PASADENA, Calif. _ Billy Bob Thornton has seen some pretty wild and crazy things in his day, but wasn't prepared for what he saw last November in Calgary.

The Oscar winner, in Alberta shooting the upcoming series based on the hit Coen brothers' movie 'Fargo,' was attending a CFL playoff game.

"I gotta tell you something," Thornton said Monday night at a Fox Network evening event during the Television Critics Association press tour. "Those Roughrider fans are insane."

He was expecting Canadian football fans, "to be a little bit more reserved." Instead, he was surrounded by folks, "with no clothes on painted green and they had watermelons on their heads. They're tailgating in sub-zero temperatures with no clothes on!"

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  • <em><strong>11 ways the Grey Cup is better than the Super Bowl!</strong></em>

  • 1. It's the oldest sports trophy in the continent

    The Grey Cup turns 101 years young on Sunday. The Super Bowl is still a petulant child of 47.

  • 1. It's the oldest sports trophy in the continent

    Yes, there are much more comfortable and beautiful arenas than Maple Leaf Gardens and almost every stadium in the world is in better shape than Rome's Coliseum but nothing compares to the feeling of setting foot in one of those storied shrines to sport. It's the same with the Grey Cup trophy. There is so much history and human experienced carved into that cup that hoisting it is almost like hoisting the history of a nation. -Photo: 1956 Grey Cup victory

  • 2. It's about the game, not the spectacle surrounding it

  • 2. It's about the game, not the spectacle surrounding it

    <strong><em>Yes, the Grey Cup has had its fair share of interesting half-time shows but the talk before, and after, the show is not about who will be performing, about the possible or confirmed nip slip or that really cool VW commercial. When it comes to the Grey Cup, talk centres around the game... or maybe the weather.</em></strong>

  • 3. It's a REALLY good looking cup!

  • 3. It's a REALLY good looking cup!

    While the designers of the Super Bowl's Vince Lombardi Trophy didn't have to go past the image of a football for their , ahem, football trophy, the Grey Cup is truly a thing of beauty that holds its own, in terms of esthetic magnificence, against any other trophy in professional sports.

  • 4. Fans tune in for the plays, not the commercials

  • 4. Fans tune in for the plays, not the commercials

    The Super Bowl really has taken on an air that the big game, and even the half-time acts, are all just vehicles to sell the most expensive on-air spots in the world. The Grey Cup, however, has really become a vehicle for a big a party, a week of lead-up shenanigans and some nail-biting action on the grid iron. Nothing is written in stone going into the Grey Cup. The Canadian game is too unpredictable to call, as are the off-field shenanigans before and during the game.

  • 5. The Grey Cup is played all across the country and in any CFL city willing to host it

  • 5. The Grey Cup is played all across the country and in any CFL city willing to host it

    The Super Bowl, on the other hand, is normally held in <a href="http://thegatewayonline.ca/article/view/2861" target="_blank">warm climes or in cities with large capacity domed stadiums</a>. Seems like cuddling those who are supposed to be the toughest athletes in professional sports. In the end, the harshness of the weather lends as much a character to the contest as fans' willingness to endure it for the love of the game.

  • 6. The Grey Cup celebrates a league that, unlike the NFL, was never 'overtly and institutionally racist'

  • 6. The Grey Cup celebrates a league that, unlike the NFL, was never 'overtly and institutionally racist'

    <blockquote>And one of the things (The CFL) was not, at least in its public actions, was overtly and institutionally racist. So black quarterbacks and “skilled position” players got a chance here long before they did in the U.S. pro leagues, where the unspoken, but very real, prejudice was that they didn’t have the required cultural background or, frankly, mental tool set.</blockquote> -<a href="http://www.thespec.com/sports-story/2262268-grey-cup-symbolizes-differences-between-canada-and-our-neighbour-to-th/" target="_blank">thespec.com</a>

  • 7. Canadian rules

    They really do make for a faster, more unpredictable game.

  • 7. Canadian rules

    Ever wondered why there's so many mentions of miracles in the Super Bowl? Every time a team overcomes a substantial deficit, they call it a miracle. And they are right. It's so hard to do, due to American rules, that it does almost require a miracle to push ahead again. Much less so in Canadian rules, where teams have to work hard to keep determined opponents from making up lost ground. Anything can and does happen, right to the last minute. And that brings us to...

  • 8. The 13th man

    Let's talk unpredictable and nail-biting to the bitter end.

  • 8. The 13th man

    This finish is now lore in the CFL, a marquis moment of the Grey Cup and has engrained itself in Canadian sports history, reaching iconic sports status. The 13th man has become as interwined with our sport as the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijOjRTqPICk" target="_blank">Rumble in the Jungle </a>or the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argentina_v_England_%281986_FIFA_World_Cup%29" target="_blank">Hand of God</a>, have become within their respective sports.

  • 9. Melon Heads

    'Nuff said

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    From their willingness to expose themselves to the kinds of cold that could literally kill lesser human beings, to their crazy antics (Rider Nations' watermelon hats, or the crazy horse antics of Stampeders fans) CFL fans will travel long distances, clear entire days off their calendars and wear the most ridiculous outfits while taking part in the most ridiculous acts because that is what a good Grey Cup festival demands.

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    ...and then there's this guy.

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    ...And this guy

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    And this ... guy?

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    ...and these guys.

  • 10. Grey Cup fans

    ...and these guys...

  • 11. It's all ours!

The colder-than-usual winter has proven challenging for Arkansas native Thornton and other U.S.-born 'Fargo' cast members. The 58-year-old actor stars along with Colin Hanks, Martin Freeman ('The Hobbit'), Bob Odenkirk and Kate Walsh in the 10-episode, limited run drama, which is currently in production in Calgary.

It is scheduled to premiere in the U.S. on April 15 on FX and the same day in Canada on the new specialty network FXX.

"One night, it went down to 40 below and they wouldn't allow us to work," he says. "You figure if a Canadian says it's too dangerous to go out there, it probably is too dangerous to go out."

Contrary to the impression he left after a 2009 CBC radio interview where he sparred with host Jian Ghomeshi, Thornton could not have been more charming, straightforward or accommodating than he was at press tour.

His career has taken him "all over Canada," he says.

"I love Saskatoon, and I think Calgary seems more like the kind of people I grew up around more than any other place in Canada. I feel real comfortable there."

One of three movies he has coming out this year, 'Cut Bank' (co-starring Liam Hemsworth and John Malkovich), was shot in Edmonton. The other movies are 'The Judge,' with Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, and 'London Fields.'

Thornton says he's shot six movies with Duvall and considers him one of his mentors. He's never worked with Jack Nicholson but that would be on his bucket list, although, "the first thing on my bucket list is to not have a bucket list just yet."

Thornton is one of several movie stars - Matthew McConaughey being another in HBO's 'True Detective' - embracing the new trend toward limited TV series work.

"When I was coming up in the '80s, if you did television, that means that there was something wrong," he says. "Now if you do television, it means something's right."

Thornton likes that the limited series means he's through with 'Fargo' after these 10 episodes and can easily return to features. FX network CEO John Landgraf told critics Tuesday that if the series returns, it will be as an anthology, with a different cast and characters each season.

Thornton feels a bit squeezed out of the kind of smart, intimate independent feature films he specializes in since they just aren't being made for cinemas any more. "I'm not the guy who stars in 'Spider-Man' and things like that. I'm also not a 25-year-old model who's a vampire."

So when executive producers Joel and Ethan Coen - who cast Thornton as the lead in their 2001 feature 'The Man Who Wasn't There' - approached him to be part of the TV version of 'Fargo,' the actor jumped at the opportunity.

He praised series writer Noah Hawley for finding just the right voice for the series. "If you didn't know the Coen brothers didn't write it you would think that they did."

Set in snowy North Dakota, the TV version of 'Fargo' features different characters than the 1996 film. Freeman plays a down-on-his-luck insurance salesman whose life is changed when he meets Thornton's character.

"When you see it, you'll understand when I say there's no real way I can describe my character," says Thornton. The series "reveals things so slowly, so darkly humorous and in such a sinister way that there's very little you could say. I put it to you this way - I'm the mysterious stranger from out of town."

-Bill Brioux, The Canadian Press