She had no film in competition at the last Cannes Film Festival. And yet, from her first appearance on the red carpet, the Croisette spoke only of Andie MacDowell. Or rather, her salt-and-pepper mane, which made her look crazy when she climbed the stairs. If the social networks were immediately inflamed, too happy to alert on this gray symbol of cool again, the enthusiasm would continue the glitter of the rows event. And the story expands.
Because this gray carries a message: that of a 63-year-old woman who takes time, feels good about her age and has a strong desire to show it. Revealed in 1984 by Greystoke, the legend of Tarzan, she then shined as much in the big box-office comedies of the nineties (an endless day, Green Card, 4 weddings & 1 funeral) than in the new independent cinema applauded by its peers (Sex, lies & videoPalme d’Or at Cannes in 1989).
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Generous, funny and thoughtful
His big comeback on our (small) screens was made last fall against his daughter, Margaret Qualley, in the miniseries maid where she plays Paula, an eccentric artist who refuses to treat her bipolar disorder. A role emblematic of his new desires. Those of a superb woman (64 years old next month) who explains to us that it is “quite normal for her to look her age”. Generous in her words, thoughtful, funny too, she shows herself at ease with a subject whose ambiguities and contradictions she knows how to finely point out.
The right balance between retaining or letting the years slip away. The desire to assume his age without wanting to be constantly told about it. In short, an assumed age that does not become reductive.
Thus, when she launches us, point blank: “And you, how old are you?” Then comments, in a big burst of laughter “wait to have mine!”, we say to ourselves that, if the future looks like it, it looks pretty good.
What attracted you to the role of Paula, this artist with bipolar disorder that you play in the miniseries maid ?
The opportunity to explore something different and unique. So often you are offered stereotypical roles of girlfriend, wife or mother, but much more rarely a character like that of Paula. Because she does not cure her disease, she is completely unpredictable. How long will I have to wait before someone shows me such a great script?
How did you prepare for it? By consulting medical publications on the behaviors specific to the pathology?
I have been reading books and new studies on the subject for over twenty years. When I was a child, my mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she received electroshock treatment. I think she was actually manic-depressive, but it was 1958, so the subject touches me closely. I was able to observe certain little-known symptoms, such as hyper-sexualization. Paula’s unbridled sexuality is a consequence of this disease which upsets the chemistry of the body. I worked on attitudes that are mine, for example a way of bursting out laughing, which I then exaggerated in order to make them fair for Paula. I also adopted a very fast speaking rate because bipolar people are often bright and endowed with a brain that works quickly. They are also good at masking their condition with humor. Extroverted and teasing, they become seductive, which is all the more disconcerting.
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What pleasure did you find shooting with your daughter Margaret Qualley, who plays Paula’s daughter?
I already had the pleasure of landing the role thanks to her. She spoke about me to the director and I am very flattered. Also honored that she wanted to work with me and thought I was the right person for the job. She liked my portrayal of Paula, which made me feel comfortable because I was taking a risk. I had never done anything like it.
The past two years have been crazy thanks to the Times’Up and #MeToo movements.
Your two daughters, Margaret but also Rainey, have become actresses. Did you advise them on the complexity of this career choice for a woman? In particular on the difficulty of lasting and/or aging in the film industry?
Not really, because you don’t think about those things when you’re 20. On the other hand, I talked to them a lot about the importance of having a good cinematographic culture, of knowing the directors and the films, of mastering the jargon of the trade. I grew up light years away from that environment and had to learn everything on my own. But neither were they raised in a “Hollywood” family. I consider cinema as a job, which I have always separated from my private life. I wanted them to have a real childhood and study, not turn them into child actors. They both have training as dancers and we mainly talked about dance. We went to see ballets, we listened to music. I didn’t know they wanted to branch off into the cinema. Today, they are good in body and mind, and I am proud of what they have become. Margaret has just shot with Claire Denis (in stars at nooneditor’s note), isn’t this an excellent start?
What has changed for women in the film industry since your own beginnings? Is it easier for them to flourish there?
The last two years have been crazy thanks to the movements Times’Up and #MeToo, whose impact has really shaken up mentalities. On the sets, we finally see more women, not only in directing and writing, but in all technical positions. I knew a time when a director first casted the male character, even if he didn’t have the leading role, arguing that people went to the cinema to see men.
Do you think that these movements, #MeToo, Times’Up, Body Positive, as well as all the current feminist fights also help to make accept the idea of aging well for women?
It is indeed a feminist fight but which remains very difficult because it is full of paradoxes. For example, from the moment we speak of “anti-aging”, therefore of stopping aging, we are already no longer in the sense of age. And, let’s be honest, day-to-day aging isn’t easy. We always emphasize the aging of the face, which is the most visible. But me, my ego takes a hit when I look at my arms. At this precise moment of doubt, I have to say to myself: hey, it’s OK, you like your arms, don’t start hating them. They change in a normal process of life cycle and passing time. You are not less beautiful, less strong, less human or less sensual for all that. I have to be in acceptance. We always fight the word age, but it can also have a positive connotation. The contradiction: we shouldn’t fight against age and yet we do it constantly so that nothing changes. I am the first to eat well, drink plenty of water, take care of my body to continue riding and hiking in the mountains.
For many, an aging woman suddenly loses her sexuality. While a man keeps her, whatever he does.
What has age brought you?
The desire to live in my own way and for me, because I have no more time to lose. Time has become precious. I have so many desires, experiences to live. I no longer have the luxury of always being able to please others. I realized that I had to please myself first.
Find the rest of this interview in your Marie Claire number 835, dated April 2022. Currently on newsstands.
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Andie MacDowell, the prime of life