Family & Companions
British character player, most typically in eccentric comedy roles, which he has often played in a deliberately over-the-top manner. Jones worked for years as a laboratory assistant while he dabbled in amateur dramatics on the side. A scholarship to the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama enabled him to return to school and effect a career change. After working in repertory theater and TV, Jones was finally able to blaze his bug-eyed, roguishly endearing stuff at the Royal Shakespeare Company. After performing in "The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" in London and New York, he recreated his role for director Peter Brook's screen version in 1966. Critical reaction was mixed, but it started Jones's film career, which would soon spread to both sides of the Atlantic.
First, though, Jones was to play the TV role which clinched his appeal with the British public. He played Claudius in the Granada miniseries "The Caesars" (1968), which, though less well-known than the similar "I, Claudius" in the US, was a witty and strikingly acted telling of the machinations which led to the fall of Rome. Subsequent TV work in England and the US has included "All Creatures Great and Small" (1975), Dennis Potter's landmark miniseries "Pennies from Heaven" (1979) and a number of adaptations of classic novels and plays ("Sweeney Todd" 1982, "Silas Marner" 1987, "Vanity Fair" 1988, "Adam Bede" 1992), for which Jones's theatrical manner and Dickensian sense of caricature have been well suited.
Jones's film career has varied from "Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed" (1969) to "Antony and Cleopatra" (1970), to such outlandish fare as "Dune" (1985) and "Wild at Heart" (1990). He enjoyed one of his biggest roles as an agent who assists Clint Eastwood in the otherwise mediocre "Firefox" (1982), was memorable as the cruel carnival barker who sells "The Elephant Man" (1980), and twinkled as the aging and frequently drunk journalist of Fellini's "And the Ship Sails On" (1983).
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First began appearing on British TV at age 28
Made feature film debut in "The Persection and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade" (a.k.a. "Marat/Sade"), recreating his stage role
Starred as Claudius in the acclaimed, seven-part British miniseries, "The Caesars"
First US film, "Sitting Target"
First appeared on US TV in the NBC TV-movie adaptation, "All Creatures Great and Small"
Acted in the TV miniseries, "Pennies from Heaven", by Dennis Potter; series aired on both British and US TV
Co-starred opposite Tom Courtenay in the Ronald Harwood play, "The Dresser", staged at the Queens Theater in London
First film not produced by England or the United States, "E la nave Va/And the Ship Sails On", an Italian-French co-production directed by Federico Fellini
Made rare US episodic TV appearance guesting on an installment of the ABC adventure series, "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles"