Upon graduation, he moved to Nyc and then to Hollywood, where his career trajectory transformed drastically.
Performer, director and screenwriter 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 afterwards revealed in interviews, Jones had a tough adolescence, putting up with a great deal of physical mistreatment in the hands of his dad. When Tommy Lee was a teen, 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 remain in the state.
A gifted athlete and student, Jones finally won a football scholarship to Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jones, an English literature major, became an all-Ivy offensive guard on the football team. He also adored drama and performed in several school productions, most notably playing the lead in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.
With too slight a body to make it in the National Football League (NFL), Jones headed to The Big Apple to continue a vocation as an actor upon his graduation from Harvard in 1969. He won his first professional part soon afterward, within an off Broadway production.
Frustrated using the dwindling chances on Broadway, Jones moved to Hollywood in 1975. He soon acquired a notable part in the introduction of the most popular television series Charlie’s Angels in addition to his first lead role in a Hollywood feature, the 1976 offense drama Jackson County Jail, created by edgy B movie star Roger Corman. (Jones’s first-ever big screen lead was in the small-viewed 1970 Canadian movie Eliza’s Horoscope.)
During the following two decades, Jones appeared in almost three dozen movie and television jobs and turned in several critically acclaimed performances. 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.
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—launched his abilities to a much broader audience than he’d formerly understood, Davis’ action-thriller The Fugitive (1993) catapulted Jones onto the A list of Hollywood stars. The movie, on the basis of the hit 1960s television series, starred Harrison Ford as a physician who’s wrongly convicted of killing his lovely wife and escapes from jail decided to discover her true killer. As well as garnering critical acclaim, the movie became among the best-grossing successes ever, bringing in a total of over $170 million. As the tough-edged but finally sympathetic U.S. marshal who pursues the escaped Ford, Jones turned in a fantastic performance, effectively stealing the movie from his more famous co star and winning an Oscar (best supporting actor).
In 1995, he starred as the cartoonish villain Two Face alongside Val Kilmer and Jim Carrey in the critically drubbed but commercially successful Batman Forever.
Jones’s following box office success was the 1997 science fiction action comedy Men in Black, a summer hit co starring Will Smith. Jones and Smith exhibited their considerable comedic abilities as some of U.S. immigration representatives fighting an alien invasion. While his next several jobs—Volcano (1997); the animated Small Soldiers (1998); and a Fugitive sequel, U.S. Marshals (1998)—were comparative disappointments both critically and commercially, Jones scored another huge success with the 1999 actions-thriller Double Jeopardy, co starring Ashley Judd.
In 2000, Jones again had success in the box office as an attorney fighting to defend a marine colonel, played by Samuel L. Jackson, in the courtroom drama Rules of Engagement.
Jones roared back into visibility in 2007, playing Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country For Old Men, which won the Academy Award for the best picture. He also was nominated to find the best Actor Oscar because of his performance as Hank Deerfield in the movie In the Valley of Elah.
In September 2008, Jones filed a suit against Paramount Pictures, asserting the studio owed him more than $10 million in promised “box office bonuses” as well as other backend settlement because of his work in No Country for Old Men. The case afterwards went to arbitration, and Jones received a resolution of more than $15 million.
Recently, Jones has continued to work steadily. In 2010, he appeared in the play The Company Men with Ben Affleck and Chris Cooper. The next year, he had a supporting part in the big budget action film Captain America: The First Avenger, starring Chris Evans.
Jones had an especially active 2012, together with the launch of four very different movies. He returned to his most famous movie franchise, reteaming with Will Smith for Men in Black 3, subsequently shared the screen with Meryl Streep in Hope Springs, playing half of a long-married couple wanting to save their union. He also played two well-known historical figures: In Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, Jones impersonated powerful Republican politician Thaddeus Stevens, starring opposite Daniel Day-Lewis (Abraham Lincoln). In the movie Emperor, he played General Douglas MacArthur.
A tournament polo player and committed horseman, Jones possesses a 3,000-acre ranch in his birthplace of San Saba, located 150 miles from San Antonio.
Jones has been married three times. They wed in 1981 and had two children, Austin and Victoria, before divorcing in 1996. In March 2001, Jones wed his longtime girlfriend, photographer Dawn Laurel.