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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Vinnie Jones: Hard man with soft centre
By Bob Chaundy of the BBC News Profiles Unit

Vinnie Jones is the kind of person you would like to have on your side. His fierce commitment and equally fierce temper has intimidated his football opponents and, sometimes, his team-mates too.

Jones tackling Gullitt
A Vinnie Jones tackle from behind on Ruud Gullit

Once, when he believed Warren Barton and Dean Holdsworth were not wearing their Wimbledon shirts with pride but rather to keep warm, he pinned them up against the dressing-room wall and delivered some "home truths".

Jones's soccer hard man image was bolstered by a video nasty of the same name which brought him a record 20,000 fine from the Football Association.

A threat to tear off one of Kenny Dalglish's ears cost him a further fine and his disciplinary record includes the quickest booking (five seconds after kick-off) and a dozen red cards.

Most famously, he was caught on camera committing a handball offence on Paul Gascoigne.

This hard man image prompted film director Guy Ritchie to cast him as the villainous debt-collector Big Chris in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Jones attending court with his wife
Leaving court with wife Tanya in 1998 after the fence offence

Life, though, was imitating art. On the day he was supposed to start shooting he had to attend a court hearing for assaulting his neighbour over an argument about a garden fence. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.

But his first film role led to his current performance as a mute heavy known as The Spinx in the gangster movie Gone in 60 Seconds, which has been an instant hit in the US.

Suddenly Vinnie Jones finds himself living in Hollywood, on the threshold of becoming an international movie star.

All this is a far cry from his roots on a council estate in Watford where Jones admits that his talent for football probably saved him from a life of petty crime. His parents split up when he was a teenager and he left home at 16.

Jones with children at a charity event
Jones the softie working for children's charities

Jones once said: "All my life I've had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other."

The Vinnie Jones who once sunk his teeth into a journalist's nose is the same Vinnie Jones who returned home in tears when seeing the hopelessness of the old people he delivered blankets to on his community service.

And the same one who is an active fundraiser for a host of children's' charities. He donated his 30,000 fee for Lock, Stock to Harefield Hospital, where his wife Tanya, to whom he is devoted, had a heart transplant.

He has a big temper but, it seems, an equally big heart.

His new career, he says, has earned him more respect than his footballing ever did. There is no doubt he has had the luckiest of breaks. But his childhood broken home and early independence instilled in him the belief that "made me want to get on in life and the harder you work the luckier you get".

Jones in the film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
As Big Chris in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

It has paid off. He has already made the movie Snatch with Brad Pitt from the same stable as Lock, Stock. He has played the lead role in a remake of The Mean Machine, and he has plans to play the bare-knuckle fighter, Lennie McLean, in another movie.

But his feet remain firmly on the ground. He still drinks with the same friends he grew up with and maintains his passion for greyhound racing, while at the same time rubbing shoulders with royalty at charity fund-raising events.

This rough and ready character is now paid 1.5m for advertising a perfume called Penny Black. There is, about Vinnie Jones, the sweet smell of success.

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12 Jun 00 | Entertainment
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