Family & Companions
This dark-haired, sweet-faced but sometimes tough-acting character actress first gained notice in the plays of Sam Shepard to whom she married from 1969 until 1984.
Named for the character in Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth," O-Lan Jones and her mother and younger sister left her native Los Angeles for New York when her father abandoned them. After dropping out of school, the teenager began acting in Off-Off-Broadway productions, scoring her first success as a Rice Krispies-eating girl in Shepard's "Forensic and the Navigators" (1968). Though her 15-year marriage to Shepard might be politely termed "open," she continued to work in his plays. Jones was a rock star in "Mad Dog Blues" (1971), a voodoo woman in "Back Bog Beast Bait," starred in the all-female "Little Ocean" (1974), "Angel City," "Suicide in B-Flat" and others. She also appeared in non-Shepard plays like Len Jenkin's "The Death and Life of Jesse James" and Harold Pinter's "The Birthday Party."
In 1979, Jones co-founded Overtone Industries, a San Francisco-based theater company, using a settlement she received after being fired from the film "Private Benjamin." She has written a number of plays and composed musicals, including 1980's "After Stardive" (co-written with Kathleen Cramer). Among the other works, Jones has authored or co-authored are "Katy Cruel," "The Man Whose Brother was Eaten by Wolves" and "Heracles and the Hydra."
Billed as O-Lan Shepard, she broke into TV and films in the late 1970s and early 80s. Her big screen appearance was a bit part in Alan Parker's "Shoot the Moon" (1981). She was briefly alongside Shepard in Philip Kaufman's acclaimed "The Right Stuff" (1983). After her 1984 divorce, she reverted her billing to O-Lan Jones and appeared in "Wildfire" (1987) and has played small but strong character roles in numerous films, including a Mafia wife in Jonathan Demme's comedy "Married to the Mob" (1988), one of the neighborhood women entranced by the title character in Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), a biker chick in the dog comedy "Beethoven" (1992), and Lukas Haas' mother in Burton's "Mars Attacks!" (1996). With co-writers and co-stars Andrea Stein and Jim Turner, Jones adapted and appeared in Paul Bartel's film version of their dark comedy "Still Life" (1993), about three siblings who have lived in a bomb shelter since 1963.
On the small screen, Jones has generally appeared in small roles in TV-movies like the acclaimed "A Death in Canaan" (CBS, 1978), "Convicted: A Mother's Story" (NBC, 1987) and "Danielle Steel's 'Secrets'" (NBC, 1992). She was a series regular as the town waitress in "Harts of the West" (CBS, 1993-94), alongside Beau Bridges and Harley Jane Kozak and has guested on such series as "Seinfeld" and "Chicago Hope."
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
First gained notice in Sam Shepard's play "Forensic and the Navigators"
Lived in England with Shepard (dates approximate)
TV-movie debut, "A Death in Canaan", billed as O-lan Shepard
Founded Overtone Industries, a theater company
Co-wrote musical "After Stardive" with Kathleen Cramer
Feature film debut in Alan Parker's "Shoot the Moon", billed as O-lan Shepard
Made brief appearance in Phil Kaufman's "The Right Stuff", co-starring Sam Shepard
First collaboration with Tim Burton, "Edward Scissorhands"
Screenwriting debut, "Shelf Life"; adapted stage play with co-authors and co-stars Andrea Stein and Jim Turner; also co-starred
Made cameo appearance in "Natural Born Killers"
Had small role in Tim Burton's "Mars Attacks!"
Was briefly seen in "The Truman Show" as a waitress
Acted in the film "Live Virgin"
Composed the chamber opera "The Woman Who Forgot Her Sweater"