Tommy Lee Jones: There isn’t ‘a woman who hasn’t been objectified or trivialised’

Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones has a new interview with The Guardian to promote his new film, a female-centered Western called The Homesman. This is his fourth directorial project, and it features an Oscar baity cast that includes Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, and Hailee Steinfeld. The movie has been described as “a subversive Western” and (in People) a “frontier drama.” Swank plays a single, independent woman who lives alone in 1850s Great Plains Nebraska. She enlists Jones’ character to help her care for three mentally ill women. The film captured solid reviews from its Cannes premiere. But yeah, it looks really Oscar baity.

The Guardian journo describes Jones as oddly “cheerful” during the interview, which is a stretch for the “great grouch.” Jones talks about how he wanted to make a movie that stood out in a “quintessentially masculine genre.” Here are some excerpts:

He loves London: “I’m very comfortable in London I lived for about five weeks in a house in Chapel Street in Belgravia.” He pronounces it Belgraahvia, suggesting cocktail evenings with posh folk in the embassy district. “I enjoy the island. I have long, enduring relationships with people there. Actually, by now I’ve got a tailor on Savile Row. This one was not made there but all my suits in the future will be made on that street. It feels kind of nice I’m kind of pleased with myself that I’ve got a tailor on Savile Row. I’m 68 years old. I deserve it.”

Is this a feminist movie? A pause. He chooses his words carefully. “It would not be unfair to call it that but I’m not looking for labels.” It seems he will elaborate but doesn’t. A prolonged silence ensues.

On sexist injustice: “I don’t think there’s a woman in the readership of the Guardian, not one, who hasn’t been objectified or trivialised because of her gender at one time or another. And that’s really what our movie is about. Our film is the inverse of the conventional western. It’s about women, not men; it’s about lunatics, not heroes; they’re travelling east, not west; and we have a different perspective on what has come to be called manifest destiny.”

On promoting his projects: “There are certain contractual obligations and one does the best that one can do,” he says stiffly when I ask about press interviews. It is a cue for him to drain his sake and take a refill.

The Homesman‘s bleak view of US expansionism: “It’s about people living on the cutting edge of what is sometimes called manifest destiny. What is the price we pay for believing that God meant for us to own everything between Massachusetts and California? People still believe it, and schoolchildren are still taught that there is almost a divine right for the United States to hold the land that it does today.”

On Cormac McCarthy: “I don’t think he’s been served very well by the movies so far.”

Will he ever retire? “I don’t want to end my career.”

He doesn’t like tv: “I probably watch less than one hour of television a week. And when I do watch television it’s usually a football game. Sometimes I’ll watch a news broadcast for a few minutes. Otherwise I don’t have time. Most of those things are so poorly lit. And they are limited a lot by their tight schedules. They have to shoot so much material and they have to shoot it so fast. The lighting is often rather … Gross.”

[From The Guardian]

Off-limits topics for this interview included Jones’ three marriages (understandable) and polo (hilarious). Why wouldn’t he want to talk about polo? Maybe he thinks it makes him sound too posh. After all, this is a dude who has his own 3,000-acre ranch outside of San Antonio. Tommy Lee is such a grump, but he makes good work. He’s correct: Women are objectified all the time, and we’re told to treat it as a compliment.

Here’s the trailer for The Homesman.

Tommy Lee Jones

Photos courtesy of WENN

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46 Responses to “Tommy Lee Jones: There isn’t ‘a woman who hasn’t been objectified or trivialised’”

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  1. Artimis says:

    I just fell in love. That is all.

    • MCraw says:

      Mmhm. Especially since he looks so much like Grumpy Cat!

    • Lahdidahbaby says:

      Artimis, how could you?! I just came onboard to say those exact same words! I love his honesty and his sense of honor and respect for women and what we go through. Love his modesty, his intelligence, and his rumpled love-bed of a face.

    • Erinn says:

      I already was. But now it’s for keeps, haha.

      I really like the man. And I get why he doesn’t get along with people like Carrey. Jones is the kind of guy that wants to come in, do his job, and take things seriously. Carrey is likely, an incredibly tiring person to be around, because he’s constantly ‘on’. And that was never going to mesh well. He’s just a serious guy, and I’m okay with that.

    • mayamae says:

      I’ve loved him as an actor since Lonesome Dove. For some reason I perceived him as a conservative, but in this interview he sounds quite liberal. It makes sense since he was a classmate of Al Gore’s.

  2. starrywonder says:

    I love him for making this movie and don’t care that it is oscar baity. Frankly Hilary needs a hit since all of her movies have been panned for the most part since Million Dollar Baby. It is a shame though since she can act.

    • FingerBinger says:

      I agree about Hilary. She’s an excellent actress. She made quite a few bad movies after she won the Oscar for Boys don’t cry too.

    • mayamae says:

      I think Hilary’s mistake was attempting rom-coms. I don’t know why, but they just don’t work for her. I think she does the tough girl and/or damaged very well, but she can come off as cold and unlikeable.

  3. INeedANap says:

    You know what? He gets no hate from me. He is putting his name and money behind a woman-centric project, which is way more than most folks in Hollywood. Good on him.

  4. Ginger says:

    Oh I wan’t to see this! Love Westerns, Love Nebraska…great cast too. As for his comment about women, he’s not wrong and he’s been around long enough to know a thing or two.

  5. Belle Epoch says:

    I LOVE this statement!

    The movie sounds too grim for me, but exposing the brutal lives of frontier women is important. I’ve often wondered how they survived the hard labor and hard conditions and disease and childbirth – let alone getting beat up.

  6. kri says:

    He is my Grumpy Cat Grandpaw. I like that he seems so comfortable with the idea of this film. Def need more projects like this coming out of H’wood.

  7. Birdix says:

    I like that he adds trivialized as that can be as damaging as objectifying and it’s far more insidious (and tolerated).

  8. Sam says:

    It would have been slightly better if he had ended that sentence with “…and I cannot tolerate that buffoonery.”

    Sorry, still have that Jim Carrey interview on my mind.

    • Erinn says:

      I yelled “I can’t sanction your buffoonery” at my dad yesterday, and he knew exactly what I was talking about. He’s like a weird mix of Carrey in the way that he tends to always feel like he should be ‘on’ and making jokes, but at the same time, he’s an oddly Jone’s-like guy.

  9. don't kill me i'm french says:

    I watched the movie in June when it’s released in France.It was powerful,sad,funny( TLJ’s character) and well-made.Streep and Steinfeld have tiny roles.There is even Streep’s daughter actress who is very good even if she’s mute.Swank is heart-broken

  10. lunchcoma says:

    I usually dislike his crankiness in interviews, but this seems in order. It’s nice to see both that he made a film with multiple strong roles for women and that he’s willing to feign a little cheer to promote it.

  11. See, I knew I liked the grumpy old curmudgeon. If he was like thirty years younger (or I was thirty years older), I might have a crush on him. What can I say–I’m crushing on Aaron Hotchner on Criminal Minds because he never smiles.

  12. lower-case deb says:

    he’s still the only one that can make me sit through MiB marathons with my son (much as i love the kid to death).

  13. Val says:

    Hilary Swank is beautiful! Also love Tommy Lee, he’s a bawss.

  14. Brionne says:

    I’m not sure why but I laughed while reading his responses. He could use a bit less deathly pallor. He looks older than 68 but I’ve loved that gruffness and bowlegged walk since The Fugitive with Harrison Ford. I imagine he smells like Chaps aftershave, scotch and cigars. Harrison too! Elder Statesman swagg!

  15. scout says:

    Wise words from a wise man! True that!

  16. I Choose Me says:

    Asking about feminism seems to be the go to bait question of journos these days. Love Tommy Lee’s response. He might be a Grumpy Old Man but he gets it and his honesty is refreshing.

    • j.eyre says:

      And I like that he stops talking when he has made his point. It wouldn’t be an uncomfortable silence if you listened to what he is saying.

  17. Mea Culpa says:

    Maybe I’m lucky but I am a woman (and I read the Guardian!) and I can genuinely say I have never felt objectified or trivialised because of my gender. And I work in a field that was traditionally completely male dominated, although that has been changing over the last 20 years.

    • Veronica says:

      You are very lucky. When I was 19, I was told by a manager that women should never be in positions of power because they’re too emotional and don’t know how to direct people. Then I got to spend the next two years watching people tell my sister it was her fault that her boyfriend was beating her because she wouldn’t/couldn’t leave. And then I started talking to my mother about her experiences before and after post-lib American and opening up history books that weren’t ran through the public school system’s white male supremacy filter and…yeah, completely altered any delusion I had about our society being where it should be in terms of gender equality and identity.

      I don’t begrudge you the experience of growing up without having to hear that. I just wish every woman could have that, too.

      • Mea Culpa says:

        Well I’m not American but I’ve obviously had a totally different experience and I think most of my female friends in my age group (early 30’s) would say the same as me. Gender inequality is still a major issue but it’s not ubiquitous. I was just pointing out that TLJ made a blanket statement that didn’t reflect my own experience.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      You’re lucky, I’m 47, American, college educated and female and I have been trivialized and objectified more than once. I’ve was molested as a child, attacked as a teen, I’ve also been groped and fondled, and insulted and belittled, and I’ve led a privileged life. The trivialization is an everyday thing. Men don’t have to worry about walking alone, we do, all the time. An 80 year old woman was just raped in her home here. The privilege and freedom your enjoying should not be taken for granted, appreciate it and work to ensure that other women receive it as well.

    • Anony says:

      You’ve never been groped or cat-called? Never had an older male figure talk down to you? Never been treated differently on days you don’t wear makeup? Wow I’m stunned. I didn’t know that was possible.

  18. phlyfiremama says:

    I just finished watching the Lonesome Dove 4 episode miniseries on Netflix! It was fantastic~Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones both gave incredible performances in that. I’ll bet this movie is something pretty special~sounds like it is right up TLJ’s alley.

  19. miapatagonia says:

    I love Westerns and I love Tommy Lee Jones, so this post made my day. Jones and Swank seem to have good chemistry.

  20. MissMary says:

    I kinda love him. He’s from my home state and is one of the few good things out of there of late.

  21. slpierce says:

    I love him, I love him, I love him.
    I especially love how grumpy he is, and how truly smart he is.
    And Sam Gerard is my fantasy boyfriend.

  22. libertyIII says:

    He’s a wonderful actor and an inspiration. He is rugged, intense and manly and has never been afraid to call a spade a spade. Thank you to him for acknowledging what women have to go through as objects and trivialities, spurned on, ironically, and mostly by other women, e.g. Kim K. She is a disgrace to her gender. I salute him.

  23. tinyfencer says:

    “On Cormac McCarthy: ‘I don’t think he’s been served very well by the movies so far.’”

    Sooo… is he bashing the film adaptation of No Country for Old Men? You know, the one he was in that won all those Oscars?

  24. some bitch says:

    Awesome interview! He’s eloquent and honest and it’s so refreshing to hear that from a celebrity.

    No Country for Old Men is an incredible movie- so I don’t totally agree with him re: film adaptations of McCarthy’s books.

  25. Veronica says:

    I have always been very fond of him as an actor, and I’m glad that he’s spent most of his years outside of the limelight being a decent human being and not destroying my respect for him.

  26. MAC says:

    Thank you Tommy

  27. CH2 says:

    I think people have been jumping on this feminist bandwagon because it seems to be selling lately. Look at all the Disney movies embracing it. I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad. If we want change we have to force it on people sometimes… but just so you know, I don’ t think TLJ is some great feminist… I think he’s just cashing in.

    • Bridget says:

      Because nothing says “cashing in” like making a bleak western starring Hilary Swank.

      • ion says:

        ”cashing in” as in trying to improve his reputation as a person that is not disconnected from the modern world. this film is pure oscar-bait.