By Tobias Carroll / June 2, 2019

Jason Lee: From Skateboarder to Actor to Photographer

One man's unexpected career path

Jason Lee
Jason Lee at the 2015 premiere of "Away & Back"
Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Jason Lee’s career has involved some dramatic changes over the years. He first attracted attention in the 1980s as a notable skateboarder — which included a memorable appearance in the video for Sonic Youth’s “100%.” From there, he began acting, including notable roles in movies like Almost Famous, Dogma and The Incredibles — and television series like My Name Is Earl and Memphis Beat. More recently, he’s made another career shift: taking photographs in the Southwestern United States, where he now lives.

A show of Lee’s work opened on June 1 at Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Philbrook Museum of Art.

Though his career doesn’t involve much acting these days, film has still had an influence on Lee’s current work. A Vanity Fair article about his photography explored that further: “His photographs are also inspired by the films that he loves. In conversation, he cites Paris, Texas, Terrence Malick’s Badlands, and David Byrne’s True Stories, his source for that ‘Texas color palette.’”

While he told The Dentonite in a 2016 interview that he was “[n]ot really doing any acting work much anymore,” that may soon change. He told Vanity Fair that more acting might be in his future, and that “he’d love to provide some closure to fans of My Name Is Earl, which ended on a cliff-hanger.”

In the interview, he also spoke glowingly about Denton, Texas, where he and his family have resided for the last four years. (“It’s like a small Austin,” he said.) For readers who know Denton solely through its appearance in great Mountain Goats songs, it’s an excellent introduction to the city. Lee is also one of the owners of the Denton restaurant Barley & Board — one more unique gig from someone whose circuitous career path opts for the unexpected.

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