Belfast Telegraph

Tommy Lee Jones in feminist western

Tommy Lee Jones has revealed how important it was for him to honour women of the frontier in his new western.

The veteran actor starred, directed and co-wrote The Homesman, based on the novel by Glendon Swarthout, and said he thought these women had never been properly portrayed before.

Speaking on the red carpet at the premiere of the film at AFI Fest in Los Angeles, the Men in Black star said: "I hadn't seen issues of women on the cutting edge of Manifest Destiny in film before and I was fascinated with it.

"All the women in my family are descended from those generations of women. Some things are different now, we don't have to live in houses made of dirt, they didn't have any lumber because they had no trees or sawmills. They didn't have any penicillin, they had a 75% infant mortality rate, we don't have to deal with those things today but I would wager there is not one woman watching who hasn't been objectified or trivilalised because of her gender, so some things have not changed, and these are things worthy of consideration in a dramatic context in a movie."

On juggling the challenges of directing and acting simultaneously, he said: "I've done those two jobs together four times, it gets a little easier each time. It's never been that difficult. We try to stay very well organised and it works."

The movie focuses on three women who have been driven mad by pioneer life who are transported across the country by an independent leader, played by Hilary Swank.

The Oscar winner said she had never seen a Western with women at the centre.

Joining her director on the red carpet, she added:

"It's never been done and that is part of the reason why I love this movie, it's a true original screenplay. I think the movie really deals with a lot of issues we deal with as women today in 2014."

The role also required the star to become comfortable with horses, which was a challenge she fully embraced.

"Thankfully I had some good wranglers and horsemen to help me figure it out, I spent all my free time on a horse between set ups, I would go off on my horse and Tommy said they wrangers were meant to wrangle the horses but ended up wrangling me."

The Homesman is released in UK cinemas on November 21.

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