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Arts & Life

Caleb Landry Jones, 'Three Billboards' Salesman, Sees His 'Fat Face' On Screen

Sam Rockwell (left) and Caleb Landry Jones feature heavily in <em>Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri</em>, which is open now in theaters.
Sam Rockwell (left) and Caleb Landry Jones feature heavily in <em>Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri</em>, which is open now in theaters.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is open now, after winning praise and prizes at film festivals in Toronto and Venice.

Frances McDormand plays a bereft and angry mother who rents three billboards to shame local police into finding the man who raped and murdered her daughter. Martin McDonagh wrote and directed Three Billboards. Woody Harrelson stars, alongside Peter Dinklage, Sam Rockwell, and Caleb Landry Jones — who was in this year's Get Out and X-Men: First Class, and was first seen as Jimmy Adler in Friday Night Lights.

"Actually, first job was No Country For Old Men, Boy On Bike No. 2," Jones says. "Or [No.] 1. I think 2, though."

Jones plays the guy who rents the billboards to McDormand's character. And what did he learn from being around his more famous co-stars?

"That I am not a real actor," he says, laughing. "If anything, I'm just a charlatan of some kind or something."

I spoke with the modest young actor from Richardson, Texas.


Interview Highlights

On what made him want to be an actor

"The beginning," the beginning, you mean? I think it was a few things, but probably wanting to be loved; probably acceptance of some kind; wanting to be a part of something.

On if he is a better actor now than when he was 16 years old

I hope so. When I saw that film, I thought it was an incredible film — No Country For Old Men — and they got up to my part, and I thought, "Oh boy, they really screwed up." 'Cause I believed everything, for every second, until I saw my fat face, you know? And it really made me think, "Do they know what they're doing," you know? Because I — I was terrible! But I hope I've gotten better. I've really been working at it.

On if Hollywood is any less "culpable" – a term used by Frances McDormand's character – as the Catholic Church on issues of sexual abuse and pedophilia

I would think no, but, um — I would say no.

On what he hopes audiences take away from the film

Throughout the film, you're constantly forced to look at characters in more ways than one — pretty much all of them, you're forced to see in a different light. People are full of contradictions, you know? I'm a walking contradiction, and therefore, you find yourself in shock of the places you're going. And you think one thing, and it turns out to be another; you think, "This person has to be the bad guy," they become the good guy. I love not knowing, you know?

Ian Stewart and Ed McNulty produced and edited the audio of this interview for broadcast. Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted it for the web.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.