Tommy Lee Jones has credits in more than 60 films and TV productions. Highlights include Emmy Award®-winning (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Special) performances in 'The Executioner's Song' and 'Lonesome Dove.' An Academy Award® and Golden Globe winner as Best Actor in A Supporting Role for 'The Fugitive,' he also received Best Supporting Actor Academy Award® nominations for 'JFK' and 'In the Valley of Elah.' Jones' other film credits include 'Cobb,' 'Batman Forever,' the two hit 'Men in Black' films and the upcoming 'Men in Black III,' 'U.S. Marshals,' 'The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada' (which he also directed), for which he won a Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival, 'No Country for Old Men,' for which he shared a SAG Award, and 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' for which he received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actor - Musical/Comedy. Jones was recently seen in 'The Company Men' and is working on the film adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel 'Islands in the Stream,' for which he will also produce, direct and act.
Interview with Tommy Lee Jones
What was it about the play that appealed to you?
It's a very good play. I mean who could resist that writing?
Was there ever any consideration (or pressure) to transform it into something bigger and film scenes beyond the apartment?
No. There was no pressure of any kind.
So what you wanted all along was to take it as it was ...
And shoot it.
You directed and acted. Does wearing two hats complicate things or make each role easier?
Having any one of those two jobs makes the other easier. You just know more, you have more control, you don't have to spend as much time trying to figure out what the director thinks or what the actor thinks. If you're both, life is simpler.
Would you say it was harder to learn all the dialogue, or deal with the logistics of shooting in a small space?
I didn't encounter much difficulty because I did a lot of planning.
How did Samuel L. Jackson come to be a part of the production?
I called him on the phone and asked him if he would read the play and then tell me if he wanted to do it. And he read the play and said he wanted to do it.
I understand that Cormac McCarthy was on the set of the production - did he make any contributions or give notes?
Quite a lot. He was part of the rehearsal process from the very beginning. We spent 10 days rehearsing on the soundstage with no one there but me, Sam, a script supervisor and Cormac.
Did he offer any stage instructions, for instance there's a scene where your lying on the couch while Samuel L. Jackson sits on a chair. It's a classic therapist/patient set up, and you're talking about your parents.
No there were no stage directions, I just thought that up. It's essentially comic, although it's sad.
Were there aspects of either character that resonated with you?
At any given hour of any given day, I can identify with both of them, or one or the other.
One of the points your character makes is that knowledge destroys the spirit. Do you agree?
I don't believe that there's any argument to that effect that the play offers.
The characters are named Black and White, but there are many nuances to the story. At its close, is there a winner? Are we even supposed to wonder if there is one?
That question you asked is more important than the answer.