By Leah Rozen
March 03, 1997 12:00 PM

>Dwight Yoakam


Dwight Yoakam, 40, has a new career—and wardrobe. In the acclaimed independent film Sling Blade, the swaggering country star plays the drunken and abusive Doyle Hargraves—”a despicable character,” Yoakam says, who crosses paths with a mildly retarded man played by writer-director Billy Bob Thornton—and he does the role without the benefit of his trademark getup of hat and skintight jeans. For the cowpunk turned actor, Sling Blade is the first feature that hasn’t gone almost directly to video. But if the critics are right, it won’t likely be his last. Hey, he even lives in L.A.

How did you get the role in Sling Blade?

Billy Bob Thornton came to see me in a concert several years ago and told someone he thought I would become an actor. He sent me the script, and I realized Doyle was the kind of character I might find fascinating because he was wrestling with all of his emotions. I don’t feel that I’m personally like Doyle—he’s a bully—but I have known guys like Doyle.

What kinds of things drew you into acting in the first place?

It is a different form of emotional expression. Song writing and performing tend to push me further into myself. Film acting allows me to move away from exclusively drawing on personal experience.

Do you prefer making movies to doing concerts?

Right now I’m about evenly divided between the two. It’s tough to yell, “Cut!” onstage: “Can I do that song one more time for you? Although the guitarist played an excellent solo on it, and I did a good job on the first verse, I lost my focus and I’d really like to do it again.” Now there’s a concept for radically honest live performance.