faye dunaway interview

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Newsday (October 6, 1993) By Frank Lovece


  • FOUl{tAIll 0F AGE: Betty Friedanasks: Why must we retire at 65?F00ll: A connoisseur who's theMichael Jackson of the beer world.TT: TNT presents David Mamet's'A Life in the Theater.'




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    r- is actually a grand dame -longA.

    "I've gotten a rap for being cool and removed, evenrfeeline sometimes." fhrnawav muses at a midtownunfeeling sometimes," fhrnaway muses at a midtown

    Manhattan hotel suite, still looking so blindinglybeautiful at 52 you almost have to look away. "I don'tknow where people got that idea," she insists with abewildered smile. "Maybe from some of the roles I'veplayed, which maybe were larger than life. There fi-nally reached a point," she reflects, "I was gettingoffers [to play] only overstrong women, even weirdwomen! I just said I'm not gonna play such a thing,thanks. I wanted to get back in there and help todevelop a role I really wanted to play


    kind of aninteresting smart, witty, vulnerable woman."

    And ironically, on her new CBS Friday-night sit-com, "It Had to Be You," about a mismatched roman-tic couple, Dunaway has created an interesting,Bmart, witty, vulnerable and overstrong woman. Aswealthy Boston book publisher Laura Scoheld


    aJoni Evanslike master of her domain


    Dunawayplays a turbo-charged coffee-achiever who, like theactrese herselfthis day, thinks nothing ofkeeping herappointments waiting 45 minutes. "I never had timefor a husband," Laura tells Mitch Quinn (co-star Rob-ert Urich), the widowed carpenter with whom she'simnediately smitten. "Oh, I was married twice


    Ijust never had time for them."

    Perhaps coincidentally, Dunaway, too, was marriedtwice-to rocker PeterTVolfof The J. Geils Band inthe

    T'S SIMPLY A MATTER of perspective, asfar as Faye Dunaway is concerned. The Os-car-winning actress and icy icon has an unde-niable reputation as the last of the granddames. But what she really is, she suggests,

    love across social-class lines, Liz 'n' Larrlr notwith-standing. But that, she says, is where the show's hu-mor comes in. "It's the fish-out-of-water comedic max-im,'l a5" says precisely. "Yeah, that romance isunlikely, " she concedes. "I don't know why that was anelement in it, although, as I say, it's comedic."

    Indeed, the series has lots of wacky moments whenLaura tries her hand at cooking (she can't, ofcourse),or fitting in with Mitch's friends (teaching each otherWe're All Just People), or helping to deliver puppiesfive minutes before a prestigious magazine photogra-pher arrives for a ehoot.

    "I'vealwayswantedtodo comedy," claimsDunaway,whose movie roles have leaned toward dramatic, psy-chologically complex women like Depression-era out-law Bonnie Parker in "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967),incestuously abused trophy-wife Evelyn Mulwray in"Chinatown" (1974), cobra-like TV executive DianaChristensen in theblackcomedy "Network" ( 1976), forwhich she won a Best Actress Academy Award, andhorrifring grand-dame star Joan Crawford in "Mom-mie Dearest" (1981). Yet except for tongue-in-cheekroles in the period farces"The Three Musketeers"(1974), "The FourMuske-teers" (1975) and "TheWicked Lady" (1983),she's been offered aboutas much eomedy as, well,Crawford.

    Partly, Dunaway says,that was her own doing."You take yourself so seri-ously when you're twen-ty," and, in her case, jet-ting straight from collegeto a charter membershipin Elia l(azan's Lincoln{entdt'lepertory Com-'fe4F Slrbfturidsuceeesin

    fi- f t :.it: , i

    dramas like Broadway's "A Man for All Seasons" and,more attention-getting, Off-Broadway's "Hogan'sGoat." "Andthen, of course," says Dunaway, resigned,"theykeep castingyou in the samekind ofroles. I didn'tget a chance to do larky, interesting, fu*y, moderncomedy the way Roz Russell, Carole Lombard, KayKendall and Myrna Loy did."

    That's frankly amazing, given her mid-'70s cloutand her conviction that in one's Hollywood career,"You better darn well drive it like a car, 'cause if youride it like a horse, it'll run away. There are so manypeople with so many agendas, that it's juet mind-blow-ing where you would be if you didn't make your ownchoices and really be very vigilant." Yet indeed, fewfilms are made that feature smart, witty women. "Youcan play dumb-blond stuff," Dunaway shrugs, "butthat's not my cup of tea. I wanna play a smart woman,and that's what Laura Scofield is."

    Dorothy Faye llunaway is pretty bright herself. Theelder child of an Army sergeant who left in a divorcewhen Faye was 12, she attended schools in Utah, Ger-many and her native Florida. Tall, willowy and porce-

    f f IHEN Gloria Swanson insisted inlllf "s,rnset Bouievard" rhat shel! ** stiii a brg sf,ar, lf, was oniythe movies that had gotten smaller, shemay as well have been speaking aboutthe literal small screen


    television,where stars from Hope Lange to JessicaLange have long gone to resuscitatetheir careers.

    Not that men don't frnd TV handy aswell


    even Frank Sinatra turned to

    berg go back and forth from TV to mov-ies all the time, as does virtually everysupporting actor in the business. Yet

    -old and cruel fact -

    male actors canstill be box-oflice stars and sex sSrmbolsinto their 50s and 60s (Clint Eastwood,Sean Connery, Jack Nicholson), whilewomen have a rough time past 40.

    It has to do with two things. The firstis economic: Men are bigger moviegoersthan women, and they generally pickthe llitk when out on dates. And theII,4!!qF q,$J,'v,st*T PJf,iE P51

  • lain, she was a cheeileader at Leon High in Tallahas-see, near the town of Bascom, where she was born,and won a beduty contest at the University of Florida.After transferring to Boston University, where sheearned a fine-arts degree, she reportedly turned downa Fulbright scholarship (a prestigious U.S. govern-ment grant) in order to join Lincoln Center Rep.

    Her theater success led to two or three little-knownTV roles in the mid-1960s, including on the NewYork-based Peter Falk series "The Trials of O'Brien."(She reunites with Falk on the Oct. 31 "Columbo"TV-movie, "It's All in the Game.") Dunaway's flrrstfilms were "The Happening" and Otto Preminger's"Hurry Sundown" (1967), both released the samemonth. One movie later, "Bonnie and Clyde" earnedher an Oscar nomination and rocketed her career.

    A move to England with second husband O'Neill,however, helped take her out of the spotlight. Be-tween "Mommie Dearest" (1981) and the U.S. art-house hit "Barfly" (1987), Dunaway floundered in acouple of forgettable movies and bloated mini-series."I feel the perception of me had dimmed," she says.

    Taking matters into her own hands, she developedand served as executive producer of two starring vehi-cles, the cable movieg "Cold Sassy Tree" (TNT, 1989)and "Silhouette" (USA, 1990). She was also develop-ingan NBC TV-movie with a potential franchise char-acter, art restorer-investigator Ariel Vermeer, butthat project, called "Assigrred Risk," and originallyslated for last season, remained stillborn. Dunaway iscurrently working with author Patricia Cornwell("Dr. Kay Scarpetta") on a new, original character.

    "It Had to Be You" (earlier titled "Marqr Me Any-way" and "For Love or Money") was the culminationof two or'three years of intermittent talks betweenDunaway and CBS Entertainment chief Jeff Sa-gansky. "I think he sort of earmarked this one, andWarner Bros. [the producing studio] offered it to me,"Dunaway says. (Twigry Lawson and Terence Knoxhad earlier been slated to star.) "In those early, earlydays, the script was very sketghy, and she was a ro-mantic novelist and didn't do much else. I said, let'sgive her some overtones of breeding, the intelligenceof a Jackie Onassis, of a Katharine Hepburn. Also,,the

    guy was a plumber, and I thought, no, carpenter issexier."

    And contrary to a report in DailyVariety, Dunawaydeclares she does speak on the set to more than justUrich and director-executive producer David Stein-berg. "No way," she says of the story. "We'd hang outwith the writers, they'd come on the set, I once calledone and said, 'I can't figure out how to play this. Imean, what did you have in mind when you wrotethis?'" she says, laughing. "That's just part of thecommunication of it all."

    And the gratifying thing about TV, she says, is theway it dommunicates so directly- intimately, even

    -with audiences. "The connection I'm finding!"Dunaway marvels. "It just gives me such a rush. Peo-ple are walkingup to me on the street to talk about theshow. I was just talking with people on the streetyesterday, and someone said, 'You must've been want-ing to do this a long time.' I said, 'Yeah, how did youknow?' And she said, 'Because you're just good init!' 'l I' Frank Louece is a free-lance writer.

    ty mrich only what it thinks the marketwants (which only sounds corlrDon--sensible until you realize that unexlpected blockbusters like "The CryrngGame" and critically acclaimed profit-turners like "Bad Lieutenant" don'tcome from Hollywood).

    The second reason is simply lack ofimagination. "Hollywood is not awareof the so-called'Fried Green Tomatoes'audience, " says Dunaway, qgfqrriTlgilg

    ffiffil-rffirmrffi*iufrS#?$dependently produced. "There are

    movies like that which appeal to awhole different audience than whatHollywood normally caters to. The stu-dios would like to tap that audience,but I don't think they have the confii-dence to identifr those pieces."

    But television by all accounts does -and has for years. Virtually every fe-

    male star of Hollywood's Golden Agewent on to do TV antholory shows, andqqp. v, feJB$ tgseqtrfpT{ib s,Se*sf*8sdis,qsp#'dndqdiw SBEESI.FI*wyck ("The Big'Valley," "TheColbys"), Donna Reed ("The Donna

    Reed Show," "Dallas"), Ida Lupino("Mr. Adams and Ev