For Thornton, the "Fargo" experience has helped ease the disappointment over the reception of 2012's "Jayne Mansfield's Car," a film he costarred in, wrote and directed. The saga centered on two families — one Southern, the other English — and their interaction after the woman that connected them both dies. He said he was devastated when the film, which also dealt with themes of war, loss and grief, was given only a limited release.

"My career as a writer-director may be over for the time being," he said. "I nearly killed myself getting that movie financed and making it. I did it with heart and soul. But it was killed before it came out. There were bad things written about it on blogs from people who were mad at me for one reason or another."

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In Hollywood, there are invariably other chapters ahead. In addition to what he calls a "fun" cameo in the upcoming "Entourage" movie, he's featured in a Robert Downey Jr.-Robert Duvall film, "The Judge," as well as two other films, "London Fields" and "Cut Bank." (Both of the latter films are awaiting release.)

His private life remains intentionally quiet these days. Thornton, who has been married five times, has a 10-year-old daughter with longtime girlfriend Connie Angland. He said he doesn't miss the Hollywood buzz machine and has achieved a real peace of mind and perspective on his accomplishments.

"I could retire today and be satisfied with what I've done," he said. "But I couldn't retire today and be happy in the future, because I love doing it so much. I love writing songs, and I love working as an actor. Nobody is really going to hear my music, but that's not going to keep me from writing songs and recording them. And in my circle and in many circles in music, I actually have a name that means something, so I do it for those people."

As for his movie career, "I still have enough of an audience where I can still do it for myself and an audience. Maybe not THE audience, but an audience."

greg.braxton@latimes.com

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'Fargo'

Where: FX

When: 10 p.m. Tuesday

Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)