Susan Saran­don on why she’ll keep speak­ing her mind in Hol­ly­wood.

ac­tor “When I started my ca­reer, I was told I would be over by 40 – those were the rules”

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - In­ter­view by JANE MULKERRINS Feud: Bette And Joan pre­mieres 8.30pm tonight, on Fox­tel’s Show­case.

You are one of the most fa­mous movie stars in the world, but is tele­vi­sion where the best roles are for women now? I think TV has more parts for women. When I did the film Bernard And Doris I was older [at 60], and that found its place on [TV chan­nel] HBO and did re­ally well. I think tele­vi­sion has more of an imag­i­na­tion these days be­cause on cable, and the newer stream­ing plat­forms, the de­mo­graph­ics don’t have to be as wide – so you can be sex­ier, or more vi­o­lent, or more naked, or edgier than you could on reg­u­lar TV.

You’re play­ing leg­endary ac­tor Bette Davis in your new TV se­ries, Feud: Bette And Joan. How scary was it to step into her shoes? It’s in­tim­i­dat­ing, be­cause she was so ec­cen­tric and idio­syn­cratic in the way she talked, and ev­ery­thing she did, and that has all been mim­icked so much. It wasn’t about just get­ting an ac­cent right; she stressed very odd words in sen­tences, and she had a very odd walk. So, the chal­lenge was, how do you take that ex­treme ver­sion of her that ev­ery­one is fa­mil­iar with, ground her and make her a real per­son? That’s what in­tim­i­dated me. But I am al­ways drawn to things that terrify me, be­cause that’s the point, right? Did you ever meet Davis? Yes, and she ter­ri­fied me. She once asked me to play her in a pre­vi­ous film about her, when she was still alive. It was af­ter her daugh­ter had writ­ten a mean book about her. I was in­trigued, but there was no script and I didn’t have the where­withal then to make it hap­pen. When [se­ries cre­ator] Ryan Mur­phy came to me and had rein­vented the story to be­come a more com­plex, in-depth view of what pro­duced the feud [with Joan Craw­ford], and what it says about Hol­ly­wood and age­ing, then it had a con­text for me that was more in­ter­est­ing. That mem­oir, writ­ten by Davis’s daugh­ter B.D. Hy­man, de­picted her mother as a vi­cious al­co­holic. Ouch… They trav­elled to­gether and did ev­ery­thing to­gether – they were more like friends than mother and daugh­ter. Then B.D. got mar­ried at the age of 16, be­came a born-again Chris­tian, had two chil­dren and wrote that hor­ri­ble book. When Davis filmed What­ever Hap­pened To Baby Jane? – the mak­ing of which is por­trayed in Feud – she was 54, and her ca­reer was con­sid­ered to be over. You’re 70 and still work­ing in Hol­ly­wood, so have things got bet­ter for older women? When I started my ca­reer, I was told I would be over by 40. And that if you got mar­ried, and had kids, you were no longer sen­sual or sexy – those were the rules. But I did Bull Durham over 40. So I think a lot of us have sur­vived and pushed the gate [out] a lit­tle bit fur­ther, but there’s a lack of imag­i­na­tion in terms of sto­ry­telling. You get tons of of­fers to play peo­ple who are dy­ing or los­ing their mind, but you still don’t have parts for women in their 50s or 60s that are ro­man­tic, so that

``I have al­ways re­gret­ted what I haven´t said more than what I have ´´

hasn’t changed that much. And I don’t know that the men are get­ting amaz­ing parts ei­ther, but they’re still leads and they’re get­ting paid more. Did you know your Feud co-star Jes­sica Lange, who plays Davis’s arch ri­val Joan Craw­ford? We’d talked but we’d never worked to­gether be­fore – they usu­ally only al­low one woman per film, some­times two, and then it’s one older, one younger. I’ve been very lucky to do a few other films where there was an­other woman in the lead, but it’s very rare. That’s why Thelma & Louise [with Geena Davis] was such a big deal, and The Banger Sis­ters [with Goldie Hawn] and Tammy [with Melissa Mccarthy] – it’s just great to have an­other woman to play off; it’s a whole dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. Bette Davis was ac­cused of not hav­ing many girl­friends, and she said: “Well, the women at that stu­dio knew each other, and the women at this stu­dio – that’s how they knew each other.” There just weren’t many women. Why do ac­tors marry so many ac­tors? You don’t meet any­body else. Davis and Craw­ford’s sideswipes at each other were de­li­ciously barbed and bitchy. Is Hol­ly­wood too safe and full of plat­i­tudes these days? I’m no ex­pert on Hol­ly­wood – I’m def­i­nitely an out­sider – but it does seem to me as though there is an at­mos­phere of be­ing afraid to speak out, and of just go­ing along with the pro­gram. When you’re sep­a­rated from the herd, for what­ever rea­son, it’s a very un­com­fort­able life – you think you’ll never work again or that you’ll ac­tu­ally be harmed. I’ve been in that po­si­tion and it’s hard to sur­vive. So I un­der­stand why peo­ple are hes­i­tant to go their own way. But I have al­ways re­gret­ted what I haven’t said or done much more than I have re­gret­ted what I have said. I can ei­ther clar­ify or apol­o­gise af­ter­wards – or not apol­o­gise. It’s the things you don’t say, it’s the peo­ple you don’t de­fend, it’s the things you don’t do that will drive you crazy.

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