Billy Bob Thornton
[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Fargo's premiere. If you haven't seen it yet, you might want to have a cup of coffee or piece of pie instead. Have a nice day!]
Fargo's central criminal is ruthless, intimidating... and sports a really lousy haircut.
On Tuesday, FX debuted its new crime comedy based on the Oscar-winning film of the same name and introduced Billy Bob Thornton's character Lorne Malvo, a drifter whose extreme actions are only surpassed by his extreme bangs. Although the Oscar winner had already planned on dyeing his hair and beard dark for the series, the super-short trim initially threw him for a loop. "That was accidental. I got a bad haircut that I couldn't do anything with," he tells TVGuide.com. "It wouldn't comb over. It wouldn't act right, you know? I was looking at myself in the mirror thinking, 'God, what a disaster.'"
Faced with his blunt-cut fringe, Thorton had a moment of inspiration. "I said, 'Hang on a second. This looks like mid-to-late '60s L.A. rock. This looks like the bass player for the Buffalo Springfield.' Speaking of the Buffalo Springfield, Neil Youngactually had that look at one point. So once I put that big coat on and that turtleneck and those bangs and that beard, it's like I was a bass player in a country-rock band in '67 in L.A."
Although that may seem like an odd choice for playing a man who commits murder as casually as he goes to the dry cleaners, it fit in with the series' overall incongruous nature. "It was good because bangs are usually associated with -- if it's not Bettie Page -- innocence. Bangs are innocent," Thornton says. "They're clean-cut. I had bangs when I was in high school. So to have a guy who is this ruthless to have bangs I just thought, 'What a great irony.' So I decided to just go with that instead of fixing it."
Malvo is anything but innocent. In the premiere alone, we see that he's kidnapped one man, stabbed another in the skull, and shot and killed the chief of police in the sleepy town of Bemidji, Minn. It can also be argued that it's his influence that prompts his new acquaintance, mild-mannered insurance salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman), to kill his wife.
Despite all of these transgressions, Malvo is appealing. Maybe it's the lighthearted pranks he likes to play, maybe it's his friendly banter, maybe it's the bangs. "He's sympathetic. A lot of people have told me that as ruthless as this guy is, we can't help but root for him a little bit," Thornton says. "I think it's the dark sense of humor that he has. When he sees stupidity or weakness ... he's got to mess with them. We all want to mess with people in society because people are so screwed up now. You can vicariously live through him."
In a way, Thornton doesn't feel that Malvo can be judged by society's mores of right and wrong. "You can't really compare him to them because he literally lives like an animal. He's part of the animal kingdom," the actor says. "It's like, do we hate polar bears? Polar bears are one of the most dangerous creatures on Earth, but they're on Coke commercials and they look so cute. They're all white and fluffy. And they're just horrible, dangerous predators. But you know, that polar bear doesn't know anything else. Malvo doesn't know anything else. He is a predator and he is an animal. So to say he's right or wrong, it would be like saying a polar bear is wrong."
Right or wrong, good or evil, polar bear or man, Lorne Malvo is one of Fargo's unique and unmistakable creations. "Between the haircut and the kind of clothing I wear, it's iconic," Thornton says. "It's a character that instantly has a stamp on it. It's pretty cool. I like it."
What did you think of the Fargo premiere and Lorne Malvo? Did he win you over? Weigh in below.
Fargoairs Tuesdays at 10/9c on FX.
(Additional reporting by Sadie Gennis.)