Jones was born in the town of Longton in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, the son of Ida Elizabeth (née Goodwin) and Charles Edward Jones. He became an actor after ten years of working as a laboratory assistant with a firm making ceramic products, when his hobby of acting took over. He was trained at the prestigious Rose Bruford College and became famous for his role as Claudius in the 1968 British television series The Caesars. He tends to play eccentric characters.
He was also something of a David Lynch regular, appearing in The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Wild At Heart (1990), his short-lived TV series On The Air (1992) and the short film Hotel Room (1993).
Jones is the father of actor Toby Jones.
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