"Faster" times with Billy Bob

Billy Bob Thornton has played a lot of characters — astronaut (Armageddon), prison guard (Monster’s Ball), lecherous conman (Bad Santa), gangster (The Ice Harvest), simple-minded avenger (Sling Blade), Davy Crockett (The Alamo), president (Love, Actually), even air traffic controller (Pushing Tin), where he met his ex-wife Angelina Jolie.

Not a whole lotta cops, though, except for a 2002 indie called The Badge. “That didn’t exactly set the world on fire,” acknowledges Thornton from New York. “Cops are something that actors do a lot of. I admit, it’s odd that I haven’t.” You can’t blame a guy for not wanting to be typecast, but Thornton, 55, is a natural in Faster, as a soon-to-retire, seen-it-all lawman on Dwayne Johnson’s trail. What was the attraction? “There have been movies with charac- ters like this before,” Thornton says. “He’s worn out and gone over to the dark side a little bit, lost his family, gotten into drugs.”

The film reminded Thornton of some of his favorites, like The Verdict with Paul Newman as a down and out lawyer who resurrects himself with a case, and Bullitt with Steve McQueen. ‘‘Faster is a kind of throwback,” Thorn- ton says. “But it’s got a very contemporary style in terms of how quickly it’s cut.” Working with The Rock was more fun than it looked. “He’s such a nice guy,” the Arkansas native says. “When people see someone that hulking they think, ‘Wow I bet he’s scary,’ but he’s nothing like that.”

Faster is out Wednesday.


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