''I'm not comparing myself to Davy Crockett,'' swears Billy Bob Thornton, who plays the coonskin-capped ex-congressman in ''The Alamo,'' a big-screen take on Texas' most famous siege. ''I never killed a 'bar' when I was 3. But John Lee Hancock told me he'd read a lot about Crockett, and he said we're the same guy, really. He grew up in the woods; I grew up in the woods. He was outgoing. Same personalities.''
Thornton & Co. are dead serious about forging unsentimental re-creations of the so-called ''Holy Trinity'' -- the womanizer William Travis (''Angels in America'''s Patrick Wilson), the shifty, tubercular soldier of fortune Jim Bowie (Jason Patric), and the washed-up politician Crockett -- who fought alongside nearly 200 other defenders against thousands of Mexican soldados under the command of General Santa Anna (Emilio Echevarria) and perished en masse in the final battle on March 6, 1836.
But despite the movie's giant canvas, the actors say their set felt like a small town. Maybe that's because it was one: a 51-acre compound -- complete with the Alamo mission (reproduced stone for stone), the entire village of Bexar (a.k.a. modern-day San Antonio), and a river the crew could turn on and off at will.
''Alamo'''s original director, Ron Howard, clashed with Disney over budget and an R rating, and opted to helm Sony's moody Western thriller ''The Missing'' instead (see page 90). He retained a producer credit and handed the reins to Hancock, whose first major directing job was 2002's ''The Rookie.'' As a bonus, the native Texan brought along his own improved script. ''He grew up with this stuff. It's in his heart,'' says Wilson. ''He feels a responsibility not a lot of directors would feel.''
Of course, Texans remember the Alamo better than anyone -- and for the actors, matching that passion meant getting deeply attached to their roles. ''I didn't want it to be over. I don't want to quit playing Davy Crockett,'' laments Thornton. ''Unfortunately, there's no sequel to this one.''
The Killer Moment What, you don't remember?