Tommy Lee Jones in ‘Lincoln’

Eye on the Oscars: The Actor - Supporting Actor Contender

“Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen.

“(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward at the appropriate time and place,” says Jones, who rarely gets sentimental about his roles.

Stevens is shown as heroic for dialing back his more radical views to get the 13th Amendment passed — the law that would free the slaves — and its an action that exacts a personal toll.

Yet Jones’ dry drawl and stone-faced delivery provide some of the film’s most rousing, moving moments, and some of the most amusing. Those moviegoers who watched him in “The Fugitive” or “Men in Black” will recognize the actor’s singular ability to flip from gravitas to deadpan in a blink.

Director Steven Spielberg specifically wanted Jones in the role, and after reading the screenplay, thesp recalls, “I called him back and said this is a magnificent undertaking. We took it from there.”

Research led the Oscar winner to become something of an expert on the “Radical Republican,” as Stevens was called. And in discussing the character today, Jones can get fired up all over again — in his own low-key way.

“Stevens was looked on as a wild man for his belief in freedom,” says Jones. “It was a backward time. It doesn’t surprise me that he had to fight the way he did.”

| HOME | Ewan McGregor >>

More Film

  • Graphic Novel 'Under,' About Sewer Mutants,

    Graphic Novel 'Under,' About Sewer-Dwelling Mutants, Being Adapted Into Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • Daniel KaluuyaThe Metropolitan Museum of Art's

    Daniel Kaluuya to Star in Romance Drama 'Queen and Slim' From Lena Waithe

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • Durban Fest Fetes South African Women

    Durban Fest Fetes South African Women With Diverse Line-Up

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • Predator Comic-Con panel

    'The Predator' Teases Battling Aliens at Gory Comic-Con Panel

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • Durban FilmMart, CaribbeanTales Push Co-Productions for

    Durban FilmMart, CaribbeanTales Push Co-Prod Opportunities for Women of Color

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • New Line Comic Con

    Everything We Saw From 'It 2' During New Line's Scare Diego Comic-Con Presentation

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

  • Lin Manuel MirandaVanity Fair Oscar Party,

    Lin-Manuel Miranda to Make Directorial Debut With 'Tick, Tick...Boom!'

    “Lincoln” is far from a comedy, but for Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist with a major cranky streak, things often get funny. Particularly when he’s intimidating fellow congressmen. “(Screenwriter) Tony Kushner put some humor in the screenplay to leaven the reality, and it certainly was my job to bring that forward […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content