Anjelica Huston on ‘Smash’ and her illustrious acting forebearsBy Ruben V. Nepales
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LOS ANGELES—A recent conversation with Anjelica Huston about her role in the “Smash” TV series as a producer struggling to launch a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe led to talk about her illustrious acting forebears, father John Huston, and grandfather, actor Walter Huston.
The Marilyn Monroe subject also inspired Anjelica’s reminiscences about growing up in show business, especially who struck her the most when she was a kid and was introduced to Hollywood’s reigning stars.
Excerpts from our interview:
Growing up with a great director for a father, you met many stars. Who impressed you the most?
The first movie star I met was Ava Gardner—in Milan. I remember being wildly impressed. My father was directing an opera called “The Mines of Sulphur.” Ava was there in white fur, turquoise and diamonds. I thought that was the most spectacular thing I’d ever seen. The next one was Marlon Brando whom I met when I was a little girl.
Did you meet Marilyn?
I never met her. My dad was making “The Misfits” when I was still a little girl in Ireland, so I saw a lot of pictures of her at the time.
Why do you think all of us, including your character, Eileen Rand, continue to be fascinated with Monroe?
I think Marilyn represents what is strongest, yet most vulnerable about the American woman. She remains an extraordinary mystery. No one is sure whether Marilyn was smart or dumb, if she was a man’s woman or a woman’s woman. She was obviously iconic.
She represens the idea that you can come from nowhere and shine, that you can be a poor little orphan and achieve this extraordinary level of goddess status.
It’s the possibilities in her that are the most interesting. That was probably what appealed to men about her, certainly to Arthur Miller who was extremely intellectual and very smart. He felt that she had a great brain. Joe DiMaggio probably felt she had a great body (laughing). Marilyn was all things to all people.
You’ve worked with a lot of producers. Did you tap any of their behavior in your approach toward your role?
When I got the part of Eileen, I thought about what it was about being a producer that I admired most. I admire even more than the producers’ fundraising capabilities the fact that they have to juggle all these things. They can project a sense of extraordinary peace and equanimity when everything is falling to hell.
I learned that from John Foreman, who would just clap his hands, laugh and smile whenever anything was dreadful.
Another person is Sherry Lansing. I’ve never heard her say a bad word about anything or anybody, yet she still manages to be divinely human, funny and great. That was what I wanted to bring to Eileen.
Do you have memorabilia of your grandfather (actor Walter Huston)?
I have. I was given a wonderful stash of memorabilia of my grandfather not long ago by a cousin whom I hadn’t met until quite recently. It’s fantastic to be able to read about his career and get to know him through the milieu of film.
Through film, I learned who he was—not just the little old prospector in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” but that very dignified, wonderful banker in “Dodsworth”—an amalgam of parts that made up the whole. That includes “September Song,” which still causes adults to weep. It’s a fantastic legacy.
My father was very passionate about my grandfather. They were very close. And what do I feel apart from the long legs that I inherited from my father? He was more courageous than I am, but I learned through him to attempt things that scare me, despite my foibles.
If you were to give advice to Katharine McPhee and Megan Hilty or to their characters in the “Smash” series, what would you tell them?
A good friend gave me some advice when I was low. He said, “After your peaks come your valleys.” It’s very simple advice—but, it means that everything is possible and you may be in the dumps right now, but next week, you’ll get a phone call and everything will turn around.
Mainly, you must have the gumption to stay in the game. If you have that, I think everyone gets a chance—but, you have to be ready when the chance comes.
E-mail email@example.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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