LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Though his role as the taciturn sheriff in “No Country for Old Men” garnered him a wider audience, Tommy Lee Jones’ other 2007 role — as a concerned parent in the Iraq war-themed drama “In the Valley of Elah” — landed him his third Oscar nomination.
An Oscar winner for his supporting role in “The Fugitive,” Jones will be at the Academy Awards on Sunday, albeit a little begrudgingly.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: YOU’VE BEEN ON BOTH SIDES OF THE OSCAR NOMINATION BEFORE, WITH ONE WIN AND ONE LOSS. HOW HEAVILY INVESTED DO YOU GET IN THE WHOLE POST-NOMINATION PROCESS?
Tommy Lee Jones: Very slightly. I don’t live in Southern California, and I spend most of my time in places where people are only vaguely aware of the process. It doesn’t weigh on my mind a great much. It doesn’t do you any good to worry about these things or even think about them very much; they are gonna go the way they go. If I were to assess my chances of winning, I would say they are quite slim.
THR: DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD A DIFFERENT CHANCE IF YOUR NOMINATION HAD BEEN FOR THE ALREADY AWARDS-HEAVY “NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN?”
Jones: I don’t know. The way the indicators are going, or what some entertainment journalists claim are indicators, the winners are a kind of foregone conclusion.
Jones: I think I am contractually obligated to show up.
THR: AFTER YOUR “FUGITIVE” WIN, DID YOU FIND THINGS PARTICULARLY CHANGED FOR YOU, CAREER-WISE?
Jones: Well, yeah, it was awfully good for business. Certainly was. And of course it was good for your self-esteem. All actors want to be approved of. And that’s a pretty good sign that someone’s approving of you.
THR: YOU’VE GOTTEN A LOT OF LAW-ENFORCEMENT ROLES SINCE THEN. DID YOU FIND THAT PRODUCERS ONLY WANTED YOU TO PLAY THAT SORT OF ROLE OVER AND OVER AGAIN?
Jones: Such a thing is inevitable, but it’s not hard to resist. You are always making an effort not to repeat yourself, if you can.
THR: WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER SPECIFICALLY ABOUT WORKING ON “IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH?”
Jones: I remember that Albuquerque (where much of “Elah” was filmed) is a very noisy city. If you’re shooting on the streets or even motel rooms, sound becomes a terrific problem, because you’ve got these crows and crowing roosters, airplanes flying over at a low level, big trucks zooming by, kids playing in the yard, guys changing tires with pneumatic tools, radios playing music across the neighborhood. It’s a vital and lovely place but very difficult to shoot a film there.
THR: DID YOU PREPARE FOR “ELAH,” OR DO YOU IN GENERAL, HAVE ANY PARTICULAR WAY OF PREPARING FOR YOUR ROLES?
Jones: Well, you spend all day long and most of every night preparing.
Jones: I don’t have to tell you. There’s nothing in any contract that says I have to divulge that information.
Jones: (Laughs) I don’t know — you certainly familiarize yourself with the script as thoroughly as you can. You try to figure out what the director wants you to see, and you do whatever you are able to make it possible for him to see that.
THR: I ASK BECAUSE, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, YOU NEVER TRAINED AS AN ACTOR OR TOOK LESSONS, PER SE, SO IT’S NOT AS THOUGH YOU’RE HARKING BACK TO THE STANISLAVSKI METHOD.
Jones: I’ve read all of Stanislavski’s books. Interesting reading. I think his work renders academic that which is natural and inevitable.
THR: CLEARLY, YOU’VE HAD A LONG AND VARIED CAREER. AT WHAT POINT DO YOU THINK YOU WERE RECOGNIZED AND APPRECIATED AS A LEADING ACTOR?
Jones: I look forward to that day. (But) I don’t do that kind of thinking. I think about that part which is directly in front of me: I think about scripts; I think about business deals; I think about locations and directors and actors and the work at hand. That’s about the thinking I do. If you are asking what kind of long-term strategic career thinking one does, I’d say practically none.
THR: WILL YOU WORK BEHIND THE SCENES AGAIN, AS YOU DID WITH DIRECTING AND PRODUCING 2005’S “THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA?”
Jones: I own the motion picture rights to Ernest Hemingway’s last book, “Islands in the Stream.” It was made into a bad movie in the ‘70s. There is a good movie in that book, and that’s the one I want to make.
THR: YOU DON’T FIND THE COMBINATION OF DIRECTING AND ACTING IN THE SAME PICTURE TO BE OVERWHELMING?
Jones: It’s not particularly overwhelming. I am interested in being a filmmaker. I’m interested in creative control, as everyone is. From my point of view, having any three of (the directing, writing, producing and acting) jobs makes the fourth one really easy.
THR: YOU SAID EARLIER THAT YOU DON’T LIVE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. WHERE DO YOU CALL HOME?
Jones: We have a house in San Antonio. We’re in the cattle business, and we have some ranches north of town. And we have other places scattered out over Texas.
THR: THE FILM AND MUSIC FESTIVAL SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST IS COMING UP AFTER THE OSCARS — AND THAT’S BASED IN AUSTIN. DO YOU EVER GET DOWN THERE FOR THAT?
Jones: I’ve never been to that one. My son works on it a little bit in terms of music. But I have actually never been to it.
Jones: I don’t know exactly what he does.