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Interview with Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy thoughtful

HBO

What was it about the play that appealed to you?

Tommy Lee Jones

It's a very good play. I mean who could resist that writing?

HBO

Was there ever any consideration (or pressure) to transform it into something bigger and film scenes beyond the apartment?

Tommy Lee Jones

No. There was no pressure of any kind.

HBO

So what you wanted all along was to take it as it was ...

Tommy Lee Jones

And shoot it.

HBO

You directed and acted. Does wearing two hats complicate things or make each role easier?

Tommy Lee Jones

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.

HBO

Would you say it was harder to learn all the dialogue, or deal with the logistics of shooting in a small space?

Tommy Lee Jones

I didn't encounter much difficulty because I did a lot of planning.

HBO

How did Samuel L. Jackson come to be a part of the production?

Tommy Lee Jones

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.

HBO

I understand that Cormac McCarthy was on the set of the production - did he make any contributions or give notes?

Tommy Lee Jones

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.

HBO

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.

Tommy Lee Jones

No there were no stage directions, I just thought that up. It's essentially comic, although it's sad.

HBO

Were there aspects of either character that resonated with you?

Tommy Lee Jones

At any given hour of any given day, I can identify with both of them, or one or the other.

HBO

One of the points your character makes is that knowledge destroys the spirit. Do you agree?

Tommy Lee Jones

I don't believe that there's any argument to that effect that the play offers.

HBO

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?

Tommy Lee Jones

That question you asked is more important than the answer.

The Sunset Limited

HBO Films

Tommy Lee Jones

as White