THE QUIET MAN : American Riviera Award presented to Tommy Lee Jones at SBIFF

Actor Tommy Lee Jones poses for photographers on the red carpet outside the Arlington Theatre on Friday. Mr. Jones was there to receive the American Riviera Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.


February 2, 2008 7:18 AM

Tommy Lee Jones is not one to buy into the myth-making of Hollywood. Yes, he shared his Harvard dorm room with Al Gore, but no, he said, he was not the inspiration for Ryan O’Neill’s character in “Love Story,” Mr. Jones’ first film, as is often reported. Yes, he plays characters that often stand in for America. No, he’s not like any of those characters. Oscars and other awards are “good for business.” It’s just, as he’s said before, a job. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival honored the actor for being so good at that job on Friday night, with the American Riviera Award. The career-spanning retrospective and interview at the Arlington Theatre drew nearly a full house.
This year, Mr. Jones has been nominated for two Oscars — one as Best Actor for Paul Haggis’ “In the Valley of Elah,” and one for Best Supporting Actor in the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” The former nomination is his first in that category.

Andy Davis, who directed Mr. Jones in “The Fugitive,” presented the award.

Variety’s Pete Hammond took on the task of interviewing Mr. Jones. An opening montage sped back and forth over the actors’ history: young and tough in “Love Story,” commanding in “The Fugitive,” “U.S. Marshalls” and “The Hunted,” and willing to look silly (but still dangerous) in pop blockbusters like “Men in Black” and “Batman Forever.” It’s his presence in such films however, that have earned him a new generation of fans that have followed him into more complex films.
Introducing the actor, Mr. Hammond described Mr. Jones’ performance in “In the Valley of Elah” as “so subtle, you never catch him acting.” He’s one of the great American actors, Mr. Hammond said, comparing him to classic movie stars such as Cary Grant, James Stewart and Gary Cooper. Yet Mr. Jones is also a great character actor, he said.

Tommy Lee Jones answers questions from Jared Winslow, 11, at the Arlington Theatre on Friday.

His fans agree. Phoenix native Paul Kinsinger managed to snag tickets to the show while passing through on vacation and calls Mr. Jones “the quintessential American actor. He has a quiet, male strength.” A fan since 1977’s “Rolling Thunder,” Mr. Kinsinger said the actor “says more with what he doesn’t say. . . . He lets his face talk for him.”
“I’m not that introspective,” Mr. Jones admitted to a question on the red carpet about his past. However, he does like to talk about things other than acting, including his interest in playing polo (he first came to Santa Barbara in 1978 to play at the club here and bought a condo near the first field), his ranch outside San Antonio, Texas, 100 miles or so south of his birthplace, San Saba. Early on in the interview, he revealed that he was part of the Harvard football team and on the field for the infamous 1968 Harvard-Yale game that resulted in a 29-29 tie in the last 42 seconds. But, the towering Mr. Jones said, he was too short and small to continue in a football career. “I was the smallest in the Ivy League,” he said.
Asked if there were any directors he’d love to work with, Mr. Jones said there are many and smiled. “I’m always looking for a job.”

Members of the media speak with actor Tommy Lee Jones on the red carpet of the Arlington Theatre on Friday.

Santa Barbara resident, director and friend Andrew Davis presented the award and was a bit more elucidating on Mr. Jones’ qualities, having directed him in three films since 1987’s “The Package.”
“He’s incredibly capable,” Mr. Davis said. “He’s going to find a way to make it work . . . and to bring his own talents to the service of the film.”

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

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