Book Club fea­tures four sex­u­ally vi­tal women — all of a cer­tain age

Ottawa Citizen - - YOU - DANA GEE dgee@postmedia.com twit­ter.com/dana_gee

Mary Steen­bur­gen wanted to do the new movie Book Club as soon as she heard about the project.

She hadn’t read a script but she had heard that Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton were at­tached to the Bill Hol­d­er­man-di­rected film. Yes, it ap­pears we’ve got a Hollywood uni­corn here as a ma­jor stu­dio movie ac­tu­ally stars not only four women but also women whose ages add up to 289 years.

“It’s sort of light­ning in a bot­tle to work with those three women,” said Steen­bur­gen. “Four women in a movie to­gether who are all leads was so ut­terly un­usual and im­prob­a­ble. So I was re­ally in­clined to do it.”

Luck­ily the Hol­d­er­man and Erin Simms script that found its way to Steen­bur­gen was de­cent be­cause, let’s be re­al­is­tic here, a film about four life­long pals who are sex­u­ally in­spired by read­ing 50 Shades of Grey could eas­ily go wrong.

Four words: ball gag, blad­der con­trol.

Thank­fully, though the new film fo­cuses more on friend­ship and growth than Chris­tian Grey and G spots.

“When I read it the thing that impressed me is how Bill and Erin had man­aged to cre­ate four com­plete peo­ple that all have a story worth telling,” said Steen­bur­gen, who won the 1981 best sup­port­ing ac­tress Os­car for her role in Melvin and Howard. “It felt hon­estly like it did say some­thing not just about women and sen­su­al­ity but about re­main­ing alive every minute that you are alive.”

While the film of­fi­cially hits the­atres on May 18, there was a time when Steen­bur­gen thought this was all too good to be true.

“The four of us paired to­gether, well, I just kept think­ing they are go­ing to can­cel this be­fore we even start shoot­ing,” said Steen­bur­gen about the cast that among them have four Acad­emy Awards and 13 nom­i­na­tions and enough IMDb en­tries for 20 ca­reers.

The film went ahead and what we are left with is a great ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the op­ti­mism of spring, the com­plex­i­ties of ag­ing and the na­ture of friend­ship.

“Part of what we would sit around and talk about was our war sto­ries,” said Steen­bur­gen who added that #MeToo hadn’t yet blos­somed by the time Book Club wrapped. “For the most part we weren’t harmed too badly any of us in the course of go­ing through our ca­reers. That doesn’t mean we don’t worry about our sis­ters and young women com­ing up. When we are to­gether it is one of the things we talk about a lot.

“We still have a long way to go in what we al­low women to do. To be a fully re­al­ized, a fully formed per­son,” added Steen­bur­gen, who was a tire­less sup­porter of Hil­lary Clin­ton.

“The only way we will get to a happy place is if we are part­nered with men and not just point­ing fin­gers at them.”

In Book Club, Steen­bur­gen’s char­ac­ter Carol is the only mar­ried one of the bunch. Three decades in and her hus­band Bruce (Craig T. Nel­son) is newly re­tired from his job and their sex life. The phys­i­cal and emo­tional chill is bring­ing Carol down and she des­per­ately looks for ways to rekin­dle their pas­sion and re-start Bruce’s life.

Nel­son, like Bruce in the movie, has been mar­ried for 30 or so years. “It helps with the un­der­stand­ing of what it is like to have to work through prob­lems like this in a mar­riage,” said Nel­son, who has been mar­ried to Do­ria since 1987. “You can re­flect on, well, where are th­ese char­ac­ters at and you can hope­fully bring some in­tel­li­gence and ex­pe­ri­ence to that.”

In the best of times, ac­tors will tell you in­ti­mate scenes are any­thing but. Nel­son, how­ever, had fun kiss­ing Steen­bur­gen be­cause for the past 22 years she has been mar­ried to his friend Ted Dan­son.

“Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Nel­son when asked about lock­ing lips with Steen­bur­gen. “He was on the set. It was great, we’re good friends I’ve known him for so long and he said, ‘you know you are one of the few peo­ple I al­low to kiss my wife. Like that.’ ”

While the suc­cess of Book Club is now in the hands of movie­go­ers, Steen­bur­gen can’t help but hope there’s room for more than comic book movies.

“It would be nice to work with th­ese women again,” she says. “That would be re­ally nice, but just in gen­eral to be in films that treat peo­ple our age as if they have the same whole of a life at their fin­ger­tips as ev­ery­body else. That we haven’t closed doors off and kind of just agreed to be di­min­ished and to play di­min­ished char­ac­ters.

“That’s just not the truth.”


Mary Steen­bur­gen, left, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen make up a for­mi­da­ble cho­rus line.

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