August 28, 1995 12:00 PM

FIRST VAL KILMER AND NOW Tommy Lee Jones. Was there something in the water when they were filming Batman Forever? Both of these guys seemed so settled. But Kilmer’s wife, Joanne Whalley, announced on July 21 that she was splitting from her husband of seven years, new baby or not. And on Aug. 11 Kimberlea Jones acted out a fairly common female fantasy, albeit in reverse: she cut Tommy Lee loose. In court papers filed in San Antonio, Kimberlea, 37, sought to end the couple’s 14-year marriage and asked custody of their two children, Austin, 12, and Victoria, 3. She asked for a “just and right” division of their joint property and child and spousal support. “The marriage has become insupportable,” said the court papers, “because of discord or conflict of personalities.”

That’s Texas-speak for “irreconcilable differences”—and those who know the couple say that while their love was real, the differences between the two ran deep. Start with the fact that Tommy Lee, 48, saw their 3,000-acre ranch in San Saba, Texas, 150 miles from San Antonio, as a refuge from the fast, hard life of Hollywood, a life he had once reveled in and now merely endured. Kimberlea, meanwhile, reportedly saw the spread as a whole lot of space in San Saba, with cows standing around on it. “Their marriage was like Green Acres,” says a friend of Tommy Lee’s. “He likes the country, she likes the city.”

Once, the couple didn’t seem so different. When they first met on the South Padre Island set of a movie called Back Roads in 1980, Kimberlea Clough-ley was a 22-year-old extra fresh out of the University of Texas, where she had majored in photojournalism. Tommy Lee was a deep brooder who had overcome what he has called a “psychologically brutalizing” Texas childhood at the hands of his oft-absent father. Jones had worked his way through Harvard, where he roomed with a senator’s son named Al Gore. He married actress-writer Kate Lardner in the early 70s and split from her after seven years. Next came a relationship with actress-turned-model Lisa Taylor that ended a few years later. Jones took the break-up badly, falling into an ill temper and a bout of heavy drinking. When he met Cloughley, he was still nursing his wounds and trying to settle down. But his unruly reputation had preceded him. “I was afraid of him,” Kimberlea told PEOPLE in 1993. That quickly changed when they discovered a shared passion. “I’m crazy about horses,” she said. “When he found out, he had five polo ponies sent down for us to ride on the beach.”

Within a year they were married. But by last spring one of Jones’s friends says Kimberlea wouldn’t even come to watch the polo matches Jones was staging on their spread. “She stayed in San Antonio,” says her husband’s friend. “She hates the ranch.”

Right now it’s hard to tell just how amicable the split is. Neither party is making a public statement. But friends of both believe that, unfortunately, the divorce is for the best. “It was a long time coming,” says a friend of Tommy Lee’s. Kimberlea waited, he adds, because she was genuinely concerned for her husband’s career and well-being: “She didn’t want to slam-dunk him in the middle of a movie.” Now that she has made her move, those who know Kimberlea are hopeful she can go on to better times. “I’m happy for her,” says a friend, “but I’m sad she has to go through all this.”


ANNE MAIER in Houston

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