Remembering a Reluctant Hollywood Star

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The 1960’s was a decade that heralded a new wave of film stars such as Paul Newman, Sydney Poitier, Audrey Hepburn, Clint Eastwood and many others.

But for a twist of fate, one actor may well have ranked amongst such prestigious talents had he not made the decision to forgo his acting career whilst on the verge of international stardom.

Rising star Christopher Jones was tipped to be a worthy successor to James Dean with a body of work in TV and film including David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970).

A close friend of the murdered actress Sharon Tate, who was the pregnant wife of film director Roman Polanski, at the hands of the notorious Manson family in 1969, this would prove to be an event that would affect him deeply, and may have had an influence on his choices. It was compounded further by the death of rock star Jim Morrison, also a friend of Jones’ who died in 1971.

Jones maintained a low-profile during those years with the express desire to choke-off any possibility of becoming the next big thing.

Born Billy Frank Jones in Jackson, Tennessee in the USA in 1941, Jones spent his formative years alternating between a home for boys and his relatives after his mother was committed to psychiatric hospital when he was 4 years old. He would later discover acting and with roles on Broadway he managed to secure TV work such as in the now cult classics Wild in the Streets and The Legend of Jesse James.

With film work including The Looking Glass War (1969), starring alongside Anthony Hopkins, this led to the now famously arduous film production for Ryan’s Daughter, in which he played the romantic lead as an army officer, but after a reportedly strained relationship with its director David Lean, Jones would retire from acting in 1970. He would later lament the acting profession commenting, “I realised I hated it”.

Jones spent his time living of the proceeds from his film work to take up painting and sculpture and raising a family.

One more foray into film would materialise many years later with a cameo role in Mad Dog Time (1996) starring Jeff Goldblum.

He previously turned down the role of ‘Zed the Gimp’ in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1993), as the role was deemed unsuitable by Jones, which required him to wear a mask and was essentially the portrayal of a sadomasochistic misfit. As an aside, one does wonder why Tarantino would offer such a curious role to an actor he claimed to admire and wanted to resurrect his career, given that the nature of the role would not ultimately have reintroduced him to audiences.

Christopher Jones died in January 2014 from complications arising from cancer.

In his later interviews Jones would always maintain that he harboured no regrets, no matter how much the interviewer would probe. He had lived a full life and had been too busy having fun.

Jones appeared to understand the need to stand by your convictions and have the courage to do this irrespective of what others expected of him. Apart from the now footnote of his cinematic endeavours… this may well be the most endearing aspect of his life story.


Source by Christopher W. Evans

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