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Martin Jones is an enormously well-known and popular character in both literature and film; over fifty short stories about him were written between 1958 and 1983 by English author William Hamilton, who also wrote twenty-three books in that span. Peter O'Neal wrote six Jones books in the late 1980's and early 1990's, but the series had evolved into a film franchise by that point. The Jones character is an archetype and the movies have made Crown Pictures a mainstay US film studio after it nearly went bankrupt in the late 1960's.
Will Hamilton survived the Anarchy at his home on the Isle of Wight; the fighting there was less severe than in other parts of England, although he did see his fair share of violence and admittedly had used a shotgun similar to Jones's preferred twelve-gauge to fight off marauders attacking his estate once. Hamilton was not a Socialist and had grown up supporting the more liberal, progressive Socialist politicians such as Charles Morgan; when the Anarchy ended and Morgan was put in power largely due to American help, Hamilton decided to emulate his virtues in an English freedom fighter.
Many real-life heroes of the Anarchy are thought to be the basis behind Jones; among them, Patrick Meal. Meal was famous for fighting the "unwelcome Scots" in Yorkshire between 1952-55, when he was at last killed in a massive Scottish raid to find him specifically. This is mostly based on the short story Martin Jones and the Barbarian, where Jones goes to Yorkshire to assassinate a Scottish general who has been authorizing the kidnap, rape and murder of local girls.
Another historical fighter Jones may be based off of is David Clark, a woodcutter who had similar humble roots, lived on a farm in southern England and began fighting mainly to protect his family and neighbors from the EWA. Clark survived the war, where he was known as "The Axe," due to his preferred fighting method. Clark, however, didn't meet Hamilton until the late 1960's, when the Jones character was already well established.
Martin Jones is a tall, handsome Englishman who is comfortably middle class; he and his brother Alexander ran a farm together in an unnamed part of southern England and hired a handful of farmhands. They make it through the earliest parts of the Anarchy unscathed, and feed a handful of London refugees on occasion. The English Workers Army arrives in 1951 to recruit them; they refuse, and Alexander is shot and wheelchair-ridden, and several farmhands are killed. Martin escapes into the forest.
The origin of the character is merely referenced, never depicted, in Hamilton's work; although his unfinished manuscript concerned Jones learning the identity of his brother's attacker and hunting him down several years after the Anarchy had ended. This unfinished novel lent itself as the primary basis for the 2005 film I'm Jones.
Jones has a loose moral compass, as is required by the Anarchy; Hamilton never seeks to make him an incorruptible hero. As he stated in a 1975 interview, "Jones isn't a white knight. He was never intended to be a messianic, virtuous, apostolic saint. He protects the innocent from the violent, and later he protects the fledgling English Republic from her enemies. He sees the world somewhat in black and white and right and wrong, but the appeal of Jones is that he has to make difficult decisions the reader or viewer can relate to. He's a human, and that's his most important element."
Throughout the literary and film series, Jones encounters a whirlwind of romantic interests, and they do not always ride off into the sunset together. While he saves several, in one short story he sacrifices one young woman in a burning barn in order to capture and kill her uncle, who is planning to bomb a survivor food stock.
Jones's friendship with his wheelchair-ridden brother is key to the plots of the stories and films; Alexander has every reason to hate the ones who handicapped him, but he's often Martin's advice giver, and he's a sympathetic, kind character. The farmhands, who are intermittently killed as they try to assist Martin in his adventures, are important sidekicks often. However, the running pattern of "the farmhand always gets killed" itself became an inside joke within the series, in the 2000 film The Irish Defector, Jones pauses and asks a will-be unlucky farmhand "So you're positive you want to come?" Jones also has a series of horses he rides throughout the series, and usually carries a hunting rifle of some sort as his favored weapon.
Evolution of Character
While almost every short story concerns some adventure during the Anarchy, as do most of the early books, Hamilton soon started to run out of intriguing adventures during the Anarchy.
"After a while, you've written 'Jones comes to village, kills some baddies, gets the girl, and rides off into the sunset.' He started to turn into an English cowboy, a western set in our bloodiest years of history. Jones was more than just a wandering hero. He was an adult character, and I needed to make him one."
In 1965, Hamilton published his sixth short-story collection and his sixth novel, and now the character had taken a twist; the French and Americans had arrived in England. Hamilton used the English Adventure, London Airlift, Yorkshire Wars, and English Republican Army as backdrops for his next eight novels and three short-story collections, all the way into the early 1970's. Now, Jones was helping rebuild England, and facing far more complex issues than 'save the village, kill the EWA.' The Jones character was also an obvious Cold War hero too; he went on adventures to France and Ireland to help England, and he even ventured once to America and once to Zanzibar on distant, exotic adventures.
In the late 1970's, Hamilton expressed a desire to bring Jones back to earth. He wrote Sea Star, his last book to be finished, in 1982, and was editing it and Vengeance when he died suddenly. Among his things were found five unfinished short stories with similarly mature themes and grounded plots. Vengeance was never published, being mostly notes and halves of chapters, but Sea Star was complete enough to be published and became the most successful book in the series.
Film and Television
Transferral from Radio to Television
The English Republican Radio began broadcasting radio-plays of the Jones short stories in the mid-1960's, with Roger Moore, a young actor recently returned to England from time playing bit roles in New York, providing the voice. Hamilton was himself a self-described fan of the radio version of the Jones series, feeling that Moore gave the character believability.
In 1967, English Television (ETV) approached Hamilton and the ERR to suggest a television series based on the Jones character; the series would be given eight one-hour episodes throughout summer of 1968 and could be continued in that format for as long as Hamilton, who was also asked to co-write the episodes, desired.
Hamilton declined the position on the series creative team, but approved of the series as long as Moore, who he liked in the radio series, played the role of Jones. Roger Moore played the role brilliantly in the summer of 1968, and became an instant household name in England. The show was broadcast that fall in America to similar success.
The success of the '68 season made the 1969 and 1970 seasons equally strong. In all, twenty of Hamilton's short stories were used almost verbatim, and four original storylines were written within the general template for most Anarchy-era Jones heroics. Hamilton noticed the creative liberties being taken towards the end of the third season by ETV, and voiced his concern.
The show was put on hiatus for all of 1971, despite pleas for it to air in England. Finally, in spring of 1972, six new episodes, with Moore returning, were aired, including a finale where Jones was last seen at home with his brother, having a glass of sherry with him and an uncharacteristacally alive farmhand.
Moore played in several roles in the burgeoning English film industry during this time, and took over a detective series on ETV in 1972 even as his final Jones episodes were airing. In 1974 he went to Hollywood to appear in the extremely successful crime thriller Thieves, for the financially unstable Crown Pictures.
Film Franchise Begins
Moore's superstardom did not go unnoticed to Garry Holly, the chief executive of Crown Pictures. Crown had barely escaped bankruptcy in 1968 and had hitched all their eggs onto two movies in the early 1970's: Thieves (1974) and Long Live the King (1973), a Crusade epic that while successful, hadn't been the life-saving success that Thieves was. Now with some breathing room, Crown was looking for its next big adventure, and Holly believed he found it in Thieves star Moore - putting Martin Jones on the big screen.
Throughout 1974 and early 1975, Crown bartered with ETV to buy the rights to the Martin Jones series, and finally snapped up the full rights to the television series as they were hastily assembling a cast and crew. Moore would comment in later years, "I had a sense of impending disaster; the movie was scheduled for release in '76 and we had a makeshift film in place. Crown was about to hitch all their energy onto a film they didn't have the resources to make."Crown and ETV partnered together to film throughout 1975, with an early-fall '76 release date. The movie, titled simply The Adventures of Martin Jones, was based on the plot of two short stories written in 1971 by Hamilton, and featured the same score as the television show and the same general adventurous attitude.
Adventures was an enormous financial success, and brought Crown right back to the top alongside the other major Hollywood studios. Critics compared it to a modern day Robin Hood, an exciting adventure through dangerous 1950's England.
Moore was now a huge international star. In 1978, Crown produced the even more successful Martin Jones and the Hanging Tree, which earned him a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Actor, and the film for Best Adapted Screenplay. 1980's Martin Jones and the Widow wasn't as successful as the previous two, but the trilogy of Moore films had made Jones a viable franchise going forward into the 1980's.
However, the next project, titled Martin Jones and the Suffolk Man, became mired in development hell. Hamilton was writing new, darker, more serious Jones novels and short stories again. Moore was growing tired of Jones, having played the same role for twelve years and feeling typecast; he commented that his favorite work of his had in fact been Thieves and that he wanted to return to "serious" acting. He announced in 1981, while Suffolk Man was still being fought over by the studio and Hamilton's "new-look Jones," that he was permanently hanging up the rifle and pursuing other acting work. Moore would appear as the lead character in 1983's epic Shogun, and began his new career direction in 1985, when he appeared in the first of many Shakespearean plays on stage during the "Shakespeare Renaissance" in England; Moore's later career was defined as a Shakespearean actor whose plays and films, some of which he directed, made him synonymous with the newfound fascination for the Muse.
Hamilton died in 1983, and Crown was now questioning whether to continue the series or not. Moore had abandoned them and Suffolk Man had been written and scripted with Moore in mind, drawing from a short story of the same name and using bits and pieces of two early Hamilton novels.
Crown's new chief executive. Linda Wright, came up with a bold suggestion; considering how the 1980's in America were a relatively gloomy and dismal time, it would only be fitting to return to Jones's roots in the Anarchy and portray a more subdued, realistic approach to the character; Moore had always played him as a charming hero. Wright wanted a human, relatable, vulnerable protagonist.
The search for a new Jones was vast. Hundreds of English television, stage and film actors flew to Hollywood to audition for the role. It was on a casting search in Plymouth, however, that Wright discovered her new Jones: Jim Ames.
Ames had been a theater actor in England for quite some time, and was playing Romeo in a musical version of Romeo and Juliet in Plymouth in 1983. Suffolk Man's target release date had long-since passed; Wright saw Ames as an opportunity to start completely over with a new direction for the character.
With an appearance somewhat similar to that of American Vice President Robert Redford - to the extent that Ames spent his time in Los Angeles before shooting started making small money at an impersonation club - Ames was geared to be a success. He was a total unknown to American audiences (even most English audiences) and was also poor to begin with, so he accepted the first two-movie contract thrown his way. Shooting of Martin Jones Four, its tentative name, began in early 1984, with a summer 1985 release date intended.
Based on a Hamilton short story called The Vicar, the movie became titled The Vicar and the Virgin, and revolved around two rival Volunteer strongmen recruiting Jones to take the other one out; in the middle is caught Jennifer, the "Vicar's" daughter. The film's trailer spawned a massive media storm to learn more about the secretive film, and the hype was so great that advance tickets sold out within a day in many major American and English cities. Ames was a superstar before his first movie had even been released.
The Vicar and the Virgin broke the opening-weekend box office record set by both Star Wars installments, and would be the highest-grossing film of 1985. Wright's gamble had paid off; the more serious, sobering look at Jones, where he had to make the difficult decision about what to do with Jennifer as opposed to wooing her as Moore would have done, was critically lauded. The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Sound Editing.
Wright enjoyed the Jones novels and stories set after the Anarchy, and decided to focus her next two projects on that immediate era. Death Train, in 1987, did not reach the stratospheric heights of success that Vicar enjoyed, largely because the world had gotten its first taste of Jim Ames already. However, the decision to set the film during the English Adventure and to add an American heroine and sidekick proved to be a very successful measure.
1989's Red Hawk, also set during the English Adventure was equally successful. It was the 1991 film Hippolytus Project, a tense thriller during the London Airlift, that left Ames exhausted. It was the most expensive Jones film to date, and while it was considered one of the greatest entries in the series and was the second-highest grossing film of 1991, Ames had fulfilled all his contractual obligations, even though he had an option for a fifth film. 1993's Crystal Village, set immediately after the London Airlift and with Jones as an ERA agent, had been written while Hippolytus Project was still in production. Ames, however, wanted to branch out, much like Moore did in 1981, citing the fact that he had appeared in a romantic comedy and a poorly-received police thriller since arriving in Hollywood. Ames was attached to the popular detective TV show Nova Scotia for the 1992 season, and he announced that he would be leaving the Martin Jones series with no regrets.
Crystal Village had a director, a cast, a budget, and a script; all it needed now was an actor to play Martin Jones. Big-name English actors were considered, but Timothy Dalton was contractually obligated to Jurassic' Park and Pierce Brosnan felt that his roles in the Jake McCoy and Arthur Randle film franchises would overshadow the series. Wright knew that Crown could not afford the same lengthy turnover period that followed Moore's departure from the series, but she had been mulling English actor Sean Bean as a replacement for Ames since seeing a tape of Bean's Shakespearean work. He had appeared in bit roles in some American films in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and he fit the persona built by Ames.
As Bean recalled, barely two months went by between when he heard that Ames was leaving the part right after the release of Hippolytus Project and Wright calling him to offer him the role.
"I was doing laundry when the phone rang. I picked it up and this strange woman's voice says, "Mr. Bean, I'm with Crown Pictures. How would you like to play Martin Jones in the next installment of the series?"
Crystal Village was a big-budget, explosive action ride that was suited perfectly for Ames - but as it turned out, Bean had a hard time establishing himself in a role Ames was fluid in, and Alan Rickman, playing the film's villain, upstaged Bean and stole the show. It was a financial success, but many at Crown and in the media questioned Bean as Jones.
Wright retired from her position at Crown and Dave Sully took over the studio in 1994. There had been tentative plans to film Sea Star next, with Bean once more in the hero's role, but Sully wasn't sure how appropriate the dark, brooding final book in the Jones series would be for a summer blockbuster. He did, however, like Bean's efforts to tackle the character, and encouraged him to explore his own take on the role. Sully greenlighted the next Jones film with a target release for summer 1996. The book of choice: Deception.The novel had been suggested in the late 1980's as a possible selection for a film, but Wright had been insistent on the plotlines explored in Red Hawk and Hippolytus Project instead, and the story was never adapted. Sully, however, loved the idea of Jones as an outlaw, and Bean was equally excited to play the role.
"The idea was to take a book in which Jones is framed of a political assassination by the EWA remnant and where he has to fight the EWA and new English government as he hunts the culprit, and to put it on the big screen. Hamilton had written it with a potential film in mind; that we hadn't made it before was strange to me," Sully explained in an interview.
Deception wound up being the highest-grossing film in series history. Critics and fans alike noticed how much more comfortable Bean appeared as he took the role in a new direction; Jones was a tired, almost reluctant character now, hardly the broad-smiled swashbuckler of the Moore show and movies or the charming but focused warrior of the Ames years.
Jones had evolved away from a hero and into an agent of the government; his decisions were now questionable, his assignments less and less noble, and Bean brought an energy to the character that made him everything that Moore and Ames had poured into him, and more.
1998 brought Vile Tides, which was met with hesitation by critics who wanted more out of the film, but was a commercial success. In 2000, Bean would appear in the Jones film that would define his stint as the character, and was one of the signature moments of his career as an actor: The Irish Defector was the most critically lauded film in series history, the second-highest grossing, and featured Bean in his defining role as Jones, as the hero matched wits with an unsavory Irish spy, played brilliantly by Pierce Brosnan, trying to untangle a mystery of espionage and murder. The film was set all the way forward in 1960; it was a post-nuclear, Cold War drama, and Bean's torn, haggard Jones fit the darkened mood perfectly.
In 2002, coming off of The Irish Defector, Sully reluctantly let his creative team put out With My Dying Breath, in which Jones travels to Zanzibar in 1962 to hunt down another Irish villain - Liam Neeson this time - who is trying to fund a coup to install a pro-Irish government led by the country's white minority, which incidentally is largely of English descent. The book by the same title had been far more complex in its exploration of white life in Zanzibar, especially in the turbulent 1960's, and had been one of the less successful Jones novels - for this reason, Sully was hesitant to have it filmed, especially since he felt it was, "Even further away from what he had done in Deception as far as the character goes."
The film was a critical and commercial flop, at least in comparison to the three previous Bean films. The 2004 installment, which would have featured Bean again, was pushed back to 2005 as the studio grappled with new financial issues and how they planned to go forward with the series.
Craig Era and Future
In 2003, Bean reluctantly resigned from the role of Martin Jones. Most of the Bean era's creative team left the series as well. Sully hired a whole new screenwriting team and new director and made the controversial decision to adapt the unfinished manuscript of Vengeance to the big screen.
The announcement was made in late 2003 that this was the studio's plan; fans were curious how this was to be accomplished. Sully soon announced that after a search more extensive than the one to find Bean, the studio had contracted English actor Daniel Craig to play the part of Jones in what would be a reboot of the series; the new movie, titled simply I'm Jones (the catchphrase used in most films to introduce the character) would use much of Vengeance's plot but be an origin story.Craig, while disliked by many critics for his lack of charm and humor, played the role in an applauded debut. I'm Jones was a tremendous commercial success and the hard, cold style of the new Jones, set in the bloodiest parts of the Anarchy and revolving around the brutal handicapping of his brother, was well-received as a fresh start to the series.
Two books and three short stories that had not yet been used in the film series were haphazardly thrown together for Darkest Winter (2007) and After London (2009), which followed the new timeline established in I'm Jones closely. Both were less successful in the box office, and After London received considerably less critical acclaim than its predecessors. David Sully announced that Crown Studios has wrapped up the "origin trilogy" of Jones and will begin to explore his impact on the English Adventure with their next two or three films, but that the next installments won't follow the same story arc. Craig's fourth film, In the Presence of Kings, will be released in June 2011, and will concern a plot about an American general seeking to seize a diamond shipment from Africa meant to be exchanged between the Irish and a French general in return for guns, but which has gone missing. David Queen, Barry Obama, and Gemma Arterton are confirmed in the major starring roles. Craig has agreed to appear in a fifth Jones film as well in either 2013 or 2014, but has stated that he doesn't think he has the energy to do many more than that.
List of Films
- The Adventures of Martin Jones (1976): Starring Roger Moore, the film follows two primary plots; early on, Jones protects a village from a roaming militia, before turning his attention north to hunt down the Scottish general who has been funding the violent militias. The movie was based almost entirely on Martin Jones and the Barbarian, a short story that had not made it to screen during the TV show.
- Martin Jones and the Hanging Tree (1978): Roger Moore's second film finds Jones helping a pretty young Welsh girl in her town's uprising against the EWA that controls the town; Jones employs guerrilla tactics by night as he charms the EWA's leadership by day, and fights them both inside and out.
- Martin Jones and the Widow (1980): Jones, in Roger Moore's final film, spends some time helping a widow who runs a refugee camp out of her deceased husband's country estate; however, as the violent Red Brigades approach, Jones learns that there is more to the widow than meets the eye, and must finally rally the refugees in an epic gun battle at the end with the Red Brigade leaders.
- The Vicar and the Virgin (1985): Jim Ames's debut performance as Jones, and for ten years the movie all other Jones films were compared to. Jones is asked by a Volunteer enforcer named "The Virgin" to assassinate a Catholic priest, named "The Vicar," who is believed to be defecting from the Volunteers. Jones is also tasked by this same Vicar to protect his daughter, Jennifer. The movie's whirlwind of moral dilemmas as Jones gradually falls in love with Jennifer came to define the character as a grim but stoic hero for the rest of the Ames films.
- Death Train (1987): The Americans have arrived, and Jones is working alongside Eddie Scarullo, a fast-talking New York corporal to escort a pretty young American aid worker to London. Along the way, they stumble upon a vicious plot by the EWA - with support from the French General Arnieu - to drive a train of explosives into the heart of the primary American military base in Wales, and Jones and his two friends have four hours to stop the out-of-control suicide train.
- Red Hawk (1989): General Arnieu makes an appearance once more, as the only Jones villain to appear twice, as the French begin to invade southern England. Jones is tasked with assisting American Staff Sergeant Ben Whitmore (played by John Travolta) to assault a Red Brigade stronghold that is smuggling French weapons into the countryside for soldiers to pick up later in the inevitable march towards London.
- Hippolytus Project (1991): Jim Ames's last turn as Jones, where the London Airlift is jeopardized by a secret EWA base that is shooting American planes out of the sky, deep behind French lines surrounding London. The harrowing finale, involving Jones and American Corporal Jackson (Eddie Murphy) trying to land an out-of-control plane at Barham Field and then embarking in full-scale battle with the EWA in London, was one of the most expensive scenes ever filmed in the series.
- Crystal Village (1993): Sean Bean makes his debut as Jones in the wake of the London Airlift, with the English Republicans in power with an American-backed government. An EWA general, one of the few remaining, is seeking to destabilize the new government, and Jones must travel to his castle stronghold at Crystal Village before the heart-stopping finale in London to stop him from succeeding in his terror plot.
- Deception (1996): The most successful Jones film ever, Bean returns to play a hunted Jones, who must evade his own government as well as the EWA after he is framed for assassinating England's new Minister of War, and find out who the culprits who have set him up are on both sides, and why they are working together.
- Vile Tides (1998): Jones travels back and forth between England and the Normandy coastline to hunt down a dangerous smuggler and to prevent the French from bringing a "terrible weapon" to English shores.
- The Irish Defector (2000): Jones tries to determine whether or not a high-ranking Irish defector (Pierce Brosnan) seeks to help or harm the nascent English government, and becomes involved in a tangled and bloody web of espionage between the two bitter enemies in the process.
- With My Dying Breath (2002): In Bean's last work, Jones travels to Africa to find an Irish general attempting to instigate a coup in the unstable country, and gets caught in a complex triangle of love, deceit and danger once he embarks on his "wildest adventure yet."
- I'm Jones (2005): In a reboot of the series, the film explores Jones in the beginning of the Anarchy, as he develops his skills as a marksman, fighter and rider to find the men who attacked his farm and maimed his elder brother Alexander.
- Darkest Winter (2007): Jones does battle with the Irish Army in the winter of 1950-51, primarily to stop them from seizing a resource-rich mining town and continues his rise as a master guerrilla of the Anarchy
- After London (2009): Jones becomes involved in the gang wars of London, witnesses the Burning of Parliament, and fights to foil a plot by a powerful gang to exterminate a neighborhood of Jews in the north of the city.
- In the Presence of Kings (2011): Daniel Craig's fourth film finds Jones captured by the U.S. Army and dispatched to northern England behind EWA lines to hunt down a West African diamond dealer whose diamonds are being laid down as collateral by the French for a promised gun shipment to the EWA. The film opened to the biggest box-office opening weekend in series history on June 3, 2011.
- Martin Jones 17 (2013): Daniel Craig has announced that he will retire from the role after he completes his fifth film, thus tying Sean Bean for most installments. The 17th film in the series was announced in April of 2012 as being officially set in late 1953 during the London Airlift and that it would feature Colin Miller as an unspecified villain, Natalie Weaver and Amanda Crew as the female leads and Josh Hutcherson as American Staff Sgt. Ben Whitmore. The title is expected to be announced in the fall, and the film is shrouded in unusual secrecy