Swank says Jones is a softy and he agrees

LOS ANGELES — Academy Award winner Tommy Lee Jones wears more than one cowboy hat in his new Western, “The Homesman,” giving him full control of, well, everything. He co-wrote, co-produced, directs, and co-stars with fellow Oscar winner Hilary Swank.

Jones is known to play tough guys and has built a reputation as someone you wouldn’t want to cross. Yet after spending endless hours with Jones, Swank developed a new appreciation for the man of few words.

“It’s so easy to stereotype people,” the actress said in a recent joint interview with Jones to promote “The Homesman,” which opens Friday in Atlanta theaters. “He shows what he wants to show to the press or to the world and yet he … comes alive on set in a totally different way. He’s a visionary, he’s an artisan, I just was a sponge in his presence,” she said.

Behind that dead stare and those grunts is a kind, loving man, a “softy,” the actress revealed.

“I don’t know. That’s not a word that I would use to describe anybody, much less myself, but it sounds positive right?” responded Jones. “So yeah, all right, I’m a ‘softy’. Yeah, I’ll accept that,” Jones relented, cracking half a smile.

“He doesn’t suffer fools. That’s a really good way to say it,” explained Swank. “I think his time is precious — all of our time is precious — and he just chooses specifically how he wants to spend it.”

For “The Homesman,” Jones chose to invest his time as nothing less than a multi-hyphenate on the Western, which opens Friday. Other filmmakers have done it this way to save money, but that wasn’t Jones’ motivation.

“Well essentially, it has to do with a greed for creative control, to put it crudely,” Jones admitted. “To put it a bit more smoothly, having any three of those four jobs makes the fourth one a lot easier.”

Based on a novel by Glendon Swarthout, “The Homesman” tells the story of a strong pioneer woman (Swank) and a crusty drifter (Jones) as they travel by covered wagon across the rugged plains of Nebraska to save the lives of three women who have gone mad because of their harsh frontier lives.

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