Billy Bob Thornton sprang onto the Hollywood scene by writing, directing and starring in the 1996, 2-time Academy Award winning film Sling Blade. His portrayal of a mentally challenged man named Karl, who returns to his hometown after spending 25 years in a mental institution, is astonishing.
Despite having killed his mom and her boyfriend at the age of 12, Karl is deemed fit to be placed back into society, and soon after returning home, is befriended by a young boy named Frank Wheatley (Lucas Black) and his mother Linda (Natalie Canderday). His caseworker from the hospital helps Karl get a job doing repair work for a local business, and life is finally starting to come together for the wayward man. However, Karl soon realizes that his new friends’ happiness is being prevented by Linda’s abusive boyfriend Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam), who’s extremely cruel to both Frank and his mother.
Vaughan Cunningham (John Ritter), a homosexual friend of Linda’s, who manages the store she works at, is the only stable male in their lives. But Vaughan doesn’t have the strength or courage to protect Linda and her son from Doyle, and as Karl’s bond with the family grows stronger, he begins to feel that it could be his job to protect them… any way he can.
- The producers have migrated over a batch of very impressive bonus features from previous DVD releases. First up is an Audio Commentary by Billy Bob Thornton, which is thoughtful and sentimental. The writer/director tells some compelling and interesting stories and approaches the voiceover with plenty of humor and pride.
- Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood is an hour long biographical profile of the hyphenate. It reveals his background and journey towards filmmaking, and how Sling Blade fits within that tale. Thornton and a number of friends, colleagues, and relatives are interviewed for the piece. Clips from his first leading role – Chopper Chicks in Zombietown – are included, as well as outtakes from an early TV show – Hearts Afire – which co-starred John Ritter, who is also interviewed. There is also behind-the-scenes footage from Sling Blade, as the segment gradually transforms from a Thornton profile into a “making-of” featurette, following the process of transforming the original short Some Folks Call It a Sling Blade into a feature film.
- Bravo Profiles: Billy Bob Thornton is another profile of Thornton that originally aired in 2000. Some parts of this featurette are similar to Mr. Thornton Goes to Hollywood, however there are some fresh perspectives that make it well worth a watch. Interview segments include Matt Damon (who starred in All The Pretty Horses) and Thornton’s ex-wife Angelina Jolie.
- Next up on the disc is A Roundtable Discussion with Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, Mickey Jones, and Producer David Bushell, another thorough one-hour plus featurette, in which the two lead actors, co-star Jones, along with producer Bushell, casually discuss making the movie, music, the cast and more.
- The just over 8-minute A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall is a two-man interview, with the two fellow actors recalling how they met and telling stories about working together.
- A Conversation with Robert Duvall is about 7 minutes long, and features Duvall in a one-on-one interview, discussing the success of the film Sling Blade and his relationship with Thornton. The interview doesn’t provide much more than the previous vignette, however, there are some absorbing moments.
- A Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton and Composer Daniel Lanois features the renowned producer/composer Lanois playing a steel guitar and discussing his involvement in the project, along with Thornton.
- The Return of Karl is a short piece featuring Thornton in character as Karl on the set of Daddy and Them, discussing filmmaking with co-star John Prine.
- Next are three pieces of On The Set footage, showing Thornton at work, Doyle’s band, The Johnson’s, rehearsing, and the shooting of Doyle’s big blow-up scene.
- Doyle’s Dead features an introduction by Thompson, of a song that didn’t make the final cut of the film.
The Sling Blade Blu-ray is presented in 1080p High Definition (1.85:1), with bonus features presented 480i Standard Definition, with audio in English 5.1 Uncompressed (48khz / 24-bit); English 5.1, DTS; English, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, with bonus features in English 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
Writer/Director: Billy Bob Thornton
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, James Hampton, Robert Duvall, Rick Dial, Brent Briscoe, Christine Renee Ward
Theatrical Release Date: November 27, 1996
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4, 2009
CLICK HERE to visit our gallery of Sling Blade photos.
Below are video clips from Sling Blade.
Lunch With Vaughn