‘act­ing SET me FREE’

Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Sally Field on her trau­matic child­hood, sur­viv­ing in a male-dom­i­nated busi­ness, ag­ing with grace and al­ways mov­ing for­ward.

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - Healthy Stay - BY AMY SPENCER COVER AND OPEN­ING PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JOHN RUSSO

There are card­board boxes piled high in Sally Field’s liv­ing room. “I’m a ter­ri­ble pack rat,” says the Os­car-win­ning ac­tress, laugh­ing, as she set­tles into a cor­ner sec­tional couch at her Pa­cific Pal­isades, Calif., home.

But while she’s moved so many times in her life that she’s lost count, these aren’t boxes for yet an­other trek—at least not yet. They’re filled with pages she will hand-sign to be bound into 28,000 copies of her very first me­moir, In Pieces, out now. The raw and re­veal­ing life story, which in­cludes de­tails of how she over­came her painful, abu­sive child­hood, is yet an­other tri­umph for the beloved two-time Academy Award win­ner, who has three chil­dren and five grand­chil­dren from her two mar­riages.

But she looks—still, some­how—im­pos­si­bly young. Field, 71, cred­its “ge­net­ics” for the “con­stantly girl­ish qual­ity” she’s had her en­tire life. “I’ve heard peo­ple say that I’ve al­ways been the girl next door, the all-Amer­i­can girl,” says Field, tak­ing off her black­rimmed glasses and rub­bing her eyes.

“I think in re­al­ity, my story—of a fe­male born in the ’40s and raised in the ’50s and grow­ing up in a male-dom­i­nated busi­ness, in a male-dom­i­nated house­hold and a male-dom­i­nated so­ci­ety—I think that all that I went through, and some of it not very easy . . .” She pauses. “I am the all-Amer­i­can girl. Be­cause I think that’s what women have gone through.”

She was born in Pasadena, Calif., raised with her older brother, Ricky, by their mother, Mar­garet, a dab­bling ac­tress (whom Field called “Baa”), and fa­ther, Dick. Her par­ents di­vorced when she was very young, and, when Field was 5, her mother mar­ried movie stunt­man Jock Ma­honey; Field’s younger sis­ter, Princess, was born six months later. From that point on, her life was never the same.

“I had some trauma in my child­hood that left me with an in­abil­ity to look to­ward the fu­ture,” she says. As Field re­veals in de­tail in her me­moir, she sur­vived years of emo­tional and sex­ual abuse at the hands of her step­fa­ther. So she turned in­ward at a young age, con­flicted and con­fused, her sur­vival in­stincts al­ways

on alert for her step­fa­ther’s abu­sive be­hav­ior.

It wasn’t un­til she was 12 that she found the first sign of es­cape and sal­va­tion, when she stepped onto a stage in her ju­nior high school drama class. “It trans­ported me,” she says. “I felt the pres­sure was off—I was free.” Still, pur­su­ing a ca­reer in act­ing never oc­curred to her, un­til af­ter she grad­u­ated from high school.

Soar­ing into star­dom

By the end of 1964, she was cast to star in a new TV se­ries,

Gid­get, about a surf­ing, boy crazy teenager. Though the show only lasted one sea­son (and gained a cult fan fol­low­ing in re­runs af­ter its can­cel­la­tion), Field was of­fi­cially on the map, and on her way.

Her next ma­jor tele­vi­sion role, how­ever, is one of her big­gest re­grets: when she took the lead role in the 1967–70 sit­com The

Fly­ing Nun, play­ing a nun so petite that a breeze would lift her and al­low her to soar. Field had her doubts about the part and felt she needed to look for some­thing not so corny and campy. For three sea­sons of the show, “I felt trapped,” she says. “I was sort of a walk­ing gag. Ev­ery­where I went, peo­ple were laugh­ing at me. Peo­ple were think­ing that’s who I was, this one-di­men­sional girl.”

Af­ter the first sea­son of film­ing, Field mar­ried Steven Craig, her high school sweet­heart. They were mar­ried for seven years and had sons Peter (now 48, a novelist and screen­writer) and Eli (46, a screen­writer and di­rec­tor). She then fa­mously dated ac­tor Burt Reynolds, who died Sept. 6 at age 82, for about five years af­ter they co-starred in Smokey

and the Ban­dit (1977). Their re­la­tion­ship was fun at first, but her me­moir re­veals how volatile and con­trol­ling Reynolds was. In 1984, Field mar­ried her sec­ond hus­band (of nine years), movie pro­ducer Alan Greis­man, and had son Sam (30, a writer and pro­ducer).

“They’re re­ally three very dif­fer­ent—very, very, very dif­fer­ent—men,” says Field of her mar­riages and her re­la­tion­ship with Reynolds. Sin­gle now since 1993, she’s pleas­ant and po­lite about why each of them just didn’t work out. “All had spec­tac­u­lar things about them, [but just] didn’t nec­es­sar­ily co­in­cide with me at the time. We just are who we are.” (See “Lead­ing Men,” right, for more on her love life.)

We re­ally like her

Af­ter The Fly­ing

Nun, Field won an Emmy for star­ring in the 1976 TV movie

Sy­bil, about a young woman with mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties, and a Best Ac­tress Academy Award for

Norma Rae (1979), based on the true story of a fe­male fac­tory worker who fought to union­ize her lo­cal tex­tile mill. When she won an­other Os­car, for Places in the Heart

(1984), she gave one of the most mem­o­rable Os­car speeches in his­tory— which is al­most al­ways mis­quoted. She didn’t say, “You like me, you re­ally like me.” She did say, “I

From top: Field

stars in Gid­get, The Fly­ing Nun, Sy­bil, Norma Rae, For­rest Gump and Lin­coln.

can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me.”

‘I’m evolv­ing’

This month, with In Pieces in book­stores, she’s ap­pear­ing in the Net­flix sci-fi dark com­edy minis­eries Ma­niac (stream­ing now), about two strangers (Emma Stone and Jonah Hill) in a mind-bend­ing phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal drug trial. She says the plot is “com­pletely in­sane.”

Lately she’s been work­ing out with free weights a cou­ple of times a week and run­ning in the hills around her house. “I try to do it every day, at least six days a week.” It’s her best at­tempt to push back against the changes age has wrought.

“I feel my body tran­si­tion­ing into a dif­fer­ent body,” she says. She’s also “ad­dress­ing all the things that all 70-year-old women are ad­dress­ing, hav­ing to do with their skin and hair and weight.” Well, to a point—she doesn’t do fa­cials, even man­i­cures and pedi­cures. “I have an on­go­ing de­bate with my­self whether to dye my hair or not, be­cause I have a lot of gray. I’m de­bat­ing what I wanna be. I’m evolv­ing.”

Which is why she doesn’t know what she’ll set her sights on next. She’s been plunk­ing around on a ukulele and toy­ing with the idea of join­ing her grand­daugh­ter in France for a month. “I am gonna learn how to speak French,” she says. “I swear to God, I am!” No mat­ter where she finds her­self, she keeps mov­ing. “I just keep hav­ing the need to run,” she says, “to es­cape. To pack up ev­ery­thing and go.”

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