When Caleb Landry Jones deplaned in Austin from L.A., he felt right at home — and he wasn’t too far off.
“Yesterday, getting off the plane and breathing the air and, even feeling the heat, something about it just felt right,” he says, seated by a bookcase at the Driskill Hotel while chewing on a toothpick and wearing a pair of cowboy boots, which he claims have been on his feet ever since he purchased them.
Jones, who grew up outside of Dallas, was at SXSW to promote his latest project, A.J. Edwards’ “Friday’s Child,” a moody film set in Texas about a young man on his own after aging out of the foster system. The movie was shot in locations such as Waco and Marfa, but Landry filmed his part exclusively in Austin.
“I did a TV show, ‘Friday Night Lights,’ in Texas, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten to make a movie in Texas. So this is really nice and feels —” Jones takes a quick sharp breath in and exhales.
The actor has had a plum list of projects recently, with roles in several of last year’s big award films, including the unhinged brother in “Get Out,” the son of a hotel super in “Florida Project,” and billboard-renter in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Although all supporting parts, Jones is starting to cement his visibility in the industry, helped by his ability to lend his fresh freckled face to a bevy of memorably quirky characters.
Jones maintains that he doesn’t always empathize with the characters, which often represent the seedier aspects of society. “I’ve been asked to play a lot of parts that you should hate, and don’t, maybe, have any redeeming qualities,” he agrees of his roles. “I did this movie called ‘Antiviral,’ and one of the actors in the movie told me, ‘Caleb, the whole thing will be if you can make this character likable. It’s impossible, but if you can do that, this film will be a great film.’ And I’m thinking to myself, well, he’s the guy we’re following around, but it’s OK if we don’t like him sometimes. And even if we’re all on his side, we don’t necessarily need to be on his side all the time.”
The script for “Friday’s Child” appeared while Jones was in the middle of reading Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” which he describes as one of his favorite books, despite having not yet finished reading it.
“I had to bypass every name because every name would sound like the other name to me and I’m just not smart enough to know the variations of Raskolnikov, Lebezyatnikov, Svidrigaïlov — so they were all Dan or Sheryl or something like that to me,” he says. “But I really loved it, and knowing in the beginning before even reading the script [for ‘Friday’s Child’] that this had some parallel lines to ‘Crime and Punishment’ — not necessarily based off of it, but it kind of was in a way — really got me excited right off the bat.”
He stars alongside lead Tye Sheridan (“really sweet guy,” says Landry), who lived a floor below him while filming. While he missed the SXSW premiere of his costars’ other film, “Ready Player One,” the night before — it was in a conflicting time slot with a post-screening Q&A for “Friday’s Child” — Jones was planning to catch one of his friends’ shows later that night, the local musician PR Newman.
“And then I have to leave tomorrow,” concludes Jones, who now calls L.A. home. “Well, now that I’ve landed in Texas it’d be good to stay in Texas awhile and head back with my folks and all, that’d be nice,” he adds. “But…”
On to the next.
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