Billy Bob Thornton turns car wreck past into a film

Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:27am EST
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By Mike Collett-White

BERLIN (Reuters) - When actor-director Billy Bob Thornton was a boy, his father took him to the scene of car crashes to survey the wreckage. Now he has turned his unconventional childhood into a movie.

"Jayne Mansfield's Car" is a dark family comedy that explores how war affects men and how fathers and sons so often fail to communicate.

The picture, warmly applauded at the Berlin film festival on Monday ahead of its world premiere, is the first feature Thornton has directed for over a decade. He also stars.

"If you could say what this movie is about in one sentence, it's about the romanticism of tragedy," Thornton told reporters in Berlin, where the movie is in the main competition.

Jayne Mansfield's Car, a reference to the actress killed in a car crash in 1967, is set in 1969 in southern United States where Robert Duvall's character Jim Caldwell and his middle-aged children live a materially comfortable life.

Son Carroll, played by Kevin Bacon, is a drug-taking hippie and anti-war protester who is a constant source of shame to his gruff, conservative father.

Brother Jimbo is more like his father, while child-like oddball Skip (Thornton) lies somewhere in between.

Jim's ex-wife dies in England, where she remarried and had another family, and when they turn up on the Caldwells' doorstep to attend her U.S. burial, chaos ensues.   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor and director Billy Bob Thornton attends a news conference to promote the movie "Jayne Mansfield's Car" at the 62nd Berlinale International Film Festival in Berlin February 13, 2012. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen</p>