Tommy Lee Jones Is Not Acting

In both life and the roles he’s played, he’s been described as difficult, ornery, curt, and contentious. And while meeting to discuss his latest—and some say greatest—movie, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, the Texas film legend more than lives up to his billing.

I WAS TOLD TO MEET HIM at Scholz Garten, in Austin, the popular restaurant and drinking spot near the University of Texas campus. When I walked in, he was sitting at the table closest to the front door, twiddling a Miller Lite. He was in his cowboy clothes: scuffed boots, Wranglers, a white shirt with snap buttons, and a well-worn white felt cowboy hat tilted back slightly on his head.

He did not stand as he shook my hand. He did not smile. He just stared at me. “Have a seat,” Tommy Lee Jones finally said.

His eyes were dark and deeply set, circled by a tangled web of crow’s-feet. For at least the first minute, his eyelids didn’t seem to blink. Nor did his famous coal-black eyebrows move up or down. “Well,” he

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