot along or even how to finish it.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
“Jayne Mansfield’s Car” is playing at AMC Barrett Commons 24.