What Happened to Jeffrey Jones?

Fans may be curious as to why Jeffrey Jones isn’t in the Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice sequel. There’s a good reason folks. This one gets dark.

Lydia Deetz, her stepmother Delia and her daughter Astrid stand over a casket, the burial services in progress. We can barely make out who the funeral is for but there he is on the headstone: Charles Deetz. While Charles was once part of the Beetlejuice sequel when the ghost with the most was to “go Hawaiian”, he was written entirely out of Beetlejuice Beetlejuice…for reasons that will soon be obvious.

Despite the original’s and sequel’s dalliances with the afterlife, Jeffrey Jones will not be in the Beetlejuice sequel– or pretty much any other legitimate movie – following his disgraceful tumble from his small but reliable spotlight. Perfectly fitting into prestigious period pieces and goofball funny flicks. Jones is a Golden Globe nominee with consistent work – a mix of villain, comedic and at times patriarchal roles, Jeffrey Jones went from Ferris Bueller baddie to Who’s Your Caddy?

So let’s find out: WTF Happened to…JEFFREY JONES?

But to truly understand what happened to Jeffrey Jones, we go back to the beginning. The beginning began when he was born on September 28th, 1946 in Buffalo, New York. It was Jones’ mother who encouraged him to pursue acting; and while he focused on pre-med at Wisconsin’s Lawrence University, he did soon take to stage productions. Soon, he fell in with legendary theater director Tyrone Guthrie, studying under him at Minneapolis’ Guthrie School. He, too, would study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Jeffrey Jones took to small theater, travelling the world and stepping into roles in prominent works like Trelawny of the Wells (1975) alongside John Lithgow and Meryl Streep and taking on various roles in The Elephant Man (1979-1981) with David Bowie as the lead.

howard the duck dark overlord

Jones would move on to television, mostly in one-offs, miniseries and TV movies. His first notable credit would be in the Cold War actioner The Soldier (1982), next playing a sleazeball opposite Rodney Dangerfield in Easy Money (1983). But his true breakout came in the widely acclaimed Best Picture winner Amadeus (1984), playing Emperor Joseph II, who shows great support for Amadeus and Salieri. For his performance, he would earn his only Golden Globe nomination (Best Supporting Actor) to date, later missing out on an Oscar nod. More importantly to his career, it would land him his signature role: Dean Edward Mooney in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). The ultimate authoritarian, ego-tripping prick – at least to the teenage mindset – Mooney was on the hunt for the titular schemer and skipper. Jones played it perfectly, exuding a sleazy weasel quality that hadn’t been taken to that level ever before in a high school movie, moulding one of the genre’s quintessential heels.

jeffrey jones ferris Bueller

His Amadeus role would also land him Howard the Duck, also out one year after Transylvania 6-500, in which he played the mayor. Here he was Dr. Walter Jenning, but Jones really comes undone when he gets possessed by the Dark Overlord (also voiced by Jones); the movie is a notorious rotten egg, but Jones plays the character to great effect, giving an over-the-top and unhinged performance. That same year, Jones played Thomas Jefferson in a TV movie. Now that’s some diversity right there!

1987 would be a casual waste for Jones, playing an army officer in The Hanoi Hilton and Buffalo Bill in a Kenny Rogers vanity project for CBS. But he had made the mark he needed to, being recognized by Tim Burton as just the man to play patriarch Charles Deetz in Beetlejuice, showing a comedic timing that let him play the foil to hauntings and “Day-O.” Tim Burton would go on to cast Jeffrey Jones in two more movies in the ‘90s: Ed Wood (1994), in which he played real-life psychic personality The Amazing Criswell, and Sleepy Hollow (1999), playing the town reverend. He had become part of Burton’s growing fleet of frequent collaborators. Another friend and occasional face was that of Paul Reubens; but more important than Pee Wee or Batman Returns was his tie to Jeffrey Jones’ undoing.

Jones ended the ‘80s with Sherlock Holmes twist Without a Clue (1988), playing second billing to John Candy in Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989) and pairing again with Miloš Forman for Valmont (1989), an 18th-century period piece where in character desired to marry a 15-year-old girl…He, too, gave the sitcom scene a shot, playing a cartoonist who can bring his works to life in The People Next Door, which lasted all of 10 episodes (half of which never aired).

The ‘90s started off promising, playing a submarine commander in John McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October (1990). Then came a trio of flops, all in 1992: Out on a Limb (reteaming with Ferris Bueller co-star Matthew Broderick), in which he played twin brothers; idiotic sci-fi family flick Mom and Dad Save The World; and Stay Tuned, another idiotic sci-fi family flick – but at least this time he got a chewy villain to play. After an uncredited turn in Oliver Stone’s Heaven & Earth (1993), he balanced out the rest of the decade with a mix of comedies and dramas. There was a small role in 1995’s Houseguest, then moved back to his stage roots playing Thomas Putnam in The Crucible (1996). Meanwhile, 1997 saw him playing a law firm partner whose big mouth gets him killed in The Devil’s Advocate, an over-the-top racist in The Pest and a part in indie Flypaper.

1999 was just as diverse for Jones, appearing in Stuart Little as Uncle Crenshaw (a role he reprised for a couple of episodes of the animated series) and horror flick Ravenous as a colonel who turns into a cannibal.

He, too, would spend a sizable portion of the 1980s and 1990s doing spots on shows like Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt and The Outer Limits, as well as lending his voice – one of his strong suits – to shows like Duckman and EEK! The Cat. As for movies before he got in trouble, there was a role as a senator in Company Men (2000), a hotel manager in Heartbreakers (2001), the primary antagonist in Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001), and even the vice president of the United States of America in How High.

jeffrey jones beetlejuice

In the early 2000s, Reubens was under a year-long investigation for lewd material. While no evidence was found and no charges brought, the search became a lead to Jones. And in 2002, he was arrested for possession of child porn, even supposedly hiring a 14-year-old boy to pose for explicit photographs. As such, Jones faced a felony count of using a minor in an explicit film and a misdemeanour of possession of child porn. Jones denied all accusations, saying, “All I want is for the truth to come out and for this matter to be resolved as quickly as possible.”

After pleading no contest, Jones received five years probation and had to register as a sex offender, also being made to undergo counselling. Following the sentencing, Jones stated, “This concludes a really painful chapter in my life. I am sorry that this incident was allowed to occur. Such an event has never happened before and it will never happen again.” But troubles would haunt him still, as in 2004 he failed to update his sex offender status in Florida and in 2010 failed to do the same in California, receiving 250 hours of community service as punishment.

And that was pretty much the end of Jeffrey Jones’ career…Pretty much. Before this, Jeffrey Jones had solidified himself as a familiar face among movies and television; he wasn’t quite a character actor but he was undoubtedly a character, a certified “Hey, it’s that guy!” kind of guy.

Despite his troubles, Jeffrey Jones still landed a vital role on a key show in the Golden Age of Television: that of newspaper editor A.W. Merrick on HBO’s Deadwood, tagging along to a cast SAG nomination and even being invited back for the 2019 movie. Outside of that, Jones appeared in junk like Who’s Your Caddy? (2007) – his first “major” movie since his arrest – and 2014 disaster flick 10.0 Earthquake.

And that’s just the sort of fare we would expect from Jeffrey Jones now…if he gets a role at all. Once a familiar face and recurring part of Tim Burton’s repertoire, he fell from his minor grace with a thud. To most of us he’ll always be Ed Rooney and Charles Deetz, and while his disgraceful behaviour doesn’t take anything away from the movies – they’re just too good to have one pervert ruin it. How appropriate that his acts buried his career and his Beetlejuice family closed the casket on his legacy.

About the Author

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Mathew is an East Coast-based writer and film aficionado who has been working with JoBlo.com periodically since 2006. When he’s not writing, you can find him on Letterboxd or at a local brewery. If he had the time, he would host the most exhaustive The Wonder Years rewatch podcast in the universe.