Cin­ema roy­alty An­jel­ica Hus­ton tells Tara Brady about voic­ing a car­toon queen,

She’s been Hol­ly­wood roy­alty for decades, and now she’s earned her wings! An­jel­ica Hus­ton talks to Tara Brady

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FRONT PAGE -

Most of the time, an ac­tor will shuf­fle their feet or laugh dis­mis­sively around the fam­i­ly­ori­ented projects on their CV. The same ex­cuses are du­ti­fully trot­ted out: “I wanted to make some­thing my kids could watch” or “It was only a day’s work away from my Chekov sea­son on the West End.”

An­jel­ica Hus­ton is not one of those peo­ple. This Christ­mas marks the Os­car­win­ner’s third turn as fairy-in-chief Queen Clar­ion in Tinker Bell: Se­cret of the Wings and she couldn’t be hap­pier.

“I love any­thing that has to do with kids,” she trills. “Mak­ing kids love to hate you or just love you is the best. There’s an im­me­di­acy with kids and their re­ac­tions. You just con­nect.”

She’s not bluff­ing. For more than two decades, Hus­ton has hop­scotched be­tween adult themed crit­i­cal wows – The Grifters, The Golden Bowl, Buf­falo ’66, Seraphim Falls, 50/50, Choke – and goofy all-ages projects such as Bar­bie as Ra­pun­zel, The Ad­dams Fam­ily, Daddy Day Care, Ma­te­rial Girls and Hor­rid Henry.

“I am afraid I do have the mar­ket sewn up,” she says. “I have been very lucky. The Witches with Nic Roeg really was a high­light. And I found him as dev­il­ishly in thrall to the ‘ter­ri­fi­ca­tion’ of chil­dren as I was. That was such a great movie to make and it in­stilled that taste for mak­ing kids’ movies. Chil­dren’s minds are all about dark­ness. I love that.”

The Tinker­Bell fran­chise is, Hus­ton ad­mits, a par­tic­u­lar high­light. The cut­sey-pie an­i­mated characters are, af­ter all, a much nicer class of fairy than the malev­o­lent wee folk she heard about grow­ing up in Ire­land: “Th­ese ones are less likely to leave you trau­ma­tised for life,” she laughs. “The fact that I am still work­ing in Pixie Hol­low is very much a re­flec­tion of my Ir­ish child­hood, I think. I still love be­ing away with the faeries.”

Hus­ton is fiercely proud of her Hiber­nian her­itage. The daugh­ter of di­rec­tor and ac­tor John Hus­ton and Ital­ianAmer­i­can prima bal­le­rina En­rica ‘Ricki’ Soma spent most of her child­hood near Saint Cler­ans House in Gal­way. She can even find nice things to say about the Sis­ters of Mercy – even if they did give her the odd slap when her cat­e­chism wasn’t up to scratch.

“I was not very happy in my first years in Eng­land when I trans­ferred to school there,” she re­calls. “I went to the French Ly­cée there and it was very dif­fer­ent from the nuns, for whom I ac­tu­ally have a deep af­fec­tion. They were very nice to me. Ev­ery­one was. It is al­ways won­der­ful to go back. Mer­ci­fully there are peo­ple in the West that I grew up with and adore. That’s where it all be­gan.”

Does con­tem­po­rary Ire­land have any­thing like the same ap­peal? Or is her “Ire­land” locked wist­fully and care­fully away?

“I am aware of what hap­pened in the Celtic Tiger years. So many ugly build­ings went up and all the hous­ing es­tates. I am not some­body who likes change all that much. It’s true that my re­la­tion­ship is very much with Ire­land as it was. Of course, I un­der­stand that for a lot of peo­ple life is a lot bet­ter. I re­mem­ber peo­ple liv­ing on dirt floors with no elec­tric­ity. It was a hard life. You can’t re­sent the fact that cen­tral heat­ing is a part of Ir­ish life now.”

Fol­low­ing on from grand­fa­ther Wal­ter and fa­ther John, ac­tor, writer and some­time di­rec­tor An­jel­ica may be a third-gen­er­a­tion Academy Award win­ner, but her emer­gence from un­der the shadow of such for­mi­da­ble pa­tri­archs – fa­ther John, long-time ro­man­tic part­ner Jack Ni­chol­son – was hardly a fore­gone con­clu­sion. Hap­pily, says the 1996 re­cip­i­ent of the Women in Film Crys­tal Award, things have changed since her ear­li­est movie ap­pear­ances in the late-1970s.

“Right now, I am do­ing Smash, a big se­ries for NBC,” she tells me. “And I am very pleased to say that as many fe­male direc­tors as men were work­ing on Smash. Those gen­der prej­u­dices are clear­ing away. Not only in film but also in pol­i­tics and other spheres. It really is about time. It used to be such a boys’ club. I re­mem­ber in the old days my dad’s crews were pre­dom­i­nantly male. Now you see just about as many women, even down to the grips.”

The Hus­ton clan have al­ways been a for­mi­da­ble bunch, but be­tween An­jel­ica’s work on Smashed and her nephew Jack’s re­cur­ring role on Board­walk Em­pire, there really is no es­cape. Brother Danny, mean­while, is cur­rently film­ing the sec­ond se­ries of Magic City for the Starz net­work.

“We are putting our­selves about,” she says. “At least we’re gain­fully em­ployed. It’s bet­ter than wind­ing up in prison. I am so en­joy­ing my nephew’s success in par­tic­u­lar. It’s great to see that trans­posed onto a younger gen­er­a­tion.”

She has, she says, thrown her­self into work since the death of sculp­tor Robert Gra­ham, her hus­band of 16 years, in 2008.

“You bet­ter be­lieve it. My life is now more about find­ing my cen­tre. It has been a new chap­ter for me. And I find my­self at the cen­tre, try­ing to ne­go­ti­ate life as a sin­gle per­son. It’s re­quired that I make some ad­just­ments. But I am proud of the work I am do­ing. It’s all good. We some­times have to di­verge from the things we like the most in th­ese times.”

The things she likes most are rid­ing around on horses and muck­ing out on her ranch at Three Rivers, Cal­i­for­nia. Muck­ing out? Can it be that An­jel­ica Hus­ton, one of the world’s most ele­gant women, is just a big old tomboy?

“You’ve got me,” she cries. “That’s my se­cret. I am hap­pi­est run­ning around on horses. It’s like Old McDon­ald’s farm. It’s not as or­dered as it should be. I have goats and ponies and all that stuff. It’s a lit­tle like it was grow­ing up. But be­ing there is my favourite thing. I do love muck­ing out. I am hap­pi­est when I am in the mud.”

Prizzi’s Honor; The Dead (left); The Grifters; and Se­cret of the Wings

From top: With dad and cast of

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