An independent road movie about a "guy who's on a road trip and picks up this girl along the way" might not sound like a surefire smash at the box office - unless the hitchhiker in question happens to be based on one of the most famous women in the world.
Representatives for Billy Bob Thornton were yesterday forced to deny that the Oscar-winning film-maker and actor's forthcoming movie, And Then We Drove, is based on his short-lived but much-documented relationship with Angelina Jolie, who he was married to between 2000 and 2003. An unnamed source close to the production told Variety that Thornton's romance with Jolie was the basis for the film, and the story was later confirmed by producer Alexander Rodnyansky during an interview at the Berlin festival.
Rodnyansky told Variety: "I found the story amazing. It's a pretty new combination of genres to put into one movie. It's based on his personal experiences in many ways." Thornton himself described the film as being about "a guy who's on a road trip and picks up this girl along the way, and what happens to them. It's about the question of life, 'What is this? Where do I fit in?'"
A rep for Thornton later said: "This story is not true. It is neither based on nor inspired by his relationship with Angelina."
The Thornton-Jolie romance was a subject of much media speculation at the time due to the difference in the actors' ages - she was 24 while he was 44 - and a rumour that each wore a vial of the other's blood as a mark of commitment. During a press conference at the festival to promote his current film Jayne Mansfield's Car, which is screening in competition, Thornton said he and his ex-wife remained good friends. "Angelina's a wonderful woman and one of my best friends in the world," he said. "When people split up, people like to make up stories about how they are against each other. Well, this was never true, it never has been and never will be, and I'll love her until the end of my life and she'll love me – as friends."
Thornton also told the Vulture blog he had "no idea" where the story came from.
"My manager told me this last night," he said. "He's Angelina's manager, too. He goes, 'You didn't say any of this, did you?' And I said, 'The only press I've done was this press conference, and you were there. Everyone heard what I said at the press conference.' I mean, I was asked about Angelina because her film was playing here, if I'm gonna see her and I said, 'I hope so', or something like that.
"I would never make a movie about my best friend, either, or any other ex of mine, or something. That's not my bag. I don't mind exposing myself, but I'm certainly not gonna make a movie about someone else."
Jayne Mansfield's Car, Thornton's first film as writer-director in more than a decade, is set in the American south in 1969 and stars Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall and Robert Patrick, as well as Thornton himself. The Guardian's Andrew Pulver called it "a polished, intelligent character drama".
Thornton also revealed in Berlin that he is set to star in a sequel to offbeat 2003 festive comedy Bad Santa, with the film currently pencilled in for a Christmas 2013 release date. "The writer is still working on the script, he's doing his rewrite right now," said the Arkansas-born actor. "We saw the first draft and we just had a few little things we wanted to take away or add and he's doing that." Thornton, who won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay in 1996 for Sling Blade and was nominated for best actor the same year, will reprise his role as alcoholic thief Willie T Stokes, who works as a mall Santa each December.
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