Jump to: Spoilers (7)
Billy Wilder once told Billy Bob Thornton that he was "too ugly" to be an actor, and that he should write a screenplay for himself, where he could exploit his "less than perfect" features. After this movie launched Thornton's career, he publicly discussed his conversation with Wilder, which was at a cocktail party where he was working as a waiter. He got a call from Wilder, who invited him over to his house. Wilder said he didn't recall their conversation, but was glad that he heeded his advice. As a gift, Wilder gave Thornton a paperback copy of this movie's script with his autograph, and a personal message inscribed on it.
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According to Billy Bob Thornton, in a February 7, 1997 interview on Howard Stern's radio show, Karl living behind a shed, is based on a boy where he grew up, who could not walk or talk very well, so his parents kept him in the shed. Billy says the story is that the boy's mother was scared by a snake when she was pregnant, so they felt he was like a child of the devil. They kept him locked up and fed him like a dog. It turned out the boy had polio.
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When the film was in pre-production, Billy Bob Thornton envisioned John Ritter's character as having dyed blonde hair, thinking that Vaughan was a man who was transferred out of St. Louis for his job, where the film was set, and based his hairstyle on what he saw men sporting in GQ Magazine. Thornton, Ritter, and the film's hairstylist began experimenting with hairstyles on Ritter at the hotel where the cast and crew stayed. According to Thornton, Ritter was insistent that the hairstyle wasn't too drastic, as he had to go back to Los Angeles to shoot a Public Service Announcement. But when the hairstylist came up with, and applied the hairstyle that Ritter's Vaughan character would sport in the film, Thornton immediately approved. However, when Ritter finally got a look at his hair in the hotel room's bathroom mirror, he was infuriated at Thornton. Thornton said that when Ritter went back home to shoot the Public Service Announcement, he was wearing a baseball cap.
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According to the DVD commentary, Billy Bob Thornton considers this film to be the greatest movie he has ever made.
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In order to make his walk more awkward and consistent, Billy Bob Thornton placed crushed glass in his shoes.
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Billy Bob Thornton had written the script in long hand, at his family's house in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
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Billy Bob Thornton said he wrote the role of Vaughan Cunningham specifically for his good friend John Ritter.
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According to Billy Bob Thornton, he invented Karl's unique facial expressions and speech patterns, plus ad-libbed the entire "sling blade" speech at the beginning of the film, while looking at himself in a make-up room mirror, waiting to film his scene as a train conductor in The Man Who Broke 1, 000 Chains (1987). His scene was later cut from that film.
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Linda, Frank's mother, never has a close up; she's almost always sharing the screen with someone else in either a long or medium shot. This illustrates how ignored and passed over she feels. Everyone knows she's trapped in an abusive relationship but no one is helping her.
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A remake of the short film Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994) and both were written by and starred Billy Bob Thornton.
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Karl was named after Billy Bob Thornton's special needs cousin, who died a month before Billy Bob wrote the movie.
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All of the members of Doyle's mediocre band in the movie, including Doyle, are played by real-life accomplished and talented musicians.
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In the audio commentary, Robert Duvall reveals that Karl's father is talking to an imaginary dog named Bullet when Karl walks in.
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Fellow independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch appears as the "Frostee Cream" worker in the beginning. His name tag reads "Deke", the name of the film's Electrical Best Boy.
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Lucas Black didn't expect that Billy Bob Thornton was going to ad-lib a certain line about potted meat, and genuinely laughed as a result. That moment made it into the finished film.
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In most of the group shots, the camera holds static on the actors and actresses for the duration of the take, without panning or cutting away, for the traditional series of reverse angle shots.
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Karl says "alright then" nineteen times.
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Only the second film not nominated for Best Picture to win the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
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Cameo by Colonel Bruce Hampton Retired, of Aquarium Rescue Unit and Code Talkers during Doyle's band scene. Colonel Bruce is the tambourine player, and can be seen blowing his trademark "Smokeless Smoke Ring" in a close-up shot.
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Molly Ringwald played the newspaper reporter in Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994). Sarah Boss replaced her for this movie.
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The lawnmower repair shop where Karl is employed was actually a real repair shop in the town of Benton, Arkansas.
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In the scene where Karl sits at his brother's grave the camera gets close to his face. You can see a circular shaped scar on the side of his head that makes you think it could be from electric shock therapy.
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Harvey Weinstein, then co-chairman of Miramax, only saw the first thirty minutes of this movie when he agreed to pay $10 million for the rights to the film. He later regretted this, and forced Billy Bob Thornton to cut about twenty minutes from the movie.
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Although Karl's father's (Robert Duvall's) name is never mentioned, in the original short Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade (1994) it is mentioned that his father's name is Franklin.
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Billy Bob Thornton was the runner-up for Best New Filmmaker in the Film Critics Awards.
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By his description, Karl's "sling blade" matches a bush axe or ditch-bank axe, a kind of long-handled machete with a short broad blade (and easily lethal), though the term is also used for sickles and weed-cutters. "Kaiser blade" has murkier roots, but likely is slang for similar tools favored by remnant communities of Pennsylvania Dutch, who were actually mostly German in origin (thus "kaiser").
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The movie is filmed entirely in the Saline County town of Benton, Arkansas.
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Billy Bob Thornton's directorial film debut.
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Billy Bob Thornton and Lucas Black played football eight years after they do in this movie, as Coach Gary Gaines and Quarterback Mike Winchell in Friday Night Lights (2004).
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Nominated for fourteen awards, and only lost five.
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Terence is played by musician Vic Chessnutt, who wrote several songs with and recorded an album with Widespread Panic, whom Billy Bob Thornton is a fan of. One song Chessnutt wrote with Panic is Aunt Avis, which Billy Bob Thornton directed the music video for.
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Four members of the cast - John Ritter (Vaughn), J.T. Walsh (Bushman), Rick Dial (Bill Cox) and Brent Briscoe (Scooter) - all died in their early 50s.
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Billy Bob Thornton won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for this film on the same night Joel and Ethan Coen won Best Original Screenplay for Fargo (1996). Almost eighteen years later, Thornton would go on to play the lead villain on Season 1 of FX's TV adaptation of Fargo (2014).
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Karl Childress played by Billy Bob Thornton is a very similar character to Jackson Fentry in Tomorrow (1972) played by Robert Duvall, who plays Karl's father in this movie.
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Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall appeared in The Apostle (1997), Jayne Mansfield's Car (2012), and The Judge (2014).
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Vaughan (John Ritter) is holding a copy of the book "A Confederacy of Dunces" in his final scene. The book revolves around a Southern character that is unable to fit into society.
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The last spoken word in the movie by Doyle, Vaughan, Frank, and Linda is the same: "Karl?"
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In his autobiography "The Billy Bob Tapes", Billy Bob Thornton had become good friends with John Ritter when they were shooting the sitcom Hearts Afire (1992). This friendship inspired Thornton to cast Ritter as the first person in his film. According to Thornton, his first scene with Ritter was in the café when Vaughan (Ritter) tells Karl (Thornton) that he's gay. Thornton said that none of the film's cast had watched him in character as Karl. So when he got into character, Ritter burst out laughing, as he thought Thornton was joking. Thornton explained that it was the character, an explanation which Ritter said was going to be difficult for Ritter to act, as he knew Thornton too well. Thornton said they were able to shoot the scene, but its difficulty was due to Ritter trying to keep a straight face throughout the shoot.
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Robert Duvall appearing as Karl's father was done as a kindness to Billy Bob Thornton, who played a small role in Duvall's The Apostle (1997) for free in exchange.
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As in this movie, Dwight Yoakam's character is killed by Billy Bob Thornton's character in Don't Look Back (1996).
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There is only one blade shown in this film. It is the lawn mower blade Karl sharpens up and uses to kill Doyle.
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