OSCAR winner Billy Bob Thornton misses his candid chats with JOHNNY CASH - even if he was always too terrified to talk to the country legend.

Thornton lost three close friends in a week in September (03) - Cash, Warren Zevon and JOHN RITTER - and each will be sorely missed by the actor, but it's Cash who really made an impact on the movie star.

The SLINGBLADE actor admits it was Cash's phonecalls that helped him cope with his split and divorce from Angelina Jolie.

Thornton tells America's FADE IN magazine, "He talked to me a long time on the phone one day when my ex-wife and I split up. We had a very lengthy discussion about life that day. That meant a lot to me. It was one of the things that got me through that period."

But no matter how many times Billy Bob and Cash chatted and hung out together, the actor never got comfortable around the great man.

He adds, "It was like meeting this big star, this legend, every time you were around him. So when I would be at his house, I would try to fold my napkin correctly, don't f*** up the china. I was just always on guard. I wanted him to like me... I was very shy around him."

11/12/2003 00:13