Breathing life into a subdued 'Man'

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PROS: Extensive 2001 body of work; has gotten raves.

CONS: Will so many pics water down his chances?

Though Billy Bob Thornton is no stranger to minimalist performances — indeed, 1996’s “Sling Blade,” which single-handedly launched him into public consciousness, was a study in minimalism — he gives almost new meaning to the word with what he does in “The Man Who Wasn’t There.”

Ed Crane, whom Thornton says “doesn’t move a lot because he’s not sure he’s there,” was only one of three standout characters in 2001. His current perf as the corrections officer in “Monster’s Ball” is receiving solid reviews while in “Bandits,” he took a more congenial approach that played well with auds.

Thornton had long wanted to work with the Coen brothers, but admitted bringing Ed Crane to life was slightly nerve-racking.

“I didn’t want to be the only guy who’d ever screwed up one of their movies,” he laughs, modestly. “You always feel like you don’t want to let people down and that was especially true here because I love (their work) so much.”

To prepare for the role, which he committed to when all he knew was that he’d be playing a barber who wants to be in the dry-cleaning business, Thornton practiced on a few heads at Dirty Dan’s Clip Joint outside of L.A.

“You were a lucky customer if you were one of the later ones,” he admits. “The first few I didn’t do as well.”

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