“I’ve never really been a horror movie person until now,” Andie MacDowell said of her new movie “Ready or Not,” wherein a bride named Grace marries into a wealthy family that subsequently attempts to murder her on her wedding night in a fatal game of hide-and-seek. MacDowell plays the new mother-in-law.
“She’s an interesting, complex character for a horror movie because she has a lot of empathy,” MacDowell said of her role. “She loves Grace. She immediately, in some vain way looks at Grace as someone that’s suitable and appropriate to take her place, down to the fact that they’re both not from blue blood. She really loves her” — despite being committed to seeing her task through.
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MacDowell’s career kicked into high gear with the 1989 indie drama “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and she hasn’t looked back since, with a resume that includes iconic films such as “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Groundhog Day.”
When asked to share a worst moment in her career, she replied: “I would say going through your 40s and having people say to you — and journalists said it to me, it was a common question — ‘How does it feel to turn 40 and know you’re not going to work anymore?’ People actually asked me that. It was an acceptable question. And only in the last couple of years would people even start to go, OK, we can’t treat women like that.”
Ultimately the story MacDowell decided to share was about a worst moment earlier in her career. She had been working as a model and then was cast in her first movie role.
“I was 23 when I did ‘Greystoke’ ("The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes’ from 1984, playing Jane opposite a Tarzan who relocates to the UK and attempts to assimilate). I showed up and there were no complaints about my performance. I felt like I did a good job. I was a little scared the first scene I did with Sir Ralph Richardson, but I think that’s normal. But nobody ever told me there was a problem.
“(After filming was done) they had me come out to do some looping and I showed up in London by myself, I was doing publicity for the film. And that’s when they told me: They were looping in Glenn Close’s voice (and dubbing it over MacDowell’s Southern lilt throughout the entire movie). They just said, ‘We didn’t use your voice. We used Glenn Close’s voice. Your voice is not in the movie.’
“And then Hugh (Hudson, the director) asked me to do the sound of Tarzan’s mother having the baby in the jungle, so I did that for him. It was like an out-of-body experience. You know when you want to cry and you have that feeling in your throat? I had that. I could barely speak. It was devastating.
‘How I found out — I think that was the most disturbing part. I wouldn’t do that to a person. I was alone, by myself. There was no real support system. It wasn’t even my managers that told me, I had to call my managers to tell them. It was bizarre.
"It’s hard to explain to anybody how difficult it really was. I just had a dark feeling about how it transpired.
"And there were a lot of mean-spirited articles. There’s a type of writer out there that uses that cynical, dark — what they find amusing — that sarcastic approach. It was a cruel time. And also I think there’s a certain kind of energy that can happen in the world when someone is down, people will kick you. And I think that happened.
“There was also a really big need to prove myself. There was a tendency in the modeling business to talk about models who tried to act — I don’t know that people really wanted to see them succeed. At least that’s how I felt, and I did see that (sentiment expressed) in print. I was in this tangle of psychological darkness, so I more or less quit modeling and made a decision that I was going to be taken seriously. And in order to do that, I knew I was going to have to fight really hard. So I just took a lot of classes and worked on every aspect of myself.
“And then I got ‘St. Elmo’s Fire’ (1985) and I still didn’t believe in myself. I was very shy. It took until ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape’ — so it took until I was 30, really — to get a role that I could prove to everybody what I was capable of. That’s five years (after ‘Greystoke’), which feels like a long time when you’re that young and you’re trying to get your career to move. It took that long just to get the opportunity to even change things.
“Well, I did do ‘St. Elmo’s Fire,’ so that did help. And I did some other silly little job in between, an episode of ‘Spenser: For Hire’ and I don’t think she talked, she was deaf. I shouldn’t have done that. And then I did a miniseries called ‘Secret of the Sahara,’ and that was fun and gave me good experience. Ben Kingsley and Michael York were in it, so I was opposite good people and I think that’s almost better than going to school.
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From left: Helen Mirren and Andie MacDowell at the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival in May. (Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty)
“But really, it was a decision of, I was either going to give up or — it was an odd thing but I thought about my grandchildren saying, ‘Oh, my grandmother was in this movie and she was dubbed.’ Was that going to be it? Was that the way I was going to leave it? Or was I going to do something that I felt good about and that I was proud of? That was basically what it came down to.”
“People in general were cruel, except for (film critic) Pauline Kael. That was huge, she saved me. I got a great review from her and I still have it somewhere. She didn’t like the movie but she loved my performance.
“I don’t think my performance is bad, honestly. I think my performance is fine. And I think, had I had enough confidence in myself or worked with a vocal coach, my voice would be in the movie. If I had known all I had to do was clean it up a little bit and maybe deepen my voice or whatever, I think I could have done whatever it was that they wanted me to do if I had known. If I was given the opportunity to succeed and they gave me the information I needed and the time to work with someone and prepare.”
“I’ve seen her and I’ve always felt awkward. Usually she’s been with people and she seemed very happy and comfortable and I didn’t know how to approach her. I probably should have, but what do you say? I don’t know how she feels. It’s not like she did anything wrong. She took a job and they paid her. But it’s just a little awkward.”
“I learned a lot about preparation, I think. Even Steven (Soderbergh), when he wrote a book about ‘Sex, Lies and Videotape,’ about what is luck? And it’s preparation plus opportunity equals luck. I’ve said that a lot to my kids. So for me, it’s always about preparation. I over-prepare now for everything and I think that’s not a bad gift to be given, learning to be over-prepared.
“I don’t think it left me scarred. If anything, it gave me the feeling that you can overcome difficulties. That life is an opportunity to keep reinventing yourself. You can change how you feel about yourself. And you can change how other people feel about you. It just sometimes takes time.”
Andie MacDowell departs the screening of "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" at Cannes. (Gareth Cattermole/Getty)
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