Newnan's Jones shares screen with Damon in 'We Bought A Zoo'

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The new movie “We Bought A Zoo” features Newnan youngster Maggie Elizabeth Jones.

By JEFF BISHOP jbishop@newnan.com If you'd like to see a Newnan resident with a big supporting role in a major Hollywood release this holiday season, you can still catch eight-year-old Maggie Elizabeth Jones in "We Bought A Zoo" at both the Regal Cinema at Ashley Park and at NCG Cinemas at Fischer Crossings. Cameron Crowe's comeback vehicle, a family drama starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, grossed $15.6 million over its first four days. Jones can be seen virtually throughout the film.
Although the box office numbers are not spectacular by Hollywood standards, the film cost just $50 million to make, so it will likely turn a profit. The film also scored well with critics and audiences, earning a "fresh" rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website and an "A" Cinema Score with audiences. "It's a great, great family movie, and I think people should go see it because it's a true story," said Jones, who attends Landmark Christian School, in a phone interview. "It really was a privilege seeing it at preview," said her father, Jason Jones. "They had the premiere in New York City. It's a family movie, and a great holiday movie everyone can go see." Jones said her friends won't let her get "the big head" even though she shares the screen with Matt Damon -- and frankly steals just about every scene she's in. "My friends don't really give me a hard time," said Jones. "They ask me questions and stuff, but it's not really that bad." Her mother, Angie Jones, said she tries to give her daughter as much of a normal childhood as possible. In fact, she had to put off being interviewed for the hometown newspaper for a few hours because she was at basketball camp. "It's been kind of a whirlwind. She was on the Ellen Show and the Anderson Cooper show. But mostly she's just doing normal kid stuff at the moment," said Jones. She said that Maggie really doesn't see big movie stars like Matt Damon "the way you or I would." Being in Newnan helps to keep her grounded, she said. "That's the great thing about Newnan," said Jones. "That's why we've always made the effort to come back to Newnan, to come back to Landmark Christian School, ever since kindergarten. Everyone knows her and her sister there, and we try to keep their lives as normal as possible when they aren't filming." Still, her friends get "very excited" to see her in films like "We Bought A Zoo" and the recently screened "Footloose." "But they absolutely bring her back down to earth," said Jones. "When you're in L.A., everyone out there is connected to the business. So it's a constant conversation," said Jones. "But both my husband and I grew up in a small town, so small-town life is important to us, and so is our... school, our family, and our friends. In L.A., everyone is about the business. Here in Newnan, it's nice to get away from all of that." Sisters Mary Charles and Maggie Elizabeth have both come a long way during their time on the screen, their mother said. Maggie's first opportunity came in the form of a PSA for car seats. Their experiences with Hollywood have been positive ones, she said. "Cameron Crowe, the director, is one of the most positive and most patient people I know," she said. "He's just a great guy. He plays music on the set all the time. He tries so hard to get everyone in the right frame of mind emotionally. Maggie thought he was so great to work with, just very patient and kind -- a great guy." Damon was also "wonderful," she said. "He has daughters close to Maggie's age so it was easy for him to play the dad role," she said. Being on the big screen isn't always fun, though, she said. "Maggie's first reaction when she saw the trailer was, 'Does my voice really sound like that?'" her mother said. She got used to it. "We've seen it a couple of times now, and I can say that it's a great family film," she said. "There are not a lot of movies out there that don't rely heavily on special effects and are good family movies. This film is funny, it's sad, it's a journey. And we got to meet the real person that Maggie portrays. It's been a great experience for everyone."


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