Forces of Nature
Tommy Lee Jones' role as Jones is a multifaceted, unapologetic character, a
stubborn and deeply conflicted man, trying in his own way to come to terms with
his past and reconcile with his family.
"This role is unlike anything else Tommy Lee has ever done," Howard
explains. "It's a performance of incredible bravery, creativity and
imagination. He has created a character of incredible dimension in Jones, a man
who straddles two worlds, but is never completely accepted by either of
It is the character's years of experience with the Apache culture that enable
him to track down his kidnapped granddaughter and, throughout, the actor's
commitment to authenticity elevated the performance, according to Howard.
"Tommy Lee already had a vast knowledge of the old West and after studying
for months with real Apache elders, for whom he showed the highest respect, he
became fascinated with every detail of the culture," says Howard. "He
was a champion of the Apache language, culture and psychology, adding priceless
insights and humor to his portrayal, which brought greater truth to the film
overall. It was the same kind of passion and knowledge I'd sensed when
discussing the space program with Tom Hanks during Apollo 13. Tommy Lee's input
was incredibly valuable, like having another technical advisor on the
Howard also found Jones to be a fearless actor who made unexpected but
appropriate choices. "In refining and developing the character, Tommy Lee
found so many interesting ways to avoid cliches. He showed a lot of creative
ingenuity without sacrificing the authenticity and the integrity of the
What is most remarkable about the performance, says Grazer, is the ways in
which Jones uses silence. "Tommy Lee has a quiet power that, when utilized,
is palpable. He's among a small group of actors who not only have star power,
but a raw energy that is fraught with danger."
In constructing a framework for the character, Jones created a man who had
been to art school in New York and left his family to paint the people, animals
and plains of Western North America. Jones' character returns to his family
"just as one of his granddaughters has been kidnapped," says Jones.
"The kidnappers want to take her to Mexico and sell her, a common practice
in those days."
Even Jones' initial return to his family is more psychologically layered than
one would expect. "Jones has a great deal of self-interest in coming
back," the OscarĀ®-winning actor says. "He is happy that he moved from
the European world to living in the indigenous American world. However, he's had
the misfortune to have been bitten by a rattlesnake, and within his belief
system, there are serious implications. Reuniting with his family is one of many
things he must do to save the life of his soul. So when he comes to take care of
his family he's motivated by survival. But anyone who works hard to take care of
their family is, whether they know it or not, motivated by survival.
In the arc of the story, both Jones and Maggie eventually undergo
self-enlightenment, says Howard. "They gradually realize that you can't
erase the past, but it doesn't have to cripple you either. Rather than ignoring
one another's defects, they learn to accept them. Maggie comes to appreciate her
father for his attributes and puts the past behind her."
Equally important to fully exploiting both the dramatic action and impact of The
Missing was the presence of Cate Blanchett as Maggie Gilkeson, according to
Grazer. "Cate was ideal for this role, because she is sexy, powerful and
interesting as an actress. She has an inner strength that makes you feel she
could stand up to the bad guys. Very few actresses have that command and level
As with Jones' character, M
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