Transcript:

Speaker Well, let's talk about how you got Julia in the first place. I mean, what? Where did it enter your mind, this idea of being an actress or studying and Julia?

Speaker Well, I didn't want to I didn't want to go to college. I grew up in a working class family in Connecticut. And my father insisted that I go. I hated school, so I thought, well, I'm going down to the to the guidance office and see any and school has no math or science requirements. I'll go to. So I went through all the books and they had to be fine arts. And the only book I found was the Boston Conservatory of Music. So I said, well, I'm not a musician. Well, I played cello, but I'd never seriously play anything. And I don't sing. You know, I had odds who were in the opera. So what I did do was audition for a play. Went there. They gave me a small scholarship. And I went there for, like, I think a year and a half in a year. I knew that if I stayed there, I wouldn't have a career. I just know it because people there who met well, they just weren't the teachers weren't just weren't good enough, I thought. So I took a dance in the dance division and then I went back for another semester and I was so unhappy I just quit flat out quit. And then I asked around if anyone knew any of the schools that were like this. And what one former classmate said, where there's a Juilliard school with their first acting company is coming to Harvard at the Love Drama Center. And there's two plays in repertory you want to go. So I went to see the pilot, Pflum Tony, Kevin Kline and David Ogden Stiers. I'll never forget it is in the lower depths. And then the following night I saw. The School for Scandal and Patty played Lady Teasley, and it was a scream. Two different periods to the same company. I said, I'm going to that school. And then the kid laughed and said, You'll never get into that school. They don't take very many people. And besides which is expensive. You have no money. I said, I'm going to that school or I'll be a cashier at Woolworth's. I don't care. I prepared by my two pieces and I got accepted with a scholarship.

Speaker And what was your audition like? What what pieces did you do?

Speaker Well, I remember that someone suggested Mila from Way of the World for a they have to do one piece before eighteen hundred and one after eighteen hundred of of of diverse moods and no extreme character. And, you know, when you're 19 years old, you know, you play 75 year old person. But I play a 45 year old mother in the subject was Roses by Frank de Gilroy. I related to that at 19. So I play that. And I played Milham because I was terrified of Shakespeare. I didn't know any. So I did my comedy in the period and I did by tragedy and modern. I understood that.

Speaker And who is that, your sense of this wall of freaky people?

Speaker I remember Michael Kahn. I remember Mary NLD. I remember Borris to Morrin was no longer with us from Russia. I remember Alfa's Liz Smith. Or was it Edith Skinner? That's all I can remember.

Speaker Well, then you sort of hop on the buses big and come to New York and enter this, you know, semi insane Lincoln Center orbit. What was that like?

Speaker I mean, very difficult for me. I always had a nervous breakdown in the time. I didn't have a very firm foundation as a kid about who I was when I came. And when you come to a school like Juilliard. The pressure is great. There's no time really to recoup after like a 12 hour day or whatever it is, you're just constantly going. I had a lot of energy, but I it was different kind. The school will break it down. It'll break down like like a player on a team. You'll break down bad, bad habits or whatever, and you got to build them back up. And in the breakdown part, it was very hard for me. I think for very, very personal and deep reasons. And during that time, the strain was great. By time I was to my third year. I did have a breakdown of sorts and it took me a week to recuperate from by just removing myself from the entire process of self-examination, of putting myself. I developed stage fright, which I had never had in my life, and through a series of of just being overly self-conscious, myopic about watching myself. How do you talk? How do you move? How do you breathe? This is not right. That's not right. And I think it was accumulation of of your own life and then filtered through the training. It is a terribly vulnerable time. And if you don't as well, I think sometimes the actor should be older when they go. So they have more of a life experience because kids out of high school or just one year of college. I think it can be pretty. You know, if you're a virgin, for instance, it's going to be tough. You're playing a lot of strange stuff and you say, well, I understand that. So it's about values, too, and life experience, I think just because of my life now and and because I did accumulate strength along the way. And because of the failure of emotional strength during that time, I was able to become stronger. And when I got out of Juilliard, which was miraculous in itself to the last four years. I felt there was nothing I couldn't do. Not in any style, not in any period, because it already been through the toughest. So films were not hard to me. And of course, John Harlesden was so fabulous because he his wisdom still. I hear his voice still like he would say. If you're playing in a bad script, which you mostly you'll find you're going to have to do more homework, not less. You're going to have to take the part to a deeper level. So would you spin on top of it and just play the cream? Play the bubble. But your route is deeper. That takes a lot of energy, a lot of you know, and sometimes like working on working on TV. They'll say, well, guys like it so deep. And you'll say. What they'll have, they rather have you not today. There was a time when they did want to do. But I'm glad I'm grateful for that. And also, I'm I I remember when I first got there, Robin Williams was in not my class at that time. He was an advanced student. And this was a big lesson to me. He had done when you're a third year member, you you're put into performances for live audience. We never got allowed. We were never allowed to have an audience until your third year. Really, really good reason. You don't develop shtick. No tricks, no gimmicks. You don't. You don't get by on your personality. You have to create a role. You must be the kind of person that they are. They don't want to know you when you come in for that role. That's incredible. So you totally become one with what you're doing.

Speaker So they were doing of the Iguana by Williams. And I had never even read Tennessee Williams in my sheltered life. So as a result, I guess it was Robin playing the old man in the chair, the grandfather. And he was a hoot and a half. He was like the guy in Mork and Mindy with a O voice. This is great. We were laughing the rest. The play was rather dreary as far as we were concerned. A freshman. Anyway, then here was the the the way they used to do it.

Speaker We would sit in along. All the teachers would be on this like panel on a Monday. Every department and anybody was in that play had a stand up and be critiqued. Your text work, your voice work, your breathing, your interpretation, whatever it was. And they would do that in front the entire student body, which is about 80 people.

Speaker It was his turn and we couldn't wait because he was cute and he was the best. And we thought to kind of get the best of his accolades. Guys, great. Mr. Miss, your husband said something like, Mr. Williams, this institution is not designed to create the entertainer. You are an entertainer. You have been. And you always will be. We are an institution that is dedicated. For the actor, that means you must reach up to where a character lives and never bring him down to your own life. Because our world, Mr. Williams, is too small to encompass the pettiness of a character or his his religion or his politics or his social life. And what you did Saturday night was you brought it down to you. Therefore, if you wish to continue with us, Mr. Williams, it is our unanimous opinion that you must go back to the freshman class. I'll never forget his response. He said something like, well, whatever you suggest, Mr. Housman, I'll do his humility, his confidence rightly placed right. He put it right back and came into our class for the night. You know, he was there all over next four years and they didn't. He was allowed to play call me for like a year. And it was amazing. I for whatever my opinion is worth, is that part of his success today is based on his choice to follow that wisdom and not just be a man of the moment because he was true. He already done standup. He was already in California. All he got is an empty road without a craft and acting as a craft. And if you have one, you can act forever. It won't be based on your face. Or are you 20 or are you hip or are you hop or whatever?

Speaker It is the latest lingo, because all of a sudden you become someone else.

Speaker What kind of what kind of interaction do you have with Housman about your own work? I mean, what kind of he was on?

Speaker Was he. How how is he perceived by the student?

Speaker Well, he was August. No, he was ill. He knew so much. He knew so many people. I admired him. I was a little frightened of him because I thought of him as like large, like life, you know, big like life. He had a big physique. And when he would speak, I'd be kind of like my if Alfred Hitchcock, when he did, is like that profile of Hitchcock tonight or something. Anyway, he would call me into his office one day at the end of a year because I did well and I received a scholarship. I mean, I received a the Jack Landauer Prize for our most promising freshman, my freshman year, along with another student with Frank Conroy.

Speaker And he said to me, What books are you reading?

Speaker And I said, I'm I read I was reading Alice Miller, you know, drama, gifted child, as Woody Herman has. I was reading Tolkien. I was reading a list of C.S. Lewis. He said, throw them out.

Speaker Psychology will never help you as an actor. What are you doing this summer? So I'm going to Greece. I'm going to Israel. And they said, take all of Tolstoi and all of Dostoyevsky and read it. When you come back, you'll be a better actor. And I said, I understand why. You said because you must learn the value of opposites and contradictions. The horror can be a saint and the saint can be a whore. And that's how you find the most exciting kinds of work. He said, you're very talented. And he said you must lose weight or you'll never play the part you should be playing right now. That was what I was, really heavy. And then what else? Did he say things to that effect? I did do what he said. I took the books and I saw what he meant.

Speaker He also told me to have a working knowledge of most of Shakespeare and the Bible, without which he said he would say, like Lear. Can we play? Is it like that archetype of Lear would be done? Medicaid, Ezzor, you know. Babylon. And that I've got all the I'll ever understand that. But he wasn't wrong about that either. So he put in our heads. You see the desire to read big things. And in Shakespeare, I find you need the source of the passion is deep to say, you know. Blow winds blow. I mean, rack rage. I mean, words like that. You're not going to, like, neutralize a monthly blow and blow. It doesn't work. But when the guts in the end the whole body's engaged and words come out, you could say it the same way. But there's a force behind it because there's a heart and a nakedness behind it.

Speaker How did you feel about what was back through the core of the program, this incredible voice since speech stuff and Boise Catch 22?

Speaker Whether that helps or hurts you and you studying that with once you got there?

Speaker Well, we all have pretty much the same people. It is warm and skinner for phonetics and deciphering, you know, how our sounds are made salient, saying I can't stand them.

Speaker It's not the rain in Spain going to. No. Or as you know, Moses is rosy. That is that very, very kind of thing. And then, of course, Liz Smith for local production, Robert Williams had probably probably the most lasting impression upon me.

Speaker I always saw him as a like a restoration kind of guy built like a pipe cleaner. Oscar Wilde. In a moment. And how to technically deliver a line that if you're not feeling inspired. On the fourth performance of the eight you must give. You'll get the laugh every time. By the way, you drop it. And he made us do all kinds of. He never judged us as students. He just loved us in the way. By giving us the information for free. He never made it a personality problem. Some teachers have, you know, personality clicks with certain actors. And I always find that a waste of time. I think your job is to get out there. Love what you do and you end to communicate it to somebody else and they can fly with it. And he did that. And I liked his objectivity. He made me feel I could do anything. I think that's a marvelous, marvelous gift.

Speaker Of course, he's still there. Is he really? Well, you know, as a matter of fact, he came to see the Hamlet we just did with Underserve man in December and he died. What's the matter with your voice? Because I had bronchitis at the time and I said, I don't know.

Speaker I think you're just having a problem with the voice. But was I any good at this play?

Speaker Or you'll find a fine by the voice here and writes down when Corvin's no great vocal doctor here in town and see her tomorrow. I couldn't get an appointment. He got me one.

Speaker She was bugged.

Speaker It's important. The speech and voice. By the way, we don't think so. And none of us thought so. But boy, when you've got to pull it out, you've got to play these kinds of plays that require long breaths, big words. You don't need the breath and you can't be smoking, hanging out and parks to do it. You've got to be swimming or running track.

Speaker And in doing the exercises, do you find that you wherever you've done this sort of a real mix in terms of theatre and films? And did you find that that sort of catch 22 boys?

Speaker Well, only if you only if you're acting was based on it. Here's a comment.

Speaker John McTiernan did all the diehards and also directed me and then Antonio Banderas film The Thirteenth Warrior. He said, I heard you went in while he talks like this. Are you went to Juilliard? Yes, I did. Really? I never would've figured you for one of them. You're too good of an actress to have gone to jail.

Speaker I said, how can you say?

Speaker He said, I went to Juilliard, too. I could never imagine him there because he would never fit into that discipline. I mean, he's wild, you know. And waste of time. That's how he felt. And I said no. For me, it wasn't. You think that a poor kid from Harvard who's offered a four year scholarship to a school like that is going to say, no, I'd be a for an information. Education can only help me. I'll have a lot more tools in my box and the kid doesn't. And I'll take that any day. But if you walk around going, Hello, darling, how are you? Well, I'm not in it. You don't believe it. But but there could also be fate to say. Hello, darling. How are you? I still fake too. So it's a combination if you're in a certain play to know what the sounds are. To play them enough in your life that they become part of you. You can't do your vocal homework on the stage in the play. That's the rule. That's the best deal. You just play. Not everybody's to go to Juilliard to play, you know, or Yale or or Carnegie Tech to play the classics. You get a kid off the street to play it. But ultimately, if it's music, if you get the music right. If the music goes round tones, round tones, always a new come in and go. The Royal Duke is here.

Speaker It jars your ear, and that's all they were trying to teach us, to make round tones, that you could literally be anywhere but you don't lose your personality. Wonderful story by Edith Skinner. You go away on a Christmas break your first year. You come back and you go to all your friends and you're speaking like this and you are your tongue, teeth and lip sounds are really crisp and all that your friends got. What's the matter with you, Diane? You know, you sound really awful. Well, I always have been a phony. Just be yourself.

Speaker And you go back, you say, Edith, my friends. They think I'm a phony. I should be myself. They don't like me anymore. She goes get new friends.

Speaker That's her answer. What?

Speaker And what about like a car hitting the division where you study acting with Michael and Marion and Mike?

Speaker Me. I didn't have Michael. I had Michael for a very brief time. So I don't know much amount about my guy.

Speaker I knew that people would say he did the same plays a lot over and over again. But I don't know if I like Christine Baranski naked on the stage. I thought. What is that about? Pubic hair, as I could think of them watching her pubic hair. I heard nothing, she said. I just watched her crotch. That's all I saw. I have a problem with that in the theater for one reason. In film? No.

Speaker Something about being on the stage. It's right there. There's no illusion. Film. Is this more of an illusion? So I found it to be for me in my background and mother's English. My first tell you I fell. Now something is I went.

Speaker There's actually a word that he said like that as well. Three times.

Speaker Oh, that's conservative. I think it's more I mean, and there's a other another teacher is no longer there. Who would do the same kinds of plays like married saw over and over and over again. Now I'm thinking, let's move on, guys. Let's move on. But that's none of my opinion about them or their one shot. So who and maybe every year needs to do the Duchess of Malfi.

Speaker I mean, think about a dancer, the same old play every day. They change it. So maybe it's the same thing. I don't know. What do I know?

Speaker I'm just being smart as well. And what about Maria?

Speaker I love Marion. Marion was married, had a lot of influence on me. And I think because I felt she didn't like me and it was good. That's odd to say. Marion didn't trust some of the things about me. She was thought I didn't have enough edge and I would be charming and lovely, but I would make no impact. So she never remembered my name. She called me the pretty one in my class. And frankly, I thought maybe I was pretty. For my class. I don't know. But she would say, oh, yes. The pretty one. Pretty one. And it hurt me. But I trusted. The fact that a she new talent.

Speaker She was a working actor. She took us to the theater, we went to see Equus with her. How many times, A.J., they changed the leading man. We went every time there was an opening night on Broadway. We went. John Houseman sent us. And the following week, that that star, Gil Good, Richardson, Zoe Caldwell, Siobhan McKenna, whoever it was, came to school, Hopkins' Burton to teach.

Speaker And they would teach. They would give up. They would speak to that to the drama division and give a poetry class. And Marion's class, if it was her leading man like Anthony Hopkins or Richard Burton. That was thrilling. Were you going to get that Vanessa Redgrave as lady from the sea at the Circle Square and comes to class and talks about the play? Was exciting. And so all our feelings went really, really high. I mean, about theater and the levels. The demands were high. The bar was high. As white today, it feels so low. The bar was high. So I lost track about your main question. Good idea. Now spun myself over the side. What do want me to answer?

Speaker I think. I think I initially.

Speaker Marian. Marian. I never took it personally. If you can imagine that. I mean, like I thought, because she's hitting on truth. And one thing I do like to you got you got to stick with the truth because that's what makes you free. If you could admit it. So I didn't mind her. So I had to do Lady Lady Macbeth. And I came in and I finished, you know, my God, she said, what is that? The eyes like this looking around. That's not scary. That's that's that's bad acting. But she did it to me. Other people, she said, oh, darling, as wonderful as smart. But with me, she went right after me with a razor. And I thought, that's good because I learned something. And she said, Go out and do it again. And this time. Pretend you're a thief and don't get caught. I thought she stimulated me because I work out of my imagination. Well, if you could only have directors like her. So I went and I came back and I had a whole different feel for it. And she said, OK. Then she gave you a task. And I know as a test, I want you to do Cassandra from the Agamemnon. It's the part that I played. I felt she played on Broadway with Judith Anderson and a bunch of other people. And it's this translation. And every week of. I'm not ready, I'm not. I'm not ready. I had to go to the museum and study Goya's paintings and and get every image. So you can't generalize acting. It has to be specific images like someone eating their children. What is that like? In part part of my life. I wish I couldn't go there in my imagination. So I went to the museum and I looked up Goya's like proverbs at the ink drawings. And I took those out and looked at those. And there was a painting of Saturn eating his children.

Speaker And it blew my mind. I had an image of this monster and a headless kid in his hands was like this gargoyle. That was one blood on the house. All the images I chopped off my hair found our own net from behind one of the flags of the drama thing and went barefoot and found a big old stick in the park. And and finally, I so I was ready. It took me a month to do it. I was terrified because you have to go and do it now. I finished it. She went, all right. You'll do that scene again at the end of the class. Just make sure that was not. A mistake.

Speaker Classmate. I'm a second time. I got to do it. It was even better. I looked up and she had tears in her eyes and she said, I'm so sorry. I never thought that you were an actor. Until today. And I smiled, I said, but you were right. And that's the kind of teacher that you want.

Speaker It's such an interesting description because, of course, everybody else is my little bird.

Speaker Little bird who is a little bird, got knocked down because she had a real issue with me and maybe was something personal, maybe something that she's I don't care what it was, I'm just glad to.

Speaker But on the end of that stick. Because as a parent, now you you look and you say, I could let that person get away with that, but it might not help them. I felt that she took it interest, whether it was because she wanted me out of the school. But then what makes Sammy run? You know, what it taught me was that I was an actor. You have to learn it yourself. Do you want this? How much do you want this? It's a hard world out there. You better because there's too many who want your job.

Speaker I've been following you over the course of the year. Besides talking to everybody, we're doing a year in like school and we've been following a third year. And I'm wondering all the I mean, who is, you know, kind of suffers endless self flagellation. Sure. I mean, just terrible. Kind of like trying to, you know, find his way and the endless issues of casting and favoritism. Oh, yes. I mean, were they all. I mean, do you just see what I'm saying? Weird in your time. I mean, do you imagine like this. Nothing really changed.

Speaker I'm so glad I'm old and I wish I knew it then. Is that guilt runs a lot of actors lives and rejection. The root of many actors is being rejected somewhere. And they go to look for approval in this particular arena, which is dominated by rejection. And it's the it's a form of abuse abuse mentality. It's it's a it's it's almost like a woody cause ambivalence. Like you actually go to the thing that you have run from. And because of guilt and because of checking yourself and because of these ravages of the soul. And I didn't get the part because and and these it's a hypersensitivity to like a myopic focus on myself or you get super paranoid, you're super introspective, you're super critical. All that stuff comes from that other stuff you came in with. So it's that the school, but the schools, the things that are required of you can feed that and an individual can be pretty damn secure not to let it go in some because it just washes over their kids in my class.

Speaker Hi indeed. Their sleep filled nights. I envy their I don't know the lines. I envy that some like this person. Your daughter.

Speaker You work so hard. I feel we achieve so little. But so I'm saying that actors the thing is, you don't need guilt. Acting is more simple than we've made it, and even I think in schools make it. I think it's true. You just go in, hit the market, say that you tell the truth, but the truth ain't in me or my life is not being lived. What do I have to say?

Speaker Very beginning move is quite different. Yeah. Although that did mean the work is the same. But you meet people, I meet people now who've come through systems like Yale or Juilliard, who've spent a career in film and are terrified of going back on stage. Terrifying. It's very different. And I am a bit scared myself right now. And this because of the demands of the eight show. A poll shows a likely yes. Lost soul searching and, you know, not getting younger.

Speaker I would like also to tell you someone like housing does nothing with TV. It has really been doing TV sitcoms. He's not worried about doing that now.

Speaker I don't know. I haven't talked to him. He's so busy. I just talked him on site onset, didn't work for fighting or something. Now, something about this thing about acting schools.

Speaker The thing about them is if you want to be a classical actor, you need training. That's why I think they're good for. You have to speak well. You've got to breathe. You've got to move well. And I also firmly believe that every classical hopeful as an actor should study the grape. The ballet's great or not great opera. Brilliant music. All kinds. And go and listen and be there. Not just what movie? What actor. Because sometimes I have found the key to a character has been handed to me by Natalia McCarver and Romeo and Juliet. And I look at who can express love like that. It's a plastique of a gesture. On television, you move your head. In the theater, your body lifts. And if you are living from here up, which is the training of today, it is so horrible. But if you're going to kiss Romeo the first time and you can't and you go to kiss him in this naturalistic way, it might not work. But if you envelop him in your arms as if the arms never ended. That is extraordinary to the twelve, twelve hundred person in the row back there on S. Well that's going to work or upstairs in the balcony. And you must study that.

Speaker But do you think this sort of curse? I mean, certainly somebody was talking about it yesterday.

Speaker I mean, I know they were saying who is saying? But this element of this. Well, I was at this party yesterday that, you know, you study for this theater that Sammy doesn't exist. That's right. Go out. And it's the movie stars who don't know how to do it that end up going back and that's paying off.

Speaker So what is this? Yeah, I mean, that's that's OK. But that's all about the economy as all about money. We know that that's money. It's the biz. You know, it's that. And and and Patty and I both probably believed there would be a theater for us when we left such high training.

Speaker It exists in London.

Speaker It does. And even there, the musical, the holes in the making, the money. But you can work in other venues, but you can't make a living at it. You can't work in the theater, make a living at it today. And you're right, Broadway. They're going to take you know, I want to say any names, someone to have that that role in Cleopatra, which I'm making up because Vanessa Redgrave did play it. It was marvelous. And that you don't get to play it. You don't mind if Helen Mirren plays it, though. That's OK.

Speaker Was did you kind of notice the sort of the group one or those that became the acting company? How did that hang over your head? Did you think I'll go into the acting company just like that? Were you on that? What was your impression of the housing mission?

Speaker I thought it was so noble and marvelous and so great. It remind me remind me of what the National Theatre was trying to do and has accomplished in London and the RNC. I thought maybe we might have our own. But I also saw that without the support of other other companies working at other schools, working for United Whole. They had the TCG, but that's not the same thing. Theatre Communications Group is different. Like the Vivian Beaumont. What, what, what, what Joe Papp tried to do. Having a theater there. Company. Nobody wants to be in the company because we have a very strong sense of individuation. I mean, we're just individuals out for our own.

Speaker We don't have that sense of community that the actors in England get paid so much less than we do. They work all the time. So the question is, do you want to work all the time and have your craft polished to a high buff, or do you want to work once a year for half a million dollars? The actor will take the half million dollars for one time because we're all basically lazy.

Speaker And that's something you have to ask yourself. What do you really want from this career? Do you want to be a star, a household name? You're going to go into a commercial venue because then you're going to be a household. Do you want to be a fine technician who also has a soul, a boo boo and a reputation of being that kind of actor like Rosemary Harris?

Speaker No, I'm saying I mean, I love Rosemary Harris or her husband. Next husband died when they did. The royal family on Broadway. Someone like who had the company.

Speaker Oh, my God, I see her face in front of me. Mm.

Speaker You know what I'm talking about. You saw it.

Speaker She had her own company here, has some theater guild, and she played Mary Queen of Scots and she played all of the Chekhov's. And that's a company. She had the company, but it was in the thirties and the forties and even Nazi movies. Nancy Molvar came over from Russia to be in work with her evil like Alien.

Speaker Okay. And the crossword puzzle. And I said I saw and I saw her in one of her last performances, I think it was in the royal family.

Speaker I'll never forget the way she said milk milk display. She said it.

Speaker And everyone roared with laughter because you just do it and drop it. And so you could see technique, but not really can't see the wheels move. Really fine. Actors just coming out. They'll look at someone like Al Pacino, who is a genius of an actor, becomes whatever he plays and he's fine attention to detail and his courage and his risks. My God. Blows me out of the water. And he's a theater actor. And I him American buffalo. I was like, well, who's that?

Speaker And then to see him on film do those same kinds of performances. That's exciting. But he's a rarity.

Speaker So you're saying. We don't know what to say, I feel very sad that we don't have a place to go that earns you a good living and keeps us together. But we don't have a national theater. We don't have a government that supports it. So you're going to get anywhere you can.

Speaker Did you did you enjoy when you were there, the sort of war?

Speaker The masterclasses, pure love fest, that whole world that was maybe coming out of that European tradition. Oh, yeah. I mean, tell me a little bit about like that. That's sort of European philosophy the husband was bringing over from said to me, that's sort of, well, renovation style as you as you observed it.

Speaker It's like they take that whole like the National Theatre School. You can't do Ben Johnson or play in know these big plays without knowing what mask work is. Because, again, our lives are too small. So your dad's a greengrocer and you live down in Flatbush and all you've done your whole life is run groceries back and forth. But you have an imagination like Walter Mitty. So then you put this mask on and it's a neutral mask and you're you're taught not to imitate what you see is sort of ephemeral thing. But what's the impression it gives you? Now go stop a bus. I go pick up a dime. Now go open the curtain and stab your brother. It just gestures, but the mask does something to your insides. It informed something. It suggests and then you play it, half masks are much more complex and was more fun. For me, it was like a childhood I didn't have because our childhood was more practical way to do things where one one of six children. So I got to play. I mean, really play and half masculine. And actually, Robin Williams was the best in our class at this particular game. The whole game. You have this half mask. You look into the mirror about five, three to five minutes, and then you walk away from it so you don't indulge in your own image. And then you find a language and a personality. You know what your name is. You know what your job is. And then you when you feel confident, you say, I'm ready. And he was one who was ready all the time for the interview. You come into the class. We don't know you. You don't know us. And we ask you any question we want. And you can answer any way you want. Your new persona. And he had us. I mean, he he insulted us sometimes. And in this in this other person or other language, and he had an interpreter or something was marvelous. And Peter just loved him. He say I was to watch watch Robin. It's very good. Very good. I love Phil affair. He was a man who does waterways hands moved. How how he touched things as if they were priceless.

Speaker Jewelz. Amazing. And I loved outclasses and tumbling and stage fighting. It was just like we would stage an entire war at Hoffler. Always just like running at each other and learning to do backflips. Scared the life out of some of us it all.

Speaker But you do them.

Speaker I. I actually went to France and interviewed piercer in the movie at ninety two. Oh. Oh. The other side of your Black Keys.

Speaker So beautiful.

Speaker He was incredible because he was very, very old. And now what he did, he did a whole range of the mass demonstrations for me. And he would put up the young boy like, oh, hello.

Speaker I mean, we really we really enjoyed. I really enjoyed how much people really loved it. Yes. I talk a little bit.

Speaker Also, if you cared about about Sokolow using her name, please.

Speaker On a Sokoloff. She she. Well, she influenced my life so much because of her. I think because of her suffering something in honor that suffers in a magnificent way, not in a self pitying way, if I can describe that, cause we kids would make fun of her because she was so intense.

Speaker I found her probably because I was intense, too. But I found the question she would ask us riveting because whoever thought of those questions and what do we care? We are going to be movie stars. But she would come from the ABC class war room teaching something to our class and she'd be angry and she would eyes would flash.

Speaker Then they go back down again and she'd say, I ask you put a bra up to open to. What does that mean? And she goes like this. Preedy Gestures, pretty gestures, pretty decks, pretty feet, pretty legs. That that pretty much is pretty nothing. Is it art. Not. What is it. It's nothing. OK. OK. And then she say, say something with that. What is it? Be the world. She would gotten gotten she'd stop. And then she had this fantastic pianist, Marijana. And she said, I want back. I want a tune.

Speaker And she gave Jean-David. I want the fourth measure. She knew exactly where we go and marry out of the two. And then she say, hands up. Helps our hands up to your face. Slide your face over overfill. Look, all these kind of thing. Fall the floor. Look up. Look at all this stuff.

Speaker And then she'd say, when you got down there and one kid was from Denver, Colorado. Never forget him. Golden Zemmour, Steve Grund. And we called Grizzly because he had a beard like this. Chris, Julia, make sure you cut it because it hides the lips. Can't see the mouth moving anyway.

Speaker So we had to go slide to the floor and keep our hands over this imaginary whatever it was. So open, open, closed, close. And she was not feeling good that day.

Speaker And she went, what do you got down there? And he says. I just found a gopher in a hole into a gopher in a hole. And she said, Get the hell out of my class.

Speaker Get up. Get out of my glass. Will Oh. And when he got up, she said, Wait a minute. You come over here. What? And she's little. It's guys like six whatever holes she was. What is that? I did. That's. What is that?

Speaker Oh, it's us. It's a sporting goods goods company. And she goes that shirt off turned inside out. I want plain white shirts, plain black pants and no shoes for girls and guys. You understand what I'm saying?

Speaker This is art. We're creating no names, no labels on nothing. Just stop for a minute. Look out that window. So the whole class goes. Now, looking here. Look at my eyes. You see my eyes. You believe me? Yes, Anna. Yeah, damn right, truth. Truth is what art is about. You know, in Hollywood, those girls take off their clothes all the time. They call that nakedness. Can you believe it? Nakedness. Now know what it's called? Exhibitionism. Am I in heaven? It in my class. And I'll tell you the difference. Anybody I mean, anybody can take off their clothes. But nakedness of heart, mind, soul, emotions, transparency, open the window when they come in. You shut that takes talent. You'll get out.

Speaker Whoa. I mean, you believe me? Yes. You're damn right. I loved her. I loved her. She nailed every one of us will read. But she's okay now. Pick it up. Music now. Run across the room like five year old. So we're doing our thing.

Speaker She stop, stop, stop. What do you act like? You're five. Everybody out. Go to the park.

Speaker Come back year and a half an hour. Let me see. Five year olds. Observe. Watch. Don't pretend in my glass.

Speaker Two great.

Speaker Many people described her as the character of old time. I never knew she had access.

Speaker She talks like that. See, this is in my ear. My mind's ear is like that's how I always heard her talking. I would have preferred if she talked like this. You see, you had the Russian accent like this and said, no, darling, my children, you have to run like you in the Garden of Paradise. But she didn't have a voice like that. But she made us because we were so little kind of arrogant class. She thought she'd fix us good. And she did.

Speaker She made us perform a dance concert for the dance division. We had to give it.

Speaker And she choreographed it. And the music was so advanced of his time. I'm talking about it was it was alternative music. And guys from Juilliard came in and did it. Oh, wow. I mean that. I mean, in her her her video on rooms, what people go into different rooms and go mad in different rooms. That jazz. The jazz piece was way before Bernstein had done doodle doo.

Speaker Did it. I mean it's like there was a guy with a leather jacket with his motorcycle and how he goes mad in this room and a jazz was unbelievable. She had such an ear, but she had a lot of anger inside her. A lot of bitterness. And I always felt that what I learned from that was an artist can't. Nurse. That the the dragon of bitterness, hurt or unforgiveness in his soul. Can't because he must flow with love and the movement, the movement of love is what creates. And I felt that that's what stopped it from being really great. I mean, where her career would have really because she stopped it there. Some things made her angry and she stayed in them. I wish I could. I knew later on as the years went by what that was. And I wish I could say that out. Forget it. I think I live with it. The whole Jewish thing about her parents and Auschwitz, a lot of things. I know she lost her parents at Auschwitz because our entire. And it's easy for me to talk. I never had lived through that. And there are two choices. Always under trauma. Will you choose to be bitter or will you choose to be better? And I think that was a tough choice. I think maybe bitterness was a result of that. And I say that with fear and trembling, because lest I too should suffer such a horror. It's easy on the side of the fence.

Speaker I haven't. I know Robert actually said also that he later found out that her belly.

Speaker Oh, I see. I didn't know that. So I'm only saying this because that's what I got when she choreographed us in the video.

Speaker I'm sure that it's true. I'm going to have to investigate. Find out. I don't know, because I. I would he said it, but I wasn't. We had not known that that was true. But then again, we haven't really investigated because of your work and find out what it is that really cause something.

Speaker And I because I know that she had started with Martha Graham and they went their own ways, very opinionated and very tough to deal with. And when we did that, that thing on outfits, we come in Imus line, I mean, little nose to nose behind each other according to height and crawl up a wall and then lights flash. Turn around. You say your name, Bernstine, Cohen, whatever we were. Our names flip back and forth, hand open, looking at all that stuff. And she like the neck, the hands. She's she's totally immersed in that. And we crawled up these walls with our bodies.

Speaker And then there's a hole that that music was unbelievable. Right. I'll never forget. It was a so I'll never hear it now. And alternative clubs, this kind of stuff. But that was like 70 was 76. And then stops.

Speaker And then his entire lyrical passage with the flute and a violin clarinet to the song of songs. Now, I never even heard the song of songs. Never knew where it came from. And it was My love has doves, eyes, my love. His neck is like a tower and legs like it might them her breasts like it was the most beautiful from Solomon. And I'm thinking, my God. And I'm thinking of Mr. Housman actually read the Bible going. All the poetry was exquisite. And I believe I can read Shakespeare now because of that reading scripture. And then all of a sudden we had this this whole love duet between a man and a woman where this beautiful woman would have wrapped himself into the woman and they would just move together. And then the sun would come out and he'd take off one of your your your shirts or sweaters or scarves because you were no longer cold and follow the warmth of love and the warmth of the sun. And then you heard this horrible music in the middle of this, and it really starts to go, de de de de de de de de de de de into a file. Then moves to this drama, stage the stage in the drama theater and it's huge steps. Take a long drop and even goes down, down, down, down, down. And everyone's off the stage and you hear this huge iron door. I thought, wow. And almost days is left, a shoe, a sweater, someone's handkerchief, someone's tall. And it just Faiza. It was riveting.

Speaker There's there's so much focus on, you know, when you're out.

Speaker I mean, it's very intense time for people. Oh, yes. They're digging up stuff.

Speaker What down. What about the production say you did? Do you have memories of roles that you did, things that sort of stuck with you? Think shows that were part of that?

Speaker I never did anything marvelous. I always felt because of by my timidity, my crisis that I was going through emotionally there. My favorite role was in was in Georgia, I do. I love geology or does plays. OK. And our teacher, Maury's Valency was the translator to all of your ODU. And Raul Felder was Felder was from was the translator for all of Ebsen. And we had both those professors, Georgia adieus madwoman of shale. I loved being in that production. I was a sophomore in that. That's where John Houseman really came to me and said, this is marvelous work. Christopher Reeve and people from the other classes. And I like that kind of see. I think I'll be so much better as I age. I, I am very connected to old people because I've lived with them. I've cared for them, I love them. And we live in a culture that gets rid of them. And I it breaks my heart why I like Europe. I think Greece and places like that where they care for their aged cause the aged in those countries are not senile. They're wise. Where are you going to learn about something? He said for great grandma who still sits out there at the beach with her foot there while she's still knitting and talking about her. I sit there and grow wise. And when you don't love your old people and I believe our culture is such a God is so neon sign showing it. They become sick and they do die because a baby can't live without love. No one can live without love. And if our old people are stuck in homes and on Passover, you know, you see a man walking down the street with a little bit of a, you know, a walker and some lady from the Philippines taking care of him. I think that that's wrong. But why isn't his children with him and the grandkids and you know that he has them?

Speaker It breaks my heart.

Speaker It's it's nice that you were having these feelings as an actress to enjoy the inevitable.

Speaker Yes, I think so, yes. Suffer for what I have wanted to go to. I mean, my place is going to be the end of it.

Speaker And look at the great parts. You've got to be able to play them. If the producers have any kind of brain. But when I hear we're going to play Queen Margaret from, say, King John. And she's has to be 20. You're out of your mind.

Speaker You're out of your plank and mind. Good. Go. Guess why it gets banned. It was as you know, it really can't do classic if they're really boring. They don't make money. Why? You didn't gas it, right? You know, you get crazy.

Speaker So sometimes we ladies have to do it ourselves. So I make enough money. I save my money.

Speaker Would do it as a good casting, drive you crazy. It was a big thing where everyone was running up and looking. Well, you got cast all the same.

Speaker You do. But but I never I never thought of that because I. I got good parts. I played Dolly Levi. I played on you. I played great parts. I mean they gave me good parts to play. The only time it really hurt me was in the country wife because I wanted to play Marjorie pinche wife. I really knew that I could play it because I'm a comedian and they gave to someone else. But then that that director from LAMDA hired me professionally the following year to play at Harvard at the low drama center. So I said, hey, how come you didn't hire me in school as you have? Well, if you're playing professionally for money. So why do you just shut up and relax? OK.

Speaker OK, but you do perceive it for other people you saw.

Speaker I mean, you must have seen a lot of suffering in your time, too. The cuts were very radical. I mean, tell me about, like, looking to your left, your right, seeing a lot of talented people.

Speaker Well, I'll tell you, there's been some glory. I see the greatest the greatest revenge to me is when they're successful as the great revenge success. And I remember there's a girl in class, Mary Murray, and they ask her to leave after the freshman year.

Speaker And I. I know why. Because talent needs time. The next year or two years after she's on Broadway, in and off was.

Speaker There she was in the revival of West Side Story and got great, great notices. A lot of actors like her or like Chris Reeve, for instance. He was in Matter of Gravity on Broadway with Katharine Hepburn. But we also want to be on a soap because we want to earn some money. And the school said he couldn't be on the soap. And I understand that. So he they didn't take him back afterward. For the next year, he was upset by that. Then he went did matter of gravity and Katharine Hepburn. And that was marvelous. So you can't keep an actor down if he's going to work. Some actors, you know, show up on Broadway with James Earl Jones or somebody else and they get great reviews. So if you're going to act, I don't think school is for everybody. I think some people will do well out of school and I'll get it along the way. I knew I needed school. I had no structure. As a kid, I was all over the place.

Speaker So school for me, if anything, just gave me a beginning, a middle and an end and I needed it so was good for me.

Speaker Also, some people were offered wanting their career to have longevity work for them. Something about that foundation, really. I mean, I think it was Laura Linney actually was still quite young. She said she knew she would burn out. She wouldn't have if she didn't go to school. She did something about burnout.

Speaker So she's so wise because when someone said to me, Woo, why are you. Why do you want to go to. I went to acting school by mistake just because I had to please someone who wanted me to go to some college. But once I was in there, I knew that without a technical training, I wouldn't last. Because this business is built is is flesh and bone. OK, what sells, what's sexy, what's the lowest common denominator, frankly? And that's gonna change like every Las Vegas show I've ever seen.

Speaker Yeah, I'm saying it's going to change. So what kind of an actor do you want to be? Well, I'd like to be a person who can work in the classics or work in modern things, can do a sitcom, but then turn around and do something else that satisfies my mentally.

Speaker Well, then you're going to have to go to school and it has to be classical background training. So you've got to play Bach and Beethoven and all the rest of them before you start playing. Charlie Parker. Okay, I'll do that. Why? Because I want to be an actress when I'm 80.

Speaker And you think you can. I mean, it's it's a young system and nobody works vedi. Oh, yes, they do. Depends. One day Maryann's held. You said this. She said, well I figure if I didn't get the part. Now I'll just outlive them. And if you outlive them, you'll always get the part. My favorite actress who's dead now resides on our Doozer.

Speaker We never met. I would say would be Geraldine Page.

Speaker In the film The Trip to Bountiful. Now there's an old actress. We've won the greatest pass I've had ever seen. And what she did with that part, because on paper that part read kind of like flat because this is what we live in. Television and film create a character at this level. And I I remember my first movie was with Albert Finney, and he even said he is I'm taking it from him. And he said, but words to it. That's it. You in America want lithium performances? No highs and lows, but great performances have to travel as high as the mountain will go as low as the valley will hold between these two polar zones. An actor finds and is and has a great performance. And that's what Juilliard taught, but never with those words. But that was the experience. They would say take a risk.

Speaker Do you know you take a risk in the work? In Hollywood, they go, Oh my God. I went, Oh my God, what are you doing? Oh my God. Ralph. Julia. God bless him. Who would say? I would say I always do what I'm doing.

Speaker Fantastic work.

Diane Venora
Found in: Juilliard
Interview Date:
2000-04-27
Runtime:
1:01:07
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-9s1kh0fh4f, cpb-aacip-504-c53dz03n23
MLA CITATIONS:
"Diane Venora, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 27 Apr. 2000, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/807
APA CITATIONS:
(2000, April 27). Diane Venora, Juilliard. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/807
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Diane Venora, Juilliard." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). April 27, 2000. Accessed July 03, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/807

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