Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Shirley MacLaine Graces the Cover of The Saturday Evening Post

Shirley MacLaine has lived a lot in her 78 years. She also famously insists that she’s lived centuries more in past lives. But MacLaine hasn’t given a thought to retiring. Why should she? Her deliciously nasty turn as an old woman a small town loves to hate in Bernie, opposite Jack Black, earned rave reviews. Now, she’s got a juicy co-starring role in the hugely popular Emmy-winning Masterpiece series Downton Abbey as Lady Cora’s mother Martha Levinson, who arrives from New York to upset the household (season premiere January 6). In the January/February issue, on newsstands now, The Saturday Evening Post contributor Jeanne Wolf dishes with MacLaine on her life philosophies, jovial outlook, and her captivating role in Downton Abbey. 

On being a fan of Downton Abbey: “Actually I hadn’t even watched it until my hairdresser told me how much she loved it. So I tuned in. Shortly afterward, they signed me to play Martha Levinson so I sat down and viewed them all…and I just became addicted.”

On dressing for Downton Abbey: “Those authentic costumes took some work. The corsets were really demanding and the buttons on everything were so small. I understood the class system after getting ready every morning to go on set. I realized women of that time couldn’t get it together without a couple of servants.”

On acting with Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the fearsome Dowager Countess Violet Crawley: “We get along famously. She told me that we had met 40 years ago backstage at the Oscars next to the catering table. I was up for something, and there was this big chocolate cake sitting there. And somebody else won. Maggie said, ‘You know what you did, dear? You tucked right into that chocolate cake and said, “#*&% it. I don’t care if I’m ever thin again.’ I didn’t remember it. Maggie has a better memory. She’s one year younger than I am.”

On making New Year’s resolutions: “I am a student of change. I don’t want to make resolutions because I know I’m not going to keep them.”

On loving someone forever: “I think the need to promise to be with someone until the end of your days is foolish. And we don’t even want to have a discussion about monogamy. It just makes me laugh. I think the real challenge of love is more about sustaining a relationship with yourself. If you don’t have that with yourself, you can’t have it with others. Relationships keep changing, too. So I guess the only thing consistent is change, really. That’s what I’m learning. I’m much more attracted and, I think always have been, to peace and humor than I am to sexuality.”

On how young actresses today have to deal with paparazzi and fanatical fans: “You know that is so hard on those kids. I’m so concerned for them. This is a terrible thing what’s happening. It’s putting into perspective the price of the necessity to be famous. Everybody seems to want to be acknowledged by others to the extent that they’re not happy with themselves as they are. And that probably is the lesson here. Whatever their reasons for wanting to be famous have really impacted their personal growth.”

On dealing with paparazzi: “I think [the paparazzi] didn’t bother me because I’d already told them everything anyway. But on the other hand, when I was growing up and at the height of my popularity in those days, they weren’t as ferocious as they are now.”

On living in the electronic, computer-driven world: “This whole thing with technology? Oh my God, the other day I was in a movie theater and the person in front of me was looking at his iPad and watching another movie while he’s looking at the screen. And I thought, ‘I won’t go to dinner with somebody who’s going to text me across the table.’”

On what life means to her: “I think it’s a cross between what’s real and what’s comedy. When you analyze it you realize life itself is kind of a funny joke. Look at what’s happening in the world. If you don’t laugh, you’ve got serious problems. I think comedy—a sense of humor—must be born in certain people. Maybe it starts when you’re a little kid and the dog steps on your foot. You either think it’s funny or an imposition. I think I have a gift of quirky insanity. We need more comedy, more laughter, and a more ironic way of thinking about life.”

On yoga: “I used to do 75 postures. I was really good. I was an advanced student. I don’t think I could do three now … I try to listen to my body and my body says, ‘You can’t put yourself in that twisted, upper-down dog pose.’ But I think it was a mistake to give it up.”

The full interview appears in the January/February issue of The Saturday Evening Post and is available online at TK link.

The Saturday Evening Post, also, offers a historical perspective of past interviews with MacLaine.  The Star of Can Can and The Apartment reminisces about lucky breaks that took her from a Broadway chorus line to Hollywood Stardom. To download the archive article from 1961: http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2012/12/17/archives/call-shirley-maclaine.html


On not being a sex goddess: “I’ve heard that certain studios have put on big campaigns to sell the images of some women stars as ‘sex goddesses.’ Nobody ever thought of doing that for me. It would be a kook notion anyhow, for you can’t make cheese out of chalk.”

On Frank Sinatra: “The truth is that Frank Sinatra’s capacity for friendship is all-encompassing. He doesn’t get good press, but I know a Frank that those who write about him don’t know. Maybe they’ve had run-ins with him. That hasn’t happened to me. Frank’s a bundle of contradictions. At times he’s unreasonable, at times temperamental. He can be compassionate and insensitive, gentle and rough. But he can also be as kind as anyone I’ve ever know. If a person has all those contradictions, and you still find him good to know, you’ve got to call him your friend.”

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