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Sling Blade (1996)

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NOTE: This commentary is only available on the June 2005 Director's Cut DVD. A large percentage of this commentary was also available on the Criterion Collection laserdisc, but new sections were recorded for this DVD to cover the scenes added in the director's cut. The original DVD release did not have a commentary track.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Screenwriter/director/actor Billy Bob Thornton Rating:8.0/10 (1 vote) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by iwantmytvm on April 9th, 2020:Find all reviews by iwantmytvm
Thornton delivers a winsome commentary that does more develop often silent stretches in the second half, but these are never rampant.

The compilation here is a little jarring, as it is spliced commentaries from the laserdisc and the director cut for the anniversary edition dvd. Sometimes, he will repeat something he had just stated 10 years earlier - he will explain why it was cut, what maybe did not work in that scene, but often it was pacing, and Thornton admits that he does like to take his time in storytelling, and he does not feel it is indulgent exposition.

He prefers the master shot and not much camera movement or frequent edits in scene, but rather a static portrait shot as he feels this offers valuable reactions from the other characters in the scene that would otherwise not be seen in close-ups. He also has a penchant for framing unusual angles that were sometimes questioned by the crew. He wanted an earthy color pallete like the film Hoosiers, and sought to avoid using the color red. The sound work during producation was strong, so very few lines had to be looped.

He speaks to his inspirations for the Carl character, and the wardrobe, basing the speech pattern on some old men he knew, that this is what he found to be a standard Arkansas haircut from one barber he visited. He reveals his writing process, how he worked on the script over a period of months while he was involved in the tv series Hearts Afire, and even some of the music he listened to while writing.

It was an honor for him to be working with his mentor, Robert Duvall, and defends casting him in a small part, because the best actors, like Duvall, and J.T. Walsh give the best of themselves in small roles, eliminating another possible worry for a first time director as Thornton was for this film.

As scenes play out, he reveals what parts of the story were autobiographical or based on someone he knew, he notes cast members he knew from tv or childhood, some never acted before, calls attention to favorite lines, as well as the emotional or logistical challenges accompanying certain scenes.

Various anecdotes: someone actually wanting their lawnmower fixed at the non-functional fix-it shop they created for the film, Lucas Black wanted to be a professional bass fisherman, Thornton used to eat potted meat until he read the label, he once had a band something like the group assembled by the Yoakam character for the jam session. Thornton riffed with Jim Jarmusch to come up with unique names for menu items at the Tastee Freeze. He risked catastrophy by giving wine to the other actors ahead of the dinner scene. Cutting into a cactus provided the most realistic sound for the lawn mower blade slicing into someone or something... He recalls who ended up with various props from the film.