Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Tommy Lee Jones Interview -

He's not a man you feel you should interrupt when he's playing with a bottle of Budweiser -- no glass -- and a few words.They can be pleasant pastimes but Tommy Lee Jones appears to be someone who takes everything seriously. But, as in Chinatown , nothing is as it seems.

In the ego-revolving world of Hollywood this onetime oil field worker and Harvard graduate -- and former room-mate of American Vice-President Al Gore -- who talks in an accent as thick as a Dallas traffic jam is one of the leading man of the moment but without the usual posing. Or posturing.

Oh, he's snapping at Harrison Ford's heels -- as he was in his Oscar-winning performance in 'The Fugitive' -- and might not be getting the Tom Cruise and Michael Douglas offers but Tommy Lee Jones is a grown up star. He has arrived.In a big way. After a lot of promises.

He's the original combustible cowboy who, at 48, has made more than forty movies and appeared in landmark television productions like 'The Executioner's Song' -- as the "I want to die killer' Gary Gilmore' -- and most memorably in 1989's epic Western saga 'Lonesome Dove'. From a cast of hundreds including Robert Duvall and Anjelica Huston he stole the show by saying very little indeed.

He's got a more difficult task this summer if he wants to get accused of felony scene larceny. Now, it's more maniacal cackle than dialogue in 'Batman Forever' . In the third and remodelled of the 'Batman ' adventures ( the first two have grossed more than $700 million dollars) he appears as Harvey Two-Face. A trifle of an acid accident turned half his face purple and peculiar and made all of him a very bad boy indeed. This is The Joker with more than a split personality.

But also around to confuse ther Caped Crusader is The Riddler (aka Edward NIgma) who is brought to life by another hot star, Jim Carrey who this month (MAY) was voted by America 's youngsters (aged 14 -- 19) as their best actor. Carrey won his fan club for 'Ace Ventura: Private Detective', 'The Mask' and the present release 'Dumb and Dumber.'

But for Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones that was all a run-up for the worldwide attention and exposure and money-machine of 'Batman Forever'. Director Joel Schumacher has taken over control of the fantasy franchise from Tim Burton . The wunderkind Burton gave us a Dark Knight much in contrast to the camp 'Sixties television 'Batman' and the comic (rather than comic book) Saturday morning matinee antics of many yesterdays.

In turn, Schumacher is giving us his version of the good and bad colourful celebrities of Gotham City . And to help Batman (the younger Val Kilmer replacing Michael Keaton) compete with Harvey and The Riddler we finally get to see Robin ( Chris 'Scent of a Woman' O'Donnell) complete the Dynamic Duo for the first time since the new adventures began.

Burton 's films were termed 'Gothic' but Jones says that ' isn't appropriate' for the new movie. 'It's spectacular and it's rather, you know, arch...'

Now, at first appearances you wouldn't place 'arch' in Jones' vocabulary. But here he is playing naughty games with two fellows in capes and gender-defining bodysuits. He has a black pistol in one hand, a silver one in the other. The crazed grin spreads across his face it just changes colour half-way there.

Jones is own face is an honest one which appears to have seen more than one day at a time.It is like a relentlessly over violent volcano, potholes and creases everywhere. It didn't prevent his Tommy Lee Spree of films which has headlined him in and through the 1990s. He is naturally taciturn about it. His friend, the singer Willie Nelson, jokingly explains:' Tommy Lee always thought he was a household name.'

But the work ethic has always been there. It's, he says, like being thrown from a horse. If you can't ride him without spurs don't get back on. The critics have usually adored him and now the public -- as much through his television work as his films -- knows him. But he will keep getting back in the saddle.

After scoring, to most people's pleasure, the Best Supporting Oscar for his obsessed Marshal Gerard in 'The Fugitive' -- he gave another great performance accepting his statuette saying:' The only thing a man can say at a time like this ... I am not really bald' -- he reported not to the champagne reception but to bed and work the next morning at 6am.

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