Book Talk: Sissy Spacek on a ‘fulfilling’ career
NEW YORK, May 10 – A faint hint of a Texas accent comes through when Sissy Spacek calls up to talk about her new memoir.
Spacek, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of country singer Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” grew up in a small town, Quitman, Texas, in the 1950s and 1960s, a formative period that imbued her acting roles with “an authentic sense of rural life,” in the words of film critic and historian David Thomson.
Spacek, whose credits also include “The Help,” “Crimes of the Heart,” and “Carrie,” reflects on her childhood and movie roles in “My Extraordinary Ordinary Life.”
She spoke about her career, film roles for women and building a career.
Q: Your book is more about family than about acting. Is your point that one informs the other?
A: “One’s life does inform everything you do and how you do it. My childhood upbringing and my family are the foundation of who I am. It does inform my work.”
Q: Who is the audience for your book?
A: “My children. I didn’t write it for an audience. I just told my story. Every human being is many things. Childhood is the foundation of who we are. I find it interesting what you do with it, how that supports and feeds your life.”
Q: You stress in the book how important authenticity was to you – whether singing Loretta Lynn’s songs in ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ or having your own hand shoot out of the rubble of Carrie White’s house. Do you consider yourself a Method actor?
A: “I did a little studying with the (Lee) Strasberg Institute, though I never made it beyond exercise class. I had never acted before I took classes there. It evidently planted a seed that grew. The things I learned had to do with using your own life to inform your work. That’s what I did. Every choice that I made had to do with that simple lesson.
“I learned about sense memory. I used that sense memory by weaving my own life into my work. I’m not a trained actor. I’m sure I have much to learn still. I’ve kind of flown by the seat of my pants.”
Q: What’s your sense of the quality of roles for women now?
A: “That’s hard for me to judge because in the 1970s I was a young actress, so there were many more roles available. Film is a youth-oriented business. There are not many roles for older actors. I certainly don’t take it personally.”
Q: Which current actresses do you like? Whom you think you influenced?
A: “I’ve no idea who I’ve influenced. I worked with so many wonderful young actresses on ‘The Help’. Jessica Chastain is one of my favourites. She’s been phenomenal in so many different films. Emma Stone is a wonderful comedienne and just a whip-smart girl. Felicity Jones is a favourite of mine. I love Amy Adams.
“It’s a tricky thing to build a career. I feel for young actresses. The industry just kind of gobbles them up and it doesn’t give them much breathing room. Sometimes you see a wonderful performance and then they disappear. We as a society are kind of like piranha. We gobble things up.”
Q: If you were to sum up your acting career so far, how would you do it?
Q: What are we going to see you in next?
A: “I’m beating the bushes, looking for something meaningful, or not so meaningful. I’ve taken the last year to work on this book. I have new respect for writers.”
Q: Is there a spot for you in the ‘Carrie’ remake?
A: “I don’t think so, but I will be first in line to see it.
“What I heard, they’re not remaking the movie, they’re going back to the source material. It’s an iconic story that Stephen King created. It’s one of those stories that just doesn’t die.”
Q: There’s a funny moment in ‘Carrie’ where you’re trying on lipstick and you’re lost in your own world. It makes one wonder why there are few comedies among your movie credits.
A: “I don’t think people perceived me that way. I made my name in drama. But I’ve been funny in some dramatic roles (like) ‘The Help’ and ‘Crimes of the Heart.’ I think people are realising now I do comedic things.”
Q: Do you revisit movies you’ve made? Does your relationship with them change?
A: “Occasionally I’ll see them on television. I find, a few years after I’ve made a film, I go, ‘Well, that wasn’t so bad.’
“I worked with talented filmmakers. The great thing about film is you don’t do it by yourself. It’s a great collaboration. I am grateful to have been in the movies I was in. Probably the closest to a perfect movie I was ever in is ‘Badlands’. It’s really a timeless, beautiful film. Terrence Malick is pretty amazing.”
Q: What did you think of ‘The Tree of Life’?
A: “I loved it. It’s a movie I was able to give myself over to. Maybe because of the life I lived, it had great significance for me. I crawled out of the theatre I was so moved by it.” – Reuters