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‘Blade’ cuts through competish

A self-described hillbilly named Billy Bob beat out William Shakespeare and a host of literary stalwarts (his competish included adaptations of works by Booker Prize-winning novelist Michael Ondaatje, playwright Arthur Miller and Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh) to take home the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “Sling Blade,” based on his original play.

Moreover, Thornton’s win over such august competition marks the first time the screenplay award has gone to a film not nominated for best pic as well. Rarely does a film like “Sling Blade,” the smallest-grossing of the five nominees, win the adapted screenplay award.

Thornton boiled his craft down to his earthy roots: “This writing deal, it’s really important. If you got no script, you got no movie.”

Thornton said it took him two months to finish “Sling Blade,” spending only seven days actually writing it. “The most difficult part of it was writing Dwight Yoakam’s abusive boyfriend part, because I like to write for characters I like and don’t like to write for characters I don’t like.”

Asked by one of the press corps how he maintains the hillbilly, Thornton, who seemed foreign even to the domestic press, responded, “You don’t really maintain being a hillbilly, it’s something you can’t really help.”

Thornton said he’s writing and developing two projects for Shooting Gallery, the Gotham-based indie which pro-duced “Sling Blade,” but isn’t sure which of the two he’ll do first.

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