Billy Bob Thornton says his frustration at the state of films in America prompted him to direct his first feature in more than a decade, the 1960s family drama "Jayne Mansfield's Car."
Thornton, 56, previously directed "All the Pretty Horses" and "Sling Blade," which won him an Oscar for best screenplay. On Monday, he brought the new movie to the Berlin International Film Festival for its premiere — it's one of 18 films competing for the festival's Golden Bear award.
The cast includes Thornton himself, John Hurt, Robert Duvall and Kevin Bacon.
Set in Alabama in 1969, it depicts the clash of culture and personalities that arises after a woman who left her American husband for an Englishman years earlier dies, and her English family goes to America to fulfill her wish to be buried in her homeland. Feeding the tensions are disagreements over the conflict in Vietnam.
Thornton said the meeting of the two families offers a way into "the real subject, which is how different generations view war, how different generations are affected by war, and how that affects the family."
"I was complaining a lot about the state of movies in America," Thornton told reporters at the festival. So "instead of complaining, I decided to just write one and direct it, and it's a story that I'd had in my head for a long time."
"One of the things that's wrong with movies today is they try to squeeze people into roles who don't belong there simply because of their popularity," Thornton said, adding that he may now go on to direct more films.
"If I can keep making movies like this I will do it, but I probably won't direct the next Star Trek movie or anything like that."