Nationality: American. Born: San Saba, Texas, 15 September 1946. Education: Attended Saint Mark's School, Dallas; Harvard University, B.A. in English Literature, 1969. Family: Married 1) Kate Lardner (divorced); 2) Kimberlea Cloughley (divorced), 1981, children: Austin and Victoria. Career: 1969—Broadway stage debut in A Patriot for Me ; 1970—film debut in Love Story ; 1971–75—appeared in TV soap One Life to Live ; mid-1970s—began appearing in numerous TV movies and theatrical films; earlier TV and film work is highlighted by performances in Coal Miner's Daughter , 1980, and as Gary Gilmore in The Executioner's Song (TV), 1982; 1989—appearance in the highly acclaimed mini series Lonesome Dove helps
Love Story (Hiller) (as Hank); Eliza's Horiscope (Sheppard) (as Tommy)
Life Study (Nebbia) (as Gus)
Smash-Up on Interstate 5 (Moxey—for TV); Jackson County Jail (Miller) (as Coley Blake); Charlie's Angels (Moxey—for TV)
Rolling Thunder (Flynn) (as Johnny Vohden); The Amazing Howard Hughes (William A. Graham—for TV) (title role)
Eyes of Laura Mars (Kershner) (as John Neville); The Betsy (Petrie) (as Angelo Perino)
Coal Miner's Daughter (Apted) (as Doolittle "Mooney" Lynn); The Barn Burning (Werner—for TV)
Back Roads (Ritt) (as Elmore Pratt)
The Executioner's Song (Schiller—for TV) (as Gary Gilmore); The Rainmaker (for TV)
Nate and Hayes (Fairfax) (as Captain Bully Hayes)
The River Rat (Rickman) (as Billy)
The Park Is Mine (Steven Hilliard Stern—for TV) (as Mitch); Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Hofsiss—for TV) (as Brick)
Yuri Nosenko, KGB (Jackson—for TV); Black Moon Rising (Cokliss) (as Quint)
Broken Vows (Taylor—for TV); The Big Town (Bolt) (as George Cole)
Stranger on My Land (Elikann—for TV); Stormy Monday (Figgis) (as Cosmo); Gotham (Fonvielle—for TV) (as Eddie Mallard); April Morning (Delbert Mann) (as Moses Cooper)
The Package (Andrew Davis) (as Thomas Boyette)
Fire Birds (David Green) (as Brad Little)
JFK (Oliver Stone) (as Clay Shaw)
Under Siege (Andrew Davis) (as William Strannix)
House of Cards (Lessac) (as Jake Beerlander); Heaven and Earth (Oliver Stone) (as Steve Butler); The Fugitive (Andrew Davis) (as U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard)
Cobb (Shelton) (title role); Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone) (as Dwight McCloskey); Blue Sky (Richardson—produced in 1990) (as Hank Marshall); Blown Away (Hopkins) (as Ryan Gaerity); The Client (Schumacher) (as Roy Foltrigg)
Batman Forever (Schumacher) (as D.A. Harvey "Two-Face" Dent)
Men in Black (Sonnenfeld) (Kay)
U.S. Marshals (Baird) (as Chief Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard); Small Soldiers (Dante) (voice of Major Chip Hazard)
Rules of Engagement (Friedkin) (as Colonel Hayes Hodges); Double Jeopardy (Beresford) (Travis Lehman)
Space Cowboys (Eastwood) (as Willian "Hawk" Hawkins)
1995 The Good Old Boys (for TV) (+ ro as Huey Calloway, co-sc)
Interview with Carole Zucker, in Figures of Light: Actors and Directors Illuminate the Art of Film Acting , New York, 1994.
Interview with Gavin Smith, in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1994.
"Onward and Upward with the Arts: Keeping up with Mr. Jones," interview with Lillian Ross, in New Yorker , 4 April 1994.
Interview with E. Kelton, in Interview , June 1995.
"Batman Forever," interview with Laurent Bouzereau, in Écran Fantastique (Paris), July/August 1995.
"Last of the Red Hot Lavas," interview with David Eimer, in Time Out (London), 1 October 1997.
Marill, Alvin H., The Films of Tommy Lee Jones , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1996.
Swartz, Mimi, "The Fugitive: Tommy Lee Jones," in Texas Monthly , October 1993.
Hample, Henry S., "Tommy Lee Jones," in Premiere (New York), January 1994.
Current Biography 1995 , New York, 1995.
Sragow, Michael, "Fan Letter: Tommy Lee Jones," in Modern Review (London), February/March 1995.
Matthews, Peter, "12 Distinct Species of Maniacal Laughter," in Sight & Sound (London), July 1997.
* * *
Tommy Lee Jones is capable of ferociously intense performances that verge on the extreme. Because of this, it is often easy to overlook his extraordinary range as an actor. Jones has shifted easily among film, television, and theater in a career that spans more than 25 years and often alternates between flamboyant and more understated roles. Recently associated with larger than life (some might say cartoonish) roles such as Ty Cobb in Cobb , "Two-Face" in Batman Returns , and Dwight McCloskey in Natural Born Killers , Jones appeared in nearly15 films from 1989 through 1995 making him easily one of the busiest actors in Hollywood.
Always an actor of intelligence with a powerful screen presence, Jones's career in the mid to late 1970s yielded some interesting work from such exploitation fare as Jackson County Jail to the more ambitious Rolling Thunder and Eyes of Laura Mars . It does seem that the first phase of his career had more than its share of country-boy parts, killers, and "heavies."
An early turning point was his appearance in Michael Apted's Coal Miner's Daughter . Although Sissy Spacek garnered most of the critical attention and an Academy Award, Jones's understated portrayal of Doolittle "Mooney" Lynn gave the film a realistic center it otherwise lacked. His next key performance was his intense turn as Gary Gilmore in the television adaptation of Norman Mailer's The Executioner's Song , a film whose direction was not up to the imaginative performance of its leading man.
The 1980s seem to have been something of an unfocused time for the actor. He made his share of ordinary films and his career seemed as if it would not fulfill its early promise. He alternated between serious fare such as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (television), playing Brick to Jessica Lange's Maggie and Rip Torn's Big Daddy, and action films such as Black Moon Rising , and familiar psycho roles such as The Park Is Mine (television). Jones's career seemed to be floundering. The turning point came with his beautifully understated performance in the highly acclaimed mini series Lonesome Dove . His exquisitely detailed performance as the withdrawn Woodrow Call plays against Robert Duvall's more extroverted Gus with great subtlety. The performance reminded audiences that Jones was an actor of considerable range whose talents had been wasted in too many unremarkable films.
This range is clearly displayed in his astonishing performance as the elegant, refined Clay Shaw in Oliver Stone's controversial JFK , a role that would garner Jones an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. This performance illustrates how physical his work as an actor is and how he uses props and makeup (in this case cigarette and white wig) to good effect. Jones thoroughly inhabits the masochistic Shaw with especially good use of speech rhythms that are both Louisiana-bound and pure Tommy Lee Jones. The actor strings together long sentences without seeming to come up for air, and occasionally shifts to a higher vocal pitch in a performance that rivets the audience's attention.
Jones's appearance as the deranged rocker/terrorist William Strannix in Under Siege confirmed that the actor was now commercially bankable. His rich, focused performance (along with Andrew Davis's skillful direction) elevated the film several notches above the usually monotonous, Steven Seagal action picture. Jones was reunited with Davis (for a third time) in the hugely successful Harrison Ford vehicle The Fugitive , playing the determined Samuel Gerard. The film won Jones the most critical acclaim of his career, and he received an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor for his efforts. This last performance spurred Gavin Smith to ask "Is it only the character or also Tommy Lee Jones up there, funnier, faster and smarter than everybody else."
At this point Jones's career entered overdrive and he risked serious overexposure. He worked twice more with Oliver Stone in the 1990s. He gave an underrated performance in the critical and commercial flop Heaven and Earth , and appeared in the controversial Natural Born Killers in a role that seems excessive but is in keeping with every other aspect of the film. He appeared in several high-profile, big-budget films with director Joel Schumacher, The Client and Batman Forever ; gave an extravagantly flamboyant performance as Ty Cobb in Cobb , and once more essayed the action genre in Blown Away . Tony Richardson's understated Blue Sky was also released in this period (three years after it was made) to remind audiences that Jones could still play realistic characters with honest emotions. Finally, Jones appeared in, and made his directorial debut, in the earnest but unremarkable The Good Old Boys , a television film he also co-wrote.
Luckily, throughout this period of intense activity Jones's inventiveness and range are always on view. Tommy Lee Jones may not be the prettiest actor working in Hollywood with his rough-hewn face and slightly threatening presence, but he is unquestionably one of the best. The fact that he is only at mid-career gives us much to anticipate.