Who Is Tommy Lee Jones?
Actor Tommy Lee Jones was Al Gore's Harvard roommate for four years, and upon graduation, he moved to New York and then to Hollywood, where his career trajectory changed dramatically. With 1993's The Fugitive, Jones became a household name, and he has followed that role with memorable performances in Men in Black, The Fugitive, No Country for Old Men and Lincoln (2012).
Tommy Lee Jones was born on September 15, 1946, in San Saba, Texas. An eighth-generation Texan, Jones was the only child of Clyde Jones, a cowboy-turned-oil-field worker, and his wife, Lucille Marie. His parents were married and divorced twice; as he later revealed in interviews, Jones had a difficult adolescence, enduring a good deal of physical abuse at the hands of his father. When Tommy Lee was a teenager, Clyde Jones took a job in the oil fields of North Africa. His son worked hard to win a scholarship to St. Mark's, an elite Dallas prep school, so that he could stay in the country.
A talented athlete and student, Jones eventually won a football scholarship to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His roommate for all four years at Harvard was Al Gore, a future United States senator, vice president and presidential candidate. Jones, an English literature major, became an all-Ivy offensive guard on the football team. He also loved drama and performed in a number of school productions, most notably playing the lead in Shakespeare's Coriolanus.
With too slight a frame to make it in the National Football League, Jones headed to New York to pursue a career as an actor upon his graduation from Harvard in 1969. He won his first professional role shortly thereafter, in an off-Broadway production. In addition to his stage work, Jones had a regular role as Dr. Mark Toland on the daytime soap opera One Life to Live from 1971 to 1975. He made his feature film debut in 1970 as the roommate of Ryan O'Neal's character in the weepy Love Story.
Frustrated with the dwindling opportunities on Broadway, Jones moved to Hollywood in 1975. He soon landed a prominent role in the debut of the popular television series Charlie's Angels as well as his first lead role in a Hollywood feature, the 1976 crime drama Jackson County Jail, produced by edgy B-movie icon Roger Corman. (Jones' first-ever big screen lead was in the little-seen 1970 Canadian film Eliza's Horoscope.)
Over the next two decades, Jones appeared in nearly three dozen film and television projects and turned in a number of critically acclaimed performances. Highlights of his pre-Fugitive career include well-received TV movies like The Amazing Howard Hughes (1977), The Executioner's Song (1982) — for which he won an Emmy Award — and the celebrated CBS miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989), co-starring Robert Duvall, Anjelica Huston and Diane Lane. He also earned kudos for his supporting performances in Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), co-starring Sissy Spacek, and Oliver Stone's JFK (1991), starring Kevin Costner. For the latter film, Jones earned an Academy Award nomination (best supporting actor) for his portrayal of Clay Shaw, a homosexual businessman and suspected conspirator in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
If Jones's manic performance as a villainous ex-CIA operative in the 1992 thriller Under Siege — starring Steven Seagal and directed by Andrew Davis — introduced his talents to a far wider audience than he had previously known, Davis' action-thriller The Fugitive (1993) catapulted Jones onto the A-list of Hollywood stars. The film, based on the hit 1960s television series, starred Harrison Ford as a doctor who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and escapes from jail determined to find her true killer. In addition to garnering critical acclaim, the film became one of the top-grossing hits of all time, earning a total of over $170 million. As the hard-edged but ultimately sympathetic U.S. marshal who pursues the escaped Ford, Jones turned in a brilliant performance, virtually stealing the film from his more famous co-star and winning an Oscar (best supporting actor).
Within the next year, Jones starred in three more huge box-office hits — Stone's Natural Born Killers, The Client and Blown Away — as well as several less successful features, including Stone's Vietnam drama Heaven and Earth, Blue Sky, co-starring Jessica Lange; and Cobb, in which he played the brutal, unsympathetic baseball legend Ty Cobb. In 1995, he starred as the cartoonish villain Two-Face alongside Val Kilmer in the critically drubbed but commercially successful Batman Forever.
Jones's next box-office triumph was the 1997 science fiction action-comedy Men in Black, a summer blockbuster co-starring Will Smith. Jones and Smith displayed their considerable comedic talents as a pair of U.S. immigration agents fighting an alien invasion. While his next several projects — Volcano (1997); the animated Small Soldiers (1998); and a Fugitive sequel, U.S. Marshals (1998) — were relative disappointments both critically and commercially, Jones scored another huge hit with the 1999 action-thriller Double Jeopardy, co-starring Ashley Judd.
In 2000, Jones again had success at the box office as a lawyer fighting to defend a marine colonel, played by Samuel L. Jackson, in the courtroom drama Rules of Engagement. Later that year, he starred alongside fellow Hollywood veterans Clint Eastwood, James Garner and Donald Sutherland in the well-received Space Cowboys, about a team of four ex-astronauts called upon to fly one more big mission.
Jones roared back into prominence in 2007, playing Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men, which won the Academy Award for best picture. He also was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his performance as Hank Deerfield in the film In the Valley of Elah.
In September 2008, Jones filed a suit against Paramount Pictures, claiming that the studio owed him more than $10 million in promised "box-office bonuses" and other back-end compensation for his work in No Country for Old Men. The case later went to arbitration, and Jones received a settlement of more than $15 million.
In recent years, Jones has continued to work steadily. In 2010, he appeared in the drama The Company Men with Ben Affleck and Chris Cooper. The following year, he had a supporting role in the big budget action film Captain America: The First Avenger.
Jones had an especially busy 2012, with the release of four very different films. He returned to his most popular film franchise, reteaming with Will Smith for Men in Black 3, then shared the screen with Meryl Streep in Hope Springs, playing half of a long-married couple seeking to save their marriage. He also played two famous historic figures: In Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Jones portrayed influential Republican politician Thaddeus Stevens, starring opposite Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.
Personal Life and Spouse
A championship polo player and dedicated horseman, Jones owns a 3,000-acre ranch in his birthplace of San Saba, located 150 miles from San Antonio.
Jones has been married three times. He married actress/writer Katherine Lardner in the early 1970s, and they divorced after seven years. He met his second wife, Kimberlea Cloughley, on the Texas set of Back Roads (1981). They married in 1981 and had two children, Austin and Victoria, before divorcing in 1996. In March 2001, Jones married his longtime girlfriend, photographer Dawn Laurel. The couple met on the set of the 1995 TV movie The Good Old Boys, which Jones directed.
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