Feature: Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder talk School For Scoundrels

Note: This article was originally published in Technician on September 28, 2006.


A tale of two 'Scoundrels'

It's hard to imagine two actors that contrast as much as Billy Bob Thornton and Jon Heder. One is an Oscar-award winner known for his dramatic roles. The other is a newcomer to Hollywood who burst onto the scene in a screwball comedy. However, the actors are teaming up in School For Scoundrels, the latest comedy directed by Todd Phillips (Road TripOld School). Yet though their acting styles are tremendously different, both found the concept of the film appealing and intriguing.

"School For Scoundrels was a well-written script and I like Todd Phillips," Thornton said. "It's funny because I've always wanted to play a teacher in a movie, like maybe a college professor or something like that. But, in more of a drama and something really depicting school life the way it really is, and it's just kind of odd that I ended up playing up a teacher like this."

Heder said he was looking to get out of Napoleon's shadows by playing a character that has a conflict.

"You know the nerds and the dorks out there have a lot of conflict. So, I guess I'm attracted to those characters more," Heder said.

The film follows a shy, dorky young man who attends a confidence-building class, but ends up competing with the teacher for the affections of a girl. Both Heder and Thornton said they related to the idea of working hard for a girl's attention.

"The farthest I ever went was I tried to draw a picture of the woman who is now my wife," Heder said. "It wasn't as good as I thought it'd be. But I ended up getting married to her so I guess that some of it worked."

Competition was something else both men were familiar with, particularly Thornton.

"I had a girl once that I really liked that another girl went after," he said. "But I kind of liked it."

One of the key scenes in the film involves a paintball competition. Heder was closest to the action and, at times, had to risk injury for the good of the film.

"We did shoot real paintballs but we had body armor that was kind of formed to our bodies underneath our clothes. I ended up taking on a lot of the armor off, though, because it was pretty uncomfortable, and I had a number of large-sized welts on my body after that," Heder said.

Thorton said he was pretty happy because he didn't have to get shot.

"All I had to do was stand there and bark out orders and shoot somebody, so it was pretty easy for me," Thornton said. "It was especially fun because I got to shoot him at close range."

Though the film has a strong comedic tone, it also marks Heder's first real venture as a romantic lead. In the film, his character falls for the girl, played by Jacinda Barrett, who lives in the apartment down the hall from him.

"It wasn't too bad. She was a lot of fun to work with," Heder said. "She was kind of like a sister in some ways, and she was actually pretty foul. She tells a lot of dirty jokes and I think that breaks the tension a little bit."

Both actors said they have various projects lined up after the release of School For Scoundrels. Heder has a few comedies and an animated film he is currently working on, while Thornton is acting in three dramas. However, both men said they still have roles they wish they'll be offered in the future.

"I've always wanted to play a midget," Thornton said.

Heder, on the other hand, said he wants to try his hand in some dramas.

"I want to be the next James Bond," Heder said.