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Tommy Lee Jones - Idol Chatter
Tommy Lee Jones - Idol Chatter


So, Mr. Jones, welcome to Idol Chatter. It’s….
Hey, I’m good at that! As long as its trivial and frivolous and idle, then I can manage it.

Well, thenthough I’ve always thought of you as ‘deep’let’s go trivial: Do people call you Tommy or Tommy Lee in real life?
I don’t care.

What’s your wife call you?
Well…that varies. (flashes a rarely-seen grin)

Whew! From the intimidatingly tough-guy persona you’ve cultivated from your Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winning The Fugitive to The Three Burials of Melquiades Estradeyour self-directed, Cannes Film Festival Best

Actor award-winning cowboy opusit’s lovely to see you smile. So, tell us, please: Are you ever just a goofball?
Sure—everybody is everything. I’m goofy ‘round about 4:30, usually.

In the morning?
No. Wednesday afternoons. (smiles again) My 14-year-old daughter and I are pretty damn silly.

Is this the child you, briefly, fired during The Three Burials…?
I did fire her! It was 5:30 AM, she’d done three days of beautiful work, I said, “Okay, honey, time to go to work,” and her response was, “Go away!” I said, “All right,” and drove to the set where they said, “Where’s the kid?” I said, “Forget the kid—she’s fired.” But, behind my back, the staff had slipped over to the hotel and said, “Just this once, honey, it might be a really good idea if you were to get up.” (chuckles) That got her motor running

As a director can you terrorize sets the way your Batman Forever villain freaks-out Gotham City?
Hell, no. I don’t care to employ anybody who requires being terrorized.

Though Barry Pepper, Three Burials..’s de-facto villain, must have been pretty traumatized after the mauling his character takes from you.
It was my intention to find the roughest, West Texas places I could find [Lee has two ranches in his beloved Texas homestate]. So Barry had scrapes, cuts, and dings all over him—he was pretty well beat-up by the time it was over. But he stepped right up.

Though the film’s theme’s are wide-rangingracism, loyalty, marriage, redemptionits press kit dubs it a “Neo-Western.”…..
(amused snort) That’s not the kind of language I would use. But, lately, I’ve decided that, if a person needs a label, let them have it. So, hell, Three Burials is a ‘situation comedy.’ It’s got a naked woman so it’s ‘pornography.’ ‘Neo-western?’ Fine! ‘Soap opera’? Okay!

What does directing give you that acting doesn’t?
A better chance to satisfy my lust for creative control.

Though you still love acting?
It’s a great joy and privilege for me to be an actor. I love the cinema. I believe it to be an art.

Your good friend, Samuel L. Jackson, once claimed to us, “I love me onscreen!” Do you feel similarly?
Usually, I don’t watch the movies I’m in—I mean, hell, I know how it ends, I was there. But I have followed The Three Burials… around the world watching it with audience after audience.

What was their reaction? Though much of it is deadly-ass serious, bits of of it are quite hilarious, too.
Oh, good! That’s important. I have actually proposed that we have a ‘designated laugher’ follow it around to start the ball rolling. He could watch the first reel, laugh two or three times, then, once it snowballs, leave and go on to the next screening. (chuckles)

Do you and Oliver Stonewho directed you to an Oscar nomination as Clay Shaw in JFKgiggle much?
Oliver and I were born on the same day, same year, but I can still piss him off by telling him he’s older than I am by ten minutes. I have the highest regard for him, but his direction to me is not real complicated: He insults me, then I insult him. But he knows I’d kill for a shot and that’s what counts.

Okeydoke, let’s wrap: Exactly how concerned are you with your legacy, how long your films ‘live on’?
To know that people are improved by a movie that was made long ago is highly gratifying. The fact is some movies don’t even live a weekend. On the other hand, people are still watching Birth of a Nation, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligariand they haven’t quit watching Coal Miner’s Daughter yet, either. Hey—maybe it’ll last another weekend or two.

© 2015 Brantley Bardin. All Rights Reserved.

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