You’d have to be a damn fool journalist to walk into a room with Tommy Lee Jones without knowing that he doesn’t suffer fools. He just doesn’t like to piss around, or so I’ve been told. He’ll talk professional fundamentals — work, focus, creative decisions he’s made — but he feels that politics is personal, and that personal stuff is too personal for words. Jones sometimes looks like he’s studying you, and half the time like you’ve just asked something pretty dumb. I was a little intimidated, to be honest.

In The Valley of Elah star Tommy Lee Jones at Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills — Saturday, 8.25.07, 11:45 am; bigger portrait shot.

But he does listen carefully and responds with at least a portion of his enormous intelligence. I know the stories about him, but he’s my idea of a decent guy. Plus he had a nice suit on with a beautiful pair of black Italian lace-up shoes.

The real bottom line is that Jones is unpretentious and frank and as straight as they come, and right now he’s the quintessential soul man — the mythical older Texas guy with creases in his face and all kinds of regret and guilt in his eyes — of American cinema right now. The proof is in his performances in In The Valley of Elah and No Country for Old Men. Here’s our ten or eleven-minute chat.