Billy Bob Thornton Says He ‘Ad-Libbed’ Parts of His Iconic ‘Friday Night Lights’ Speech After a Friend Betrayed Him ‘The Night Before’

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)

Following his co-star Tim McGraw’s lead, Billy Bob Thornton took a look back at his time on the set of his 2004 film Friday Night Lights and revealed a few things about his role. 

During an interview with Lights, Camera, Pod, the Friday Night Lights star revealed that he actually ad-libbed parts of his well-known speech from the sports movie after a falling out with a friend the day before shooting. “The night before, a friend of mine betrayed me in a way I can’t describe,” Thornton declared. 

The Friday Night Lights castmate continued, “So all that stuff about when you get down, and you can look at that guy next to you, look him in the eye, and all that kind of stuff. And know that you’re telling him the truth. That you’re there for him 100%. So that’s where all that stuff came from.”

He also recalled telling the Friday Night Lights crew that he was pretty upset and asked if anyone minded if he went off the script a little bit. “So, a lot of that was a direct result of a betrayal the night before.”

Friday Night Lights follows the head coach and players of a high school football team in Odessa, Texas. The movie is based on H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 novel Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream. The book follows the 1988 Permian High School Panthers football team as they make their way to the state championship. 

The movie made its debut in theaters in October 2004. Its TV show adaption premiere in October 2006.

Billy Bob Thornton Opens Up About His Role in ‘Friday Night Lights’ 

During a 2004 interview with Today, Billy Bob Thornton shared some interesting details about his experience in sports and what drew him to the Friday Night Lights role. “I’ve always wanted to [do a sports movie]. My dad was a high school basketball coach, and I was a baseball player in high school. So I grew up in sports and just a big fan. Always have been.”

Billy Bob Thornton also discussed how the Friday Night Lights project was picked up. “Hollywood is pretty fickle. And you never know what they’re going to respond to or what the circumstances are. Sometimes it’s simply that it didn’t come together because they tried to make deals with various people. And they didn’t work out or whatever.”

Thornton also noted that Friday Night Lights isn’t just about football, it’s about achieving dreams. “It is the dream of – of the town. The sort of collective dream, and a lot of individual dreams. There’s some people who never quite made it there, and – and do live vicariously through these players and the coaches. They’re really revered.”