A man with a peculiar face and small stature born into a long line of performers, Toby Jones might seem born to be a character actor. Jones’ father, Freddie Jones, has graced the screen in a multitude of projects, from David Lynch’s enigmatic sci-fi epic Dune to BBC adaptations of classic works of literature. Meanwhile, Jones’ mother was born to a family whose legacy in acting went back seven generations, setting the stage for Toby’s career almost before he was born. Jones took to the stage at his school in Oxfordshire, England, where he discovered an aptitude for theatrical acting. Though stage work would remain an important element of his professional life, Jones eventually tried his hand at screen work, beginning with a minor role in the 1992 film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. Many of these bit parts would follow in movies like Ever After and Les Miserabes, as Jones’ distinct and memorable visage set him apart from the masses. This same unique quality eventually began to win him more substantial roles, like a four-episode run as a pathologist on the U.K. detective show Midsomer Murders, and a chance to explore vocal acting as the voice of the animated Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
More of Jones’ usual small but memorable parts would follow, such as Smee, right-hand man to Captain Hook in Finding Neverland. Then in 2004, Jones got the chance to sink his teeth into not one but two substantial characters — both with considerably more screen time than he was accustomed to. In the U.K. made-for-TV biopic Elizabeth I, Jones played Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury, spymaster, and later secretary of state to Queen Elizabeth, a man infamous for his odd, slight appearance. Exaggerating his quirky physical characteristics and delving deeply into the complex character, Jones was lauded by audiences and critics alike. That same year, Jones won the starring role of controversial writer Truman Capote in Infamous, the big-screen American telling of the writing the true-crime novel In Cold Blood. A dream role both for his artistic sensibilities and the furthering of his career, Jones joined a cast of American stars including Sigourney Weaver, Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, and Daniel Craig. In typical Hollywood style, the film was green-lit around the same time that another studio was beginning production on a feature with the same subject matter, and Bennett Miller’s Capote was scheduled to be released first. The buzz surrounding this rival production, however, was not the kind that Infamous producers were hoping for; instead of generating interest in their film, they feared that the overwhelming praise that Capote was receiving for its script, direction, and acting by star Philip Seymour Hoffman would only overshadow their own film. The release date for Infamous was pushed back as Capote went on to sweep the awards circuit, picking up over 40 awards and nominations including Oscar nods for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (for Catherine Keener’s performance as Harper Lee), and Best Screenplay, as well as an Oscar win for Hoffman in the category of Best Actor. With Capote seeming to have already carved a place in the history of cinema and Philip Seymour Hoffman moving to the top of the list of gifted and respected actors, the cast and crew of Infamous had to worry that for all their hard work, their production would be seen as little more than the “other Truman Capote movie.” Its release was finally set for late fall of 2006, roughly a year after its original date. Jones, however, was not going to spend the meantime biting his nails. By the time Infamous hit theaters, Jones had already completed filming on an adaptation of the Somerset Maugham novel The Painted Veil, and begun production on Nightwatching, a film about the life of the artist Rembrandt in which Jones would play the Dutch painter Gerard Dou. ~ Cammila Collar, Rovi