An actor of depth and complexity, Tommy Lee Jones (1946-) was born on this day in the small town of San Saba, Texas. Growing up, he had a tough time with his oil-rig working father.
"Teenage boys sometimes fight with their fathers. He wasn't perfect." Jones recalled, yet credited his father for teaching him "boldness and a tireless work ethic."
To cope with his turbulent upbringing, Jones found an outlet. "Football was a reason for living. I'd lie awake at night dreaming of the day I could play." He earned an athletic scholarship to Harvard, roomed with former Vice President Al Gore, and graduated cum laude in 1969 with a B.A. in English.
"I'm one of those old-fashioned people who believes that the things that you learn on a football field are useful all your life," he said. Too small for pro ball, he turned to acting and landed the role of Ryan O'Neal's friend in Love Story (1970).
"Man is required to put aside his pettiness and realize what he has in common to forswear his vanity for survival," observed the man who never took an acting class and speaks Spanish fluently.
He has earned a critically-acclaimed reputation for his versatile and dynamic roles: Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), The Executioner's Song (1982, from the book written by Norman Mailer), Lonesome Dove (1989), Batman Forever (1996), and Men in Black (1997, 2002) to name a few. He won an Oscar in 1993 for The Fugitive (w/ Harrison Ford).
Tough and impatient, Jones is a celebration of perfectionism and strength. "I never take vacations," said the hard-working pro. "They make me nervous."
Take life lightly.