Billy Bob Thornton elicited boos and catcalls last night at Massey
Hall as he attempted to explain his bizarre behaviour during an
interview on CBC Radio on Wednesday.
Referring to Jian Ghomeshi, the host of CBC Radio's Q,
as an "a--hole," the Oscar-winning actor turned musician interrupted
his band's set three songs in to give his side of the story.
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commenting on the beautiful theatre and the legendary performer they
were opening for (Willie Nelson), Thornton said, "It seems as if when I
say something it's in the news."
When that drew boos, Thornton
continued: "Boo all you want, but I want to say something.... We're
really happy to be here, but I need to say something. I talked to this
"I sat down and talked with this guy. He and
his producers say, `We promise you we won't say that' (meaning
references to Thornton's acting career). The very first thing they said
"I don't really like sensationalism," he added. "If you
look someone in the eyes and promise them something, and you don't do
it, you don't get the interview. That's the way it goes."
explanation was met by further boos and catcalls of, "Here comes the
gravy," a reference to Thornton's description of Canadian audiences as
"mashed potatoes with no gravy" during his interview with Ghomeshi.
Before the show, Thornton told a Star
reporter that he "loves Canada." When asked what he meant by the mashed
potatoes comment, Thornton, wearing a thick layer of skin-tone facial
makeup and sucking on a cigarette, said: "I was talking about the guy
who was interviewing me."
The interview, which featured Thornton
claiming he didn't know what some of Ghomeshi's questions meant,
responding to others with non-sequiturs, then chastising Ghomeshi for
referring to the actor's film career, has gone viral.
600,000 viewers had watched the clip on YouTube by 8 p.m. yesterday,
while a CBC spokesperson said the network had received roughly 3,700
blog responses and emails. Before last night's show, the second in
which the Boxmasters opened for Nelson and Ray Price, several fans were
miffed at Thornton's radio performance.
"He's an a--hole," said Nick Goodman of Aurora. "He was probably drinking backstage or something."
Duckworth of Toronto said he likes Thornton as a comedian and actor,
but "I couldn't care less what he thinks. If I want to get up and
dance, that's my choice," he added, a reference to Thornton's comment
that Canadians just sort of sit there.
"If Billy Bob doesn't like it, he should quit."
could not be reached for comment last night. Earlier yesterday, he said
it was one of the most difficult interviews he's ever done and he was
taken aback at Thornton's strange responses (sample: when Ghomeshi
asked when the Boxmasters were formed, Thornton answered, "I'm not sure
what that means").
Ghomeshi also said it would have been
irresponsible to his audience not to mention Thornton's acting past
during his introduction (he did not ask any questions about acting
during the interview).
"Our policy is that we don't allow anybody
to tell us what we can and cannot say," said Ghomeshi. "Beyond that, it
was this notion and the language that he used during the interview that
I thought was unfortunate, that we were `instructed' to say this and
that. And I think that does raise interesting questions about ideas
around how much journalism is to be controlled, especially when it
comes to arts and entertainment and culture, and I think that that's a
"The reality is, and I tried to explain this in the
interview, these guys have only been together for two years. You just
don't get the kind of national press they are getting without the
incentive being something like his career past.... And I think if he
could graciously accept that and say, `Hey, I want to focus on the
music, but I get that the reason we're here is because I'm a movie star
that's won an Oscar.' There's not a lot of people who can say that."
Ghomeshi felt like he was "in the middle of a tsunami" yesterday. He
was being interviewed by media around the world. "The nice thing is the
reaction that I'm getting from journalists around the world that is
really kind of sweet, but it is all very odd ... and a lot of people,
especially in this country, seemed to support the way I did things," he
said. "Maybe it was a little Canadian to be polite, but I can live with
Thornton's interview was being compared to the recent
Joaquin Phoenix appearance, in which the actor turned rapper sulked
through a chat on Late Show With David Letterman.