Tommy Lee Jones is a brilliant actor, especially in roles demanding curmudgeonliness, and until Burnsy brought it to my attention, I didn’t realize he was also an all-Ivy League guard for Harvard in college, where he roomed with Al Gore. Another bit of Tommy Lee Jones trivia you may have heard: he’s a notoriously grumpy interview subject (shocking, I know). The AV Club named him number 16 of their 17 most notoriously prickly interview subjects, and if you want to hear a hundred other people agree, just google it. More recently, Jones sat down with YahooMovies to talk Lincoln, a film for which he delivered yet another charmingly crotchety performance that’s an early favorite for a best supporting actor nom. Even better, the resulting exchange between Jones and the interviewer was yet another masterpiece of obstreperous cantankerosity.
My favorite answer? On being asked what he looks for in a director, Tommy Lee Jones said, “A paycheck.”
Meriah Doty: Seeing Thaddeus Stevens’ biographical information compared with yours. There’s some similarity.
Tommy Lee Jones: No, there isn’t.
MD: [You went to] Harvard. [He went to] Dartmouth.
TLJ: There’s a difference.
MD: Yeah. There is. But you two didn’t exactly grow up with a silver spoon in your mouth and you both got into ivy league universities. I’m just curious. Did you relate to him on any level personally?
MD: You’ve worked with so many great directors and Steven Spielberg is no exception. What do you look for in a director?
TLJ: I don’t know how to answer that. A paycheck. Beyond that I don’t look for anything, but I feel more comfortable if I know they’re thoroughly prepared.
MD: What are your thoughts on the fact that there’s Oscar buzz around your performance?
TLJ: I don’t have any thoughts on that subject. [YahooMovies]
“Now get your feet off the goddamn coffee table, and for God’s sake use a goddamn coaster when you set a goddamn drink down, what were you, born in a barn? And don’t squint so much, sneakin’ around the goddamn house like some goddamn oriental. “
Truth is, most entertainment journalists are painfully boring and they all ask the same boring questions, so I love it when old dudes don’t play along. Oh, you want me to pontificate on the psychological underpinnings of the character someone else wrote? How about this instead, I’m gonna keep smoking this pipe and stare at you until you realize what a dumbass you are. Tommy Lee Jones always shows up and does his job, and he’s more than earned the right not to have to shuck and jive if he doesn’t want to. He’s like the disappointed, grouchy, emotionally-withholding 1950s father figure I never had.