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People Describe What It's Like To Work With Tommy Lee Jones

Updated July 31, 2019 19.2k views12 items

After five decades working in film and television, Tommy Lee Jones has developed quite the reputation. From action to drama to superhero camp, Jones has done it all. He's also worked with some of the greatest actors and directors of all time. Along the way, he's left an impression on not only his collaborators but also the press and public.

Many view Jones as a grump or someone who is difficult to work with. And when it comes to quotes from the people who have performed alongside him - or tried to rein him in on set - it seems that opinion isn't unfounded. But many in Hollywood swear there's a surprising side to Jones underneath his tough demeanor.

Whether he's frowning on buffoonery or acting like a goofy kid himself, these quotes about working with Tommy Lee Jones will give you new insight into one of the hardest-working actors in show biz.

  • Photo: Batman Forever / Warner Bros. Pictures

    The filming of Batman Forever was notoriously fraught. Even before the cameras started rolling, the casting process was a nightmare for director Joel Schumacher. While the film ultimately did well at the box office, things weren't quite harmonious on the set.

    Jim Carrey says Tommy Lee Jones wasn't a fan of his, and the notoriously gruff actor didn't mince words about it. While speaking with Howard Stern, Carrey described his first meeting with Jones:

    I was really looking forward to working with Tommy because he was a fantastic actor, and he still is... But he was a little crusty... I think he was just a little freaked out because Dumb and Dumber had come out on the same weekend as Cobb, and Cobb was his big swing for the fences - pardon the pun. And that didn't work out, and it freaked him out... I walked into a restaurant the night before our big scene in the Riddler's lair... I went up to say hi and the blood drained from his face in such a way that I realized that I had become the face of his pain or something. And he got kind of shaking and hugged me and said, "I hate you. I really don't like you." And I was like, "Wow, okay, what's going on, man?" And he said, "I cannot sanction your buffoonery."

  • Photo: Men in Black / Sony Pictures Releasing

    While many actors and directors tell stories of how difficult it can be to work with Jones, Will Smith says there's a different side of the actor that comes out on set. In fact, he thinks the negative view of Jones is due to how he interacts with the press.

    Shortly after filming Men in Black together, Smith gave an interview where he revealed just how fun Jones can be:

    You know, I think that difficulty is a press thing... We had a great time. Barry Sonnenfeld claims to be the best shoe kicker in the world. He claims that he can put his shoe on the toe of his foot and kick it accurately anywhere within 30 yards. So one day, we set up a trash can. And Barry's kicking for an hour, nowhere near this trash can. Tommy Lee Jones walks on the set - never opens his mouth - he kinda observes what Barry's doing, pulls his shoe off onto the toe of his foot, kicks it 30 yards into the trash can, and says, "Good morning, y'all. One of y'all wanna get that shoe for me, please?"

  • Josh Brolin worked with Jones on No Country for Old Men before jumping into the Men in Black universe for the franchise's third film. For that movie, he actually had to play a younger version of Jones's character, which taught Brolin a lot about the stern actor.

    Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about the process, Brolin shed some light on what it's like to be around Jones:

    The ambiance that Tommy creates on a set is just unparalleled. The tension is f*cking amazing. I just found it fascinating. I grew up with a lot of cowboys, so it doesn’t affect me as deeply as it would the urban norm. I just laugh at it. But it’s still uncomfortable. That’s his genius: "How can I make this the most uncomfortable moment anybody has ever had in the world?" There’s no way he’s thinking it - it’s just intrinsic.

  • Photo: user uploaded image

    Some people just don't have a filter or bother with social niceties. While this can understandably upset people, the discomfort of others is unlikely to change this mindset. Case in point: Tommy Lee Jones is known for being off-putting, mostly due to his candor. Sally Field had worked with Jones before, but while promoting their film Lincoln, she explained what makes Jones come off the way he does. 

    Field spoke with Entertainment Weekly about Jones's reputation, and she, for one, didn't seem bothered by the actor's attitude:

    It is eccentric. And it’s a true, real thing. He is who he is. I guess it comes off gruff. It is gruff. He’s not looking to be liked, and he’s not looking to be politically correct. And so he’s just the absolute most honest, funny, direct thing.