Character actor Jeffrey Jones earned an enduring spot in the zeitgeist with his portrayal of frustrated principal Ed Rooney, Matthew Broderick's outwitted nemesis in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Although he has tried to steer clear of playing only sinister roles, the actor's imposing height, bugged-out eyes, easy sneer, and shock of reddish-blond hair give him vaguely devilish features that have prompted villain typecasting. However, the actor is also widely respected and considered a boon wherever he appears.
Jones was born on September 28, 1947, a native of Buffalo, NY. He involved himself in pre-med studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin prior to getting the acting bug. His first jobs were on-stage, initially with Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater, then internationally in South America, Canada, and London. In the late '70s he began working in film and landed one of his first plum roles as Emperor Joseph II in Milos Forman's Amadeus (1984), for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor.
This paved the way for Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), in which Jones plays the hissable, cartoonish high school principal hell bent on proving that the title character is faking an illness in order to play hooky. Viewers won't soon forget Rooney's disastrous home invasion in which he is mangled by a dog and thrice karate-kicked by Ferris' sister (Jennifer Grey).
But it was the gonzo Howard the Duck, released later that summer, that would truly preview the weird streak of movies with which Jones would begin to affiliate himself. In 1988 he played the good-natured father, one of the most normal characters, in Beetlejuice, his first of several collaborations with director Tim Burton. In 1992 alone he would play a triumvirate of oddball roles: an interplanetary freedom fighter in the goofy Mom and Dad Save the World, an actual demon stand-in in the TV spoof Stay Tuned, and evil bespectacled twins in Out on a Limb. He was also the star of a short-lived sitcom called The People Next Door (1989), in which he played a comic strip artist whose creations come to life.
In recent years, Jones worked as a variety of cowardly townspeople in gothic period pieces like The Crucible (1996) and Sleepy Hollow (1999); always full of surprises, he would then go in the other direction by appearing in children's movies, such as Stuart Little (1999) and Dr. Doolittle 2 (2001). These less rewarding, secondary roles have alternated with more deserving work, such as Criswell, the over-dramatic narrator in Burton's juicy Ed Wood (1994). Following accusations of sex with a minor in late 2001, police raided Jones' home and seized numerious items of evidence relating to child pornography. The actor was arrested on related charges one year later.