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Tommy Lee Jones - Biography

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Tommy Lee Jones

Personal details

Name: Tommy Lee Jones
Born: 15 September 1946 (Age: 69)
Where: San Saba, Texas, USA
Height: 6'
Awards: Won 1 Oscar, 1 Golden Globe; nominated for 3 BAFTAs

All about this star


In building a picture of Tommy Lee Jones, it's interesting to compare him to others born in the same year. Like Dolly Parton, he's a down-home country-type, but with a similar wild streak to David Lynch's. Onscreen, he possesses the same outlandish charisma as Alan Rickman. Off-screen, his passion and artistic tunnel-vision have caused him problems with his peers, much like Syd Barrett. But then that year also saw the arrival of Ted Bundy and Ian Lavender, so go figure.

Perhaps it's more revealing to compare him with Oliver Stone. Both are challenging and controversial in their work, both have risen from rough, macho beginnings to the heights of Hollywood (a system in which they excel yet somehow do not fit), and both have peculiar and uncompromising views of how things should be done. And strangely, considering they have so many similarities and have worked together so many times, Stone and Jones were born on exactly the same day - the 15th of September, 1946.

Tommy's birthplace was San Saba, Texas, about 80 miles north-west of Austin. He's an 8th generation Texan, though he's one quarter Cherokee, with Welsh ancestry. His father, Clyde C. Jones (he had no middle name, just the C), raised cattle until a drought in the early 1950s drove the Jones family west to Midland, close to the New Mexico border, a town slap bang in the middle of nowhere. Here Clyde would work the oil fields. Tommy's mother, Lucille Marie (nee Scott, known as Marie), was a policewoman, the county's first female officer, and a hairdresser, later owning a beauty parlour. She'd borne another child, a son, when Tommy was 3, but the child sadly died in infancy.

Tommy's early life was tough. Clyde was a drinker and Tommy's described his relationship with him as "combative and emotionally abusive. He wasn't there for me that much". Clyde and Marie would divorce when Tommy was still young, then remarry and divorce again. Outside the home life could be tough, too. "It wasn't unusual," Jones would later recall "to settle one's conflicts with physical violence. If you got into an argument you settled it very quickly".

Disturbed by his turbulent home-life, Tommy threw himself into both studies and sport. At Alamo Junior High, in Midland, he was a fine student and a keen football player, and these qualities won him, at age 13, a scholarship to St Mark's School of Texas, a prestigious prep school for boys, in Dallas. He'd take the scholarship even though his father had scored a job in Libya and would be moving the family there. St Mark's was a whole new world for young Tom, filled with rich kids with no experience of the trailer life he'd known. Very quickly, he'd have to learn to be a gentleman.

Though sport would dominate his life - beyond football he was involved in soccer, baseball, horse riding and discus throwing - it did not prevent him from getting involved in literature and the most un-jock-like pastime of acting. His first revelation came when he was handed a copy of Macbeth and told to write down the meaning of every word he didn't understand. The exercise would draw the boy in. "I became interested in literature", he'd later explain "really interested. And I began to believe in it". One day soon afterwards, he was exploring the outer buildings of St Mark's and, opening one particular door, entered a darkened room. At the far end of the room was a brightly lit stage, and out onto it walked a young lad who immediately fell to the ground. "My dear boy", came the headmaster's voice from out of the gloom, "you're merely drunk; you haven't been shot. Do it again". It was a rehearsal of Mister Roberts and Jones was intrigued and enthused, auditioning for the very next production and scoring parts in Under Milk Wood (perfect for a fine Welsh lad), and The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. "My feelings at this discovery," he said later "were indescribable".

In his late teens, he worked to finance himself on the oil-fields and in underwater construction, building the rugged persona we know so well today. Then came another football scholarship, this time to Harvard. Here, between 1966 and 1968, he was a real football star, an All-American who made the All-Ivy and All-East teams. In '68, he played offensive guard in The Tie, a famous 29-all draw with Yale. His ambition, naturally for a Texan kid, was to play for the Dallas Cowboys.

Trouble was, despite being 6 feet tall and fairly well-built, he was too small. "I played a good game," he's said "but I was often at the mercy of the bigger guys". So Tommy turned his attention to the liberal arts, and went back to acting. He joined the Drama Club and, for two summers, he worked in rep in Boston and Cambridge, playing alongside the likes of James Woods, Stockard Channing and John Lithgow, doing a fair amount of Shakespeare, as well as Greek tragedy, Brecht and Pinter. Then, in 1969, having graduated cum laude in English and American Literature, he said goodbye to Harvard (and his room-mate Al Gore, later to be Bill Clinton's Vice-President, and still a good friend of Tommy's), and took off for New York, to seek a career in theatre. There had been no acting classes, but he had appeared in some forty plays - he was all about experience.

Amazingly, he got a job within ten days of arriving in New York, a feat that was actually featured in Ripley's Believe It Or Not, a popular cartoon strip covering bizarre events. Having given a letter of introduction to actress Jane Alexander, he'd be offered a role in the Broadway adaptation of John Osborne's A Patriot For Me, both a spy story and a study of early 1900's decadence in the Austro-Hungarian empire. This would see Maximilian Schell star as Alfred Redl, a role he'd originated at London's Royal Court back in 1965. The play would run for 49 performances at the Imperial Theatre between October and November of 1969, Jones, credited as Tom Lee Jones, playing an Orthodox priest.

Over the next few years, there'd be plenty of stage work. As well as Fortune And Men's Eyes and Blue Boys, there'd be 1971's Four In The Garden, a series of four one-act comedies at the Broadhurst Theatre, Jones playing in three of them alongside famed comics Carol Channing and Sid Caesar. There'd also be 1974's Ulysses In Nighttown at the Winter Garden Theatre, based on the life and work of James Joyce, with Zero Mostel as Leopold Bloom and Fionnuala Flanagan as his Molly, Jones appearing as Stephen Dedalus. And there'd be the New York Shakespeare Festival's staging of Sam Shepard's True West. There'd be love, too. Soon after moving to New York, Tommy met Kate Lardner, an actress and soon a writer, and grand-daughter of the famous writer and columnist Ring Lardner. The couple would marry, with Tommy taking on Kate's two kids.

Things were moving fast. 1970 saw Tommy's big screen debut. Incredibly, it wasn't as a rough cow-hand or a smiling psychopath, but as Ryan O'Neal's roomie in the massively popular Love Story. Indeed, it was said that the book's author, Erich Segal, had based O'Neal's character, Oliver, on both Al Gore and Tommy himself. There'd also be Eliza's Horoscope, a weird-out Canadian production about a freaky girl seeking a soul-mate, with many scenes coming over like hallucinations.

But Tommy's first breakthrough was in soap. One Life To Live was a very popular and very long-running series, involving the grand and the lowly folk of Llanview, Pennsylvania. And, like today's efforts, it made conscious attempts to deal with the issues of the day, like inter-racial relationships, drug addiction, cultism and even time travel. Many future stars would serve an apprenticeship here. Laurence Fishburne would show up a couple of years after Tommy, then Tom Berenger, Jeff Fahey and, in the early Nineties, Ryan Phillippe.

In One Life To Live, Tommy played Dr Mark Toland, a clean-cut medic with an increasingly obvious dark side (Toland was once described as being "more heel than healer"). Marrying into one of Llanview's richest families, he quickly showed himself to be horribly mendacious, uncontrollably adulterous and eventually murderous. But it was his penchant for blackmail that finally undid him. Trying to shake some poor woman down, he was shot dead - ironically, he was mistaken for a different adulterer.

The real reason behind Toland's sudden death was Tommy's decision that, after 5 years on the show, he needed to move on. He'd been working onstage at night, but his career was not really progressing. "I was reasonably well-known as a young actor," he said later "but Broadway was going through a phase of decay. The plays were getting bigger, broader, less dramatic and coarser... If I wanted my creative life to grow, the marketplace was telling me I needed to be more famous".

So, off he went to Los Angeles, taking Kate and the kids with him. And the parts came his way. Having appeared in the pilot episode of Charlie's Angels, where the girls went undercover at a vineyard, and the cheapo disaster flick Smash-Up On Interstate 5, he won his first stand-out role. This was as Coley Blake in Jackson County Jail where Frenchwoman Yvette Mimieux was robbed, jailed for having no passport, then raped by a copper who she promptly killed. Then she goes on the run with a charismatic, golden-hearted convict - Tommy.

This was a showy part, much like Martin Sheen's in Badlands, and brought Tommy to prominence in Hollywood. His next part would garner him national attention. The title role in The Amazing Howard Hughes really allowed him to open up. Funny, kind, cold, paranoid and wholly enigmatic, he wasn't exactly likeable, but he was genuinely sympathetic, making the mysterious Hughes far easier to comprehend. He was enjoying (newfound) wealth in real life, too. The end of 1976 had seen his marriage fall apart (he'd be divorced in 1978), and now he was fully engaging in the Hollywood lifestyle, with flashy cars and pneumatic starlets.

Work-wise, he was on the rise. In Rolling Thunder, he played a war veteran helping his old military buddy William Devane take bloody revenge in Civvy Street. Then came The Betsy, a blockbusting tale of race-driving and corporate skulduggery. Here Laurence Olivier played a patriarch who hires whizz-kid driver Tommy to help develop a fuel-efficient motor, against the wishes of Robert Duvall, Olivier's grandson and head of the family business, who actually wants to shut the motor division down. It was typical Seventies fare, a pre-Dynasty epic, but it was interesting for two reasons. One, Tommy worked for the first time with Duvall, who'd become a close friend and later co-star in one of Tommy's biggest hits. And it set Tommy against Olivier. Critics at the time said Olivier was near-sleepwalking through the production - apart from his scenes with Tommy. Legendarily competitive, Olivier came alive when Jones was present, his survival instinct kicking in when he was threatened by this ebullient, scene-stealing newcomer.

After The Betsy came another film typical of the decade. Written by John Carpenter, The Eyes Of Laura Mars had Faye Dunaway as a fashion photographer who starts having visions. More accurately, she starts seeing what a serial killer is seeing as they go about their beastly business. Tommy was the cop on the case, keeping it cool while Dunaway freaked and twitched in her usual histrionic manner.

Now came Tommy's second spell in the national limelight. Plans were afoot for a biopic of Country star Loretta Lynn, with Sissy Spacek set to star. Mike Nesmith, formerly of the Monkees but by now a respected solo musician and writer, was down to co-star as Loretta's husband, Doolittle Lynn, who married her when she was 13, recognised her talent, bought her a guitar and helped her on her way to superstardom. But Spacek, a Texas girl herself, had other ideas, and fought, successfully, for Tommy to play Doolittle. He did and, unbelievably charming and utterly credible, was nominated for a Golden Globe.

After this success, as is the way with Hollywood, Tommy was offered a plethora of down-home roles. He mixed pride and evil as Abner Snopes in Barn Burning, a revenge tale based on the work of William Faulkner. Then came Back Roads, a comedy directed by Martin Ritt and starring Sally Field, who'd recently won an Oscar for Ritt's Norma Rae. This was a hit-and-miss affair, concerning a Southern hooker (Field) who meets up with boxer-on-the-slide Tommy and takes off West in the hope of a better life. It was also one of the first examples of people reacting badly to Tommy's working practices. As tough on others as he is on himself, he's notoriously impatient with people he believes to be wasting his time. After the shoot, Field was quoted as saying "I never want to work with him again".

Yet Back Roads did bring Tommy some joy, as onset he met Kimberlea Gayle Cloughley. The couple would marry in 1981, remaining married till 1996, and producing two children - Austin Leonard, known as Bubba, and Victoria Kafka, called Tory.

Difficult though he was, Tommy was making a career playing difficult characters. Now came one of his finest hours, when he played Gary Gilmore in Norman's Mailer's The Executioner's Song. This was a biopic following Gilmore from May 1976 to January 1977. Released from jail, he'd killed two men in separate robberies and was sentenced to death by firing squad. Much controversy surrounded the case. The US government had only re-instated capital punishment in '76 and many were vehemently against it. But Gilmore, rather than appealing for the support of the decent millions, instead demanded that his sentence be carried out. And Tommy was brilliant in the lead role, wild and disturbed, for sure, but also genuinely human, asking the audience to consider what it is that makes such a criminal. Rosanna Arquette was tremendous, too, as a woman fatally attracted to bad men. Tommy earned his first major award, an Emmy.

Jones now played a series of troubled yet charismatic characters. In John Frankenheimer's The Rainmaker he was Starbuck, a travellin' witch-doctor promising to bring much-needed sky-fall to a drought-bound farm. Next he was Captain Bully Hayes in the 19th Century pirate adventure Nate And Hayes, written by a pre-Breakfast Club John Hughes. Then he was Martha Plimpton's ex-jailbird dad in The River Rat, where an idyllic country childhood is complicated by a murder mystery.

After this came a prime (and more theatrical) role in Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Here Tommy and Jessica Lange took the roles of alcoholic Brick Pollitt and his sexually rapacious wife Maggie, originally played by Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. It was a storming success, using a Williams script that reintroduced much of the sexual candidness missing from other productions.

Despite his evident talents, and the success of The Executioner's Song, Tommy was now slipping away from the big time. In The Park Is Mine, he played a Vietnam vet who, determined that his dead colleagues won't be forgotten, seizes hostages and takes over Central Park, defying the authorities with his cunning booby-traps and jungle warfare tactics. After this came Black Moon Rising, again written by John Carpenter, where he was an ex-thief, forced by the FBI to steal an incriminating tape from an evil corporation. Nearly caught, he hides it in a prototype super-car, itself then stolen by Linda "Terminator" Hamilton. Next came Yuri Nosenko, KGB, where Tommy played a CIA agent trying to ascertain whether a defector is for real. Then, in Broken Vows, he was an urban priest losing his faith who, intrigued by the last words of a murdered good-guy, helps his girlfriend seek the killer, at the same time learning about love and spiritual life in the city.

1987 brought Big Town, a Matt Dillon star-vehicle where Dillon was a small-town gambler making his way in the city. Scoring big in Tommy's club, he attracts Tommy's wife, leading to a final crap-table confrontation. Then came Stranger On My Land, where he played yet another Vietnam veteran, this time struggling to keep his farm from being snatched by the air-force. In April Morning, he played a gruff father tangled up in the outbreak of the American Revolution, while in Gotham he was a private dick hired to stop some fellow's wife from ripping him off. Trouble is, she's been dead for ten years!

Now things began to improve rapidly. Having played an American hard-nut, bringing his cool brand of mayhem to Newcastle's underworld, he hit the heights once more with the miniseries Lonesome Dove. This reunited him with Robert Duvall as they played two former Texas Rangers, now running a cattle company, who decide to run their herd up to Montana on one last great adventure. Along the way, they battle with bandidos, wind-storms, snakes and unfriendly Indians, and encounter lovers both old (Angelica Huston) and new (Diane Lane - earlier Tommy's co-star in Big Town). The show, with its detailed depiction of life in the Old West, was hailed as a classic, with Tommy, as Woodrow Call, being nominated for both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Now the roles became bigger again. In The Package, he played an assassin out to nail to Soviet premier and thus ruin an upcoming arms deal, while being pursued by agent Gene Hackman. The thriller was directed by Andrew Davis, later to direct Tommy in his greatest triumph, The Fugitive. Next he was a maverick flight instructor, schooling an unruly Nicolas Cage in Wings Of The Apache. Then came a classic role as Clay Shaw in Oliver Stone's JFK. Here he was the gentleman and businessman that Kevin Costner's Jim Garrison brings to trial over the Kennedy assassination. Was he lying? Was he working for the CIA? Jones gave nothing away, behaving with a constant and "impenetrable bemusement". His performance won him his first Oscar nomination.

Next came some fun, in Andrew Davis's Under Siege, where Tommy hammed it up as the malicious mastermind who takes over the USS Missouri, only to be foiled by that pesky chef Steven Seagal. Then there was more Oliver Stone, when he played a military man who can't let Vietnam go in Heaven And Earth. After this he played a child psychologist, helping Kathleen Turner's autistic son in House Of Cards. And then came the big one - The Fugitive. This, an adaptation of the old TV series, saw Harrison Ford wrongly accused of killing his wife and trying to track down the one-armed man who did it. Tommy was superb as Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, relentlessly on Ford's tail. Jones would win an Oscar for his efforts, and star in a sequel, US Marshals, where he went after Wesley Snipes. The movie was not quite as successful as The Fugitive, but still knocked Titanic from top spot.

After The Fugitive came Blown Away, where he played crazy bomber Ryan Gaerity, bringing chaos to the streets of Boston and persecuting his old terrorist mucker Jeff Bridges, now a respectable member of the Bomb Squad. Next came The Client, where he played the Scripture-quoting, thunder-stealing prosecutor of a Mob boss, causing problems for lawyer Susan Sarandon and her young star witness. Then he was flamboyant once more as warden Dwight McClusky in Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, running his prison like a labour camp and revelling in the presence of the TV cameras following psycho-couple Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis.

Next came some smaller, but equally interesting projects. Blue Sky had been completed in 1991 but, due to the collapse of Orion Pictures, was shelved till 1994. Here Tommy was a US major, monitoring nuclear tests in Alabama while his beautiful but disturbed wife (Jessica Lange, winding him up once more) seeks comfort in the arms of Tommy's peer Powers Boothe. After this came Cobb. This was a biopic of the infamous baseball player Ty Cobb, a brilliant athlete seemingly keen to hurt both his opponents and friends. With a subject close to his own confrontational persona, Tommy was excellent, showing Cobb as angry, violent, racist, misogynist but, as with Gary Gilmore, very human.

After Cobb came a pet project, The Good Old Boys, which Tommy himself directed, having written a tele-play based on Elmer Kelton's novel. Here he played another charismatic cowpoke who, after years of carousing, returns to his brother's farm and tries to save it from foreclosure. His reputation for artistry brought in some heavyweight performers, like Frances McDormand and Sam Shepard, and he also repaid a favour by casting Sissy Spacek. A pre-Good Will Hunting Matt Damon was on hand, too.

With his Fugitive Oscar, Tommy was now resolutely of the Big League, and proved it by playing arch-villain Harvey "Two-Face" Dent in Batman Forever, directed by Joel Schumacher, helmsman of The Client. Two-Face is a former DA who blames Batman (Val Kilmer) for the accident that disfigured him, so he teams up with The Riddler to bring about the Dark Knight's downfall, as well as those of Robin (Chris O'Donnell, Tommy's Blue Sky co-star) and Batman's belle, Dr Chase Meridian (Nicole Kidman). By now, Tommy was more than capable of hamming it up outrageously and, often standing beside Jim Carrey's frenetic, cane-wielding Riddler, was forced to really go for it, chuckling and gurning without cessation. Given Carrey's insane prancings, it was miraculous that Tommy wasn't blown off the screen. But, no matter how deranged Carrey's antics were, you still found your eyes drawn to Jones's manic grin.

It wasn't an easy shoot. Perhaps the competition between Jones and Carrey grew too intense but, afterwards, Schumacher claimed that Tommy had given Carrey "a horrible time" and "treated him with disdain", adding that "He's a bully... Not all the talent in the world excuses that kind of behaviour".

After Batman came more mayhem with Volcano, where he played the head of LA's Emergency Management team, trying to save his daughter, and everyone else from waves of lava that have just popped up in the city centre.

Then came his biggest hit yet, Men In Black. Here, as Agent K, he recruits Will Smith into an agency monitoring and often countering alien activity on Earth, basically blowing away creepy-looking things with great big guns. It was a monster, and spawned an equally monstrous sequel wherein K, who's had his memory removed on retirement from the agency, must have it restored if he's to help Smith save the world again. Hitherto known purely for his charisma and intensity, now Tommy was seen as a talented comedian. He commented on this with typical dryness, saying "the secret to being funny is to do everything Barry (Sonnenfeld, MIB's director) tells you and to stand very close to Will Smith %u2026 and then people think you're funny".

Tommy was now big news. US Marshals was a smash, as was Small Soldiers, for which he provided the voice of Major Chip Hazard. Even Double Jeopardy, a fairly weak remake where he played Ashley Judd's parole officer, beat off George Clooney's Three Kings to take top spot. After this came Rules Of Engagement, where he played a lawyer who must defend Samuel L. Jackson, an army man and former colleague, who saved his life in Vietnam. Tommy would get on well with the movie's director, fellow maverick William "Exorcist" Friedkin, and the pair would later collaborate on The Hunted. Here Tommy played a "deep woods tracker" for the FBI, pursuing Benicio Del Toro, himself playing a hunter who likes to hunt other hunters. It was a prequel to Shooter, another Friedkin-Jones collaboration yet to see the light of day.

After Rules Of Engagement, Tommy joined up with a team of ageing astronauts sent to save a falling Russian satellite in Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys. As "Hawk" Hawkins, a crazy test pilot who's now a crazy crop-duster, he was more than a match for Eastwood and fellow renegade Donald Sutherland. Then, of course, there was Men In Black 2, placing Tommy high up there in the Hollywood pantheon and ensuring his professional future for many years to come.

By this time, Tommy was married again, this time to Dawn Maria Laurel, 18 years his junior. She'd been an assistant camera-woman on The Good Old Boys, having earlier worked on Back To The Future 2 and Passenger 57. Tommy would live with her on his ranch in San Saba county, a short distance from where he was born, where he raises cattle and polo ponies and invites such friends as Gore and Duvall, as well as Gary Busey, Willie Nelson and Oliver Stone. Each Autumn, too, he invites Harvard's best polo players down to practise - Tommy being a fine polo player himself. He even owns a place at the polo club in Buenos Aires, and three other ranches in Texas.

After 2002's gritty The Hunted, Jones would move on to Ron Howard's The Missing where Cate Blanchett would play an independent frontierswoman whose daughter is kidnapped by Indians who aim to sell her into prostitution in Mexico. Jones would play Blanchett's father, a rough old dog who abandoned his family years before and set up home in an Indian settlement. She wants nothing to do with him, but needs his outback expertise, thus an uneasy alliance is born (if not a credible plot-line). Even less credible would be 2005's Man Of The House where Tommy would be ritually humiliated as a grouchy Texas Ranger assigned to protect five cheerleaders who've witnessed a murder. For the sake of laughs that did not materialise, Jones would wind up wearing an avocado face-mask, rollerskating to Dancing Queen and shoving his hand up a cow's arse. It was not pretty.

But it was lucrative and money was important as Jones was now putting together his second directorial project, his first for the Silver Screen, Good Old Boys having been made for TV. This was The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada where Jones would play a small-time cattle rancher hiring illegal immigrants, one of whom, the Estrada of the title, is stupidly shot by a rookie border guard. Jones seeks justice from the local police but receives none, and so he abducts the border guard and forces him to help dig up Estrada's body and take it to be interred in his Mexican home town. Though often compared to Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Jones' piece was more of a multiple character study and an exploration of the effects of alienation. It was certainly well-received, Jones being voted Best Actor at Cannes in 2005 as well as being nominated for the Palme D'Or.

Three Burials would go on general release in early 2006, a slim year for Jones releases as he'd now only be seen popping up in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion as a businessman overseeing the destruction of the theatre that has hosted Garrison Keillor's titular radio show for the last three decades. It was a small role but, placing him on a cast-list headed by Meryl Streep, highly prestigious. The next year, though, would see him back in the headlines. First would come the Coen brothers No Country For Old Men where Josh Brolin would stumble across a drug deal gone wrong and make off with $2 million in cash. Jones would play a craggy sheriff trying to track him down, not simply for justice's sake but also to save him from a pursuing Javier Bardem, an utterly remorseless slaughterer of men. Also on the trail would be bounty hunter Woody Harrelson, who'd earlier appeared alongside Jones in Natural Born Killers.

No Country For Old Men would be a big hit, but Jones would gain more plaudits for his part in In The Valley Of Elah, director Paul Haggis's follow-up to the Oscar-winning Crash. Here Jones would play a Vietnam vet whose soldier son goes AWOL on his return from a tour of duty in Iraq. Jones would take off the lad's base in New Mexico and conduct his own investigation, being helped and hindered by local cop Charlize Theron and military policeman Jason Patric. It was a deep character study and a moving exploration of the psychological effect of war, and it would see Jones Oscar-nominated again. The next year would bring In The Electric Mist, directed by the renowned Bertrand Tavernier and featuring Jones' No Country co-stars Josh Brolin and Kelly Macdonald. Based on James Lee Burke's novel In The Electric Mist With Confederate Dead, one of a series featuring Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux, this would see Jones as the lead cop, linking the serial killing of prostitutes to a murder he witnessed as a youngster some 30 years before. The FBI would become involved, investigating Robicheaux's old friend Balboni (John Goodman), now a gang boss. Matters would be further complicated when former alcoholic Robicheaux, in an electric storm, encounters a troop of long-dead Confederate soldiers led by Levon Helm, conversation swith whom help the cop in his case.

So, from the implausible beginnings of Love Story and soap operatics, Tommy Lee Jones has risen to the pinnacle of his profession, playing action heroes well into his fifties, and reinventing himself as a director of some substance. Such is his personality and mighty energy, it's impossible to think that he'll ever fade away.

Dominic Wills

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