Shirley Maclaine Interview

The actress makes it known why she is a legend of her time

As I've said, Shirley Maclaine is a legend in Hollywood - there is no question about that. When you see her in films, you can look at her and remember some of the classic roles she's played: 'Fran Kubelik' from The Apartment or Aurora Greenway from Terms of Endearment.

In her latest film, In Her Shoes, she stars as the long lost grandmother of Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, living peacefully in a retirement community. She plays the role perfectly, as only she could. The film is directed by Curtis Hanson, who's last film was 8 Mile with Eminem.

When it was time to interview Shirley, I was very excited! It was one of our last interviews up in Toronto! I had never met her and could not wait to hear her. Well, that was exactly what all of us did in that room; we heard her bash a reporter for asking about this movie being a 'chick flick.' And I even took a lashing for asking her about what she was writing about during breaks.

All in all, it was a very good interview, but she proved why legends of the business feel they can say anything and get away with anything.

Check out all the juicy info:

What made you want to do the role?

Shirley Maclaine: Curtis. I loved LA Confidential, I hated 8 Mile, because it was so well done. And he's an expert filmmaker and he's an ex-journalist so he really knows how to investigate what people are feeling. And I also found it fascinating that he wanted to go into something that dealt with women's feelings. And the script was good and he was a very good editor and guider of what the script should be. And I loved the idea of working with Cameron. And I loved the idea that he wanted me and when I read it with him we both came up with the same approach to this character which was to make it quiet. I knew he was going to shoot close so it would be read.

What about Elle is Shirley?

Shirley Maclaine: What about it?

What about her is you?

Shirley Maclaine: Not much, but, there must be something or I wouldn't have been attracted to it or I wouldn't have been so comfortable. And I like this. I'm going to go on playing contained.

You must be a quiet, thoughtful person. We certainly got that.

Shirley Maclaine: Maybe I am more quiet and thoughtful then I realize, probably am privately.

We were just saying it's a chick flick...

Shirley Maclaine: Don't even say that world.

But, what do you think of the perception and what do you think needs to be said about that?

Shirley Maclaine: I think you are just wrong! (laughter)

I am not saying it is. It just came up...

Shirley Maclaine: Then why did it even come up? (laughter)

Because it's been labeled that way.

Shirley Maclaine: Why? By you! No, by you guys. They are going to take what you guys say unless I can be heard.

Well, I like it a lot. I'm giving it a good review...

Shirley Maclaine: Well, good, but it's not a chick flick.

But I'm just saying that the public has that perception when they see a film with three women.

Shirley Maclaine: No, they don't. They see a family in trouble with very secretive and dark emotions that have to be resolved. That's a chick flick? Mad About Dogs is a chick flick, and neither was Turning Point, neither was Terms of Endearment and neither was this. Take your job more responsible because you're going to dictate what the public...

But, we're talking about the perception.

Shirley Maclaine: Yes, but you're the one guiding the perception.

The sibling ties in the movie – any of that with you and Warren?

Shirley Maclaine: He's always wanted to play one of my parts. (laughter) Oh, listen siblings always go through their version of what the family was and he has an entirely different memory of what our family was than I do. He identified more with mother. I identified more with dad, but both of the parents - they tortured their dreams in order to raise us and that's why we are such overachievers. And the sensibility of what they never did, because they were raising children in a proper way is what our lives have been.

Have you ever gone through anything that Maggie or Rose have gone through in your life?

Shirley Maclaine: No. Nobody in my family has committed suicide. Nobody in my family – well they might have acted a little crazy, but that would be me. (laughter) And I like very much exploring that, but every family has its dark side and it's unresolved issues and it's dramas that no one has looked at. That's why they are families. They are like mini-civilizations and once you get your own family clear in your head, whatever your problems are with it. You're better prepared for being an adult in the world. I think that when it comes down to elections and things like that, we should look into the family background and have a psychological profile of these guys running for president. And then we'll know what they are going to lead us into or not.

What was it like growing up in your house?

Shirley Maclaine: Umm, Mother was quite a bit like Ella. She was Canadian. Canadians suffer quietly though. (laughter) Mother was a very—you never knew what she was thinking. And dad was this guy from rural Virginia who would cry at the star spangled banner. So, that's where I get my patriotism from and we grew up in Virginia. It's the home of eight presidents and mother was naturalized so, I learned the constitution before I learned anything else, because she had to know it. So, that's why Warren and I are politically active. As far as art? She was a poet and dad was violinist. But, neither of them ever took that anywhere, because they thought they should stay home and raise kids.

Can someone turn on the air conditioning? This hotel is famous for these things not working. Then bring in a fan or something.

Speaking of politically active, do you think Warren will run?

Shirley Maclaine: He's not gonna run. He's a great father, he's busy raising those kids.

Well there was the strong possibility that he was.

Shirley Maclaine: How do you know that?

Well -

Shirley Maclaine: He made a speech.

Do you think he ever would have wanted to?

Shirley Maclaine: I dunno. Would you? (laughter)

You've been making films for a while. What is fun for you and what is work for you?

Shirley Maclaine: I hate getting up early with a passion. The traffic is insane. But Curtis helped with that. No make up, so that left some time to sleep in a little longer. And he wouldn't let any of us see the dailies, so that beat the traffic at night a little bit. Don't mind the waiting around, because I'm usually writing a book or something. I have to do two things at once or I get tired. And everything else I like.

Do you like this part of it?

Shirley Maclaine: Love it. I really do.

Was it uncomfortable for you not to watch the dailies?

Shirley Maclaine: Hated that, didn't like that. But, the upside was I got home earlier. In the end, I'm a very practical person.

When I spoke to you earlier this summer you hadn't seen "Bewitched." Looking back...

Shirley Maclaine: Do we have to discuss this? One day I would love to play Endora. How is that? (laughter)

What about Cameron attracted you to the project?

Shirley Maclaine: I knew that her canvas was deeper than she's allowed herself to be - Something About Mary and Charlie's Angels? Common, but this was bigger. She was very courageous and very disciplined. Quite disciplined for someone the public considers ditzy, and very committed.

Did she lean on you for advice?

Shirley Maclaine: Not one of them asked me anything. Isn't that interesting?

All the stories you could tell? No one wanted to know stuff?

Shirley Maclaine: (rolls her eyes?) (laughs)

Nothing about Frank (Sinatra) and Dean (Martin)?

Shirley Maclaine: Can you believe it? Curtis was interested. We rehearsed in my dressing room from which I made Children's Hour, Two From The Seesaw, Irma La Douce and The Apartment. And we rehearsed and all those ghosts were hanging around. Oh yes, and Jack Lemmon's was right next store. And we used to go down maybe fifty and watch West Side Story. Never asked me anything; if I had been them, I wouldn't have gone to work.

What do you write about? You said you write when you're waiting...

Shirley Maclaine: You're like the guy yesterday who said, ‘Do you have any siblings?' (Laughs.) I said I had a brother and they said, ‘Oh, well what's he like?' And I said, ‘Well his first name is Henry,' which it is. ‘And he's so ugly. And he doesn't appeal to women, so he's really a non-starter. So, we have a problem.' And I don't know what we're talking about. What do you mean what do I write?

I mean obviously, I know you write books...

Shirley Maclaine: No, you don't. You're caught. Oh, go f*ck yourself.

I mean I didn't know you wrote novels. But, I knew you wrote.

Shirley Maclaine: I don't write novels. (whispering) Just admit it. Be George W. this morning.

I didn't know you wrote books. But I didn't know what they were about.

Shirley Maclaine: You don't know what I write about?

Q; No, I don't. I have no idea.

Shirley Maclaine: Finally.

I didn't know what you wrote. But, I was wondering what you wrote about.

Shirley Maclaine: OK, it's taken ten books to do it. I write about self investigations and where it pertains to other dimensional realities which lead to ‘have we visited before?' ‘Will we live again?' ‘What is our cosmic purpose in our families?' We create the reality that we have just done. To learn in front of eight other people that you don't read! (laughs) It's about spirituality. Metaphysics. The whole search I've made through traveling to India, Russian, China, South America and it's about my own personal journey through my interior. The uninvestigated life is not worth living. I don't want to live that way.

And now I have to read it.

Shirley Maclaine: That would be nice. (Laughter)

I think what he meant to ask is the new one. What new spin?

Shirley Maclaine: Very nice of you to try. He really doesn't know. I am thinking and I'm kind of making mental notes. What it's like to feel the sense of confidence through an older wisdom and the fun of the reaction I get from absolutely telling the truth. And it's getting so that if I don't catch someone that everyone else gets going on they think I'm sick, because they expect you when you get to be my age to be eccentrically, curmudgeonly direct.

How do you feel about the possibility of an Oscar nod?

Shirley Maclaine: I like to win those things. (laughs) They are really fun.

You know there really is a good possibility. You are going to surprise.

Shirley Maclaine: I think it's the shock of doing nothing. And I think I do this pretty well. You think Cameron is too?

It could be.

Shirley Maclaine: I wonder. I really wonder.

We'll have to find those 72 (Golden Globe) people and find out what they think.

Shirley Maclaine: They're all drunk. (laughs.)

They had a big party last night.

Shirley Maclaine: Hey did you know that was a foreign press party last night? (to her manager)

Manager: Every party at Toronto is full of foreign press.

Is there any movie from the past you turned down that you wish you hadn't?

Shirley Maclaine: Yeah, Breakfast at Tiffany's and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. Can you believe that? I thought, ‘Marty Scorsese? I honestly don't think he knows what he's doing.' (laughter) Oh, man. What a mistake. And she won the Oscar for that and then she ended up playing me in the picture. Remember that? We have some sort of karmic relationship going on. And I love Inherit the Wind. Those are two of my favorite pictures

Have you been aware of the book before this?

Shirley Maclaine: I hadn't; I don't read novels, I'm like him. (laughs)

Did you go back and read it afterward?

Shirley Maclaine: No, the only one I read was ‘Terms' and I read that three years later. I don't like to read the novels, because in the screenplays decisions have been made. And I don't want to read the novel and be like, ‘Oh, what about this part?' Because nothing is right or wrong, I learned that a long time ago. It's just different. And the director of a screenplay, that's their job. I won't argue with ‘em. Maybe I'll have a couple of suggestions, but I'm not one of those people who scream and yell about creative differences.

Would it inform your character to know about the back story more?

Shirley Maclaine: Emm-hmmm (No). I want to do it myself.

What are you doing next?

Shirley Maclaine: I've got three pictures; isn't that great? But, we have to wait and see.

You're not going to tell us?

Shirley Maclaine: I'm really not and I'll tell you why. He asked me a question and I'm half direct. (laughs) In marketing, these guys sit around and they don't understand the creative artists visions. The only thing they understand is who is or isn't the target audience. Can you see them deciding to spend $8 million on a bunch of penguins? (laughs) And look at English Patient; they ran out of money because they didn't have any faith in it. In the old days it was about vision, and also, these guys who ran the studios eat, breathe, ate and imagined cinematic vision.

In Her Shoes opens in theaters October 7th; it's rated PG-13. And remember, it's not a chick flick and Shirley Maclaine writes about spirituality.