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Tommy Lee Jones: An Unlikely Leading Man

usmarshals.jpgThe nominees for the 80th annual Academy Awards were announced last week, and although the writers’ strike threatens to dash the old adage that the show must go on, Oscar-caliber performances aren’t so easily killed. Take Tommy Lee Jones, a 2008 nominee for his heartfelt work in In The Valley of Elah. A working-class Texas boy (who was also a Harvard scholarship student), Jones made it in Hollywood despite his modest upbringing and lack of matinee idol looks. Credit sheer force of will and some canny character choices. After knocking about the industry for more than two decades, garnering critical kudos for his performances (an Emmy for The Executioner’s Song; an Oscar nod for JFK), he finally won mainstream fame–and a little golden statuette–for his deadpan turn as cranky U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard in The Fugitive. Although he didn’t get an Oscar nom (or even an audience) when he reprised his seminal role in U.S. Marshals, he did earn something much more valuable: a promotion from supporting player to leading man. For this largely overlooked sequel, Jones is still a hoot, spitting out one-liners as effortlessly as olive pits in a performance as dry as a 007 martini. Even when making popcorn fare, this guy takes his work super seriously.

U.S. Marshals plays today, Sunday, January 27 at 7 p.m. | 6C on AMC. Click here for a complete schedule .

Or check out’s online Oscar poll and vote for Tommy Lee Jones.

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