Tuesday, April 18, 2006


"At 22, I used to go out all night, dance like crazy, do drugs, drink, have a great time, sleep for an hour and wake up, and you could still look gorgeous, with your skin glowing. If I did that now, you'd have to pull me out of bed by my feet."
"I used to have all sorts of political ideas about marriage that don't matter to me anymore. Those are the sort of ideas you have when you're younger, like being into astrology."

Jessica Lange and I both have are Ascendants in Leo. Oh yes, Sun signs, Moon signs, birth charts, aspects - I'm very well read in astrology. I wouldn't necessarily call it a belief system or philosophy as much as I would compare it to...a science.

Astrology, in most respects, is the science of planetary and cosmic energy, and their effects on individuals and society as a whole. It's a science of causes and effects, of patterns and potentials. Throw out the newspaper horoscope columns, and the fun, coffee-table book rampant with cliches, and those images you have of Zsa Zsa Gabor with a Middle-Eastern-patterned hankerchief wrapped around her head - because if these are some of the ideas you may have floating in your head about what astrology is all about, you're dead wrong.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. Jessie and me both have our Ascendants in Leo.

Ascendant - The ascendant is the sign which was rising in the sky due east of your birthplace, at the exact time of your birth. Without a specific, accurate time of birth, it is impossible to determine the ascendant. As you can imagine, the rising sign, as it is also called, is a very unique point in one's birth chart. And in the case that you happen to come across someone that shares your rising sign, it would be unlikely that you and that person wouldn't make a great impression on one another - for the good or the bad. The ascendant, as we have stated, is a very important point in the horoscope. It shows how you express yourself to the world. It's you showing yourself to the world outside. It will even indicate your outward, physical appearance and mannerisms; your sense of style and the way you choose to express yourself in a myriad of situations.

The Ascendant in Leo is common among the charts of musical and dramatic peformers, as well as creative people and general and officials in high positions of authority. Maryiln Monroe had her rising sign in Leo. Muhammad Ali, Bill Clinton ( a "double" Leo, with his Sun also in Leo), Meryl Streep, and many more.

Now the whole point in my bringing up the coincidence that Jessica and I share this important point in our birth charts is because rising signs share the same common, life lessons - albeit it at different ages - based on the five outer planets contained in our horoscopes: Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. These are planets that take years to complete one trip around the twelve signs of the horoscope, and so they move very slowly through specific, and often times vital, aspects of our lives and our beings.

With the exception of Frances, Losing Isaiah is the film with which I began to make deep, highly introspective comparisons between my life and Jessica's art. It was a film that at the age of thirteen, sitting amidst empty seats, captivated me with it's raw, flawed and simple power. Lange's performance - specifically the scene where she explodes at her husband with grief and rage - resonated in me the feelings I was begin to experience concerning my abusive childhood and my latent homosexuality.

Then came Rob Roy, a film in which we witness Lange endure a brutal rape and, in order to survive and keep her husband strong and focused, withhold her experience as a secret from both friends and neighbors. This echoed a point in my life where I secretly accepted for myself that I was gay and that I actually live a normal life, albeit alone somewhere, far and away from anyone that could be connected to my past. It also reminded me of the strength I exhibited when my mother made the decision to move us into my violently alcoholic grandmother's home, where my uncle, stuck in the grips of an explosive crack-addiction, also dwelled. The strength of keeping quiet and keeping focused.

Then came (sigh) A Streetcar Named Desire. Now, I can safely say that, after watching the original starring Brando and Leigh, that this is some of Jessica's best, most riveting work. A performance that equals, if not surpasses, the original. Tired, gasping, wrung, splitting at this seems - Jessica's performance hear echoed the pain and revelations that exploded during my mother and I's last months with her mother and brother.

A Thousand Acres was reminiscent of my mother and I - in a sense, sisters - who survived the aftermath and prepared for a new chapter in both our combined and seperate lives.

Cousin Bette was devilish fun - much like I was having - much like you can tell Jessie was having (giggle). And came Hush - a comic mistake in both our lives that shall be kept secret...on both our behalves (laughs).

Titus, with it's golden-armored breastplates and wonderfully Shakesperean-vampy monolouges signaled a strange, serendepitously coming-of-age turn in both our lives: she hit 50, I hit legal adulthood - 18. I took off to New York City after that, into a world of youth, exuberance, sex, drugs and travel.

She did Prozac Nation, which - to point out the highly synchronistic patterns found between common rising signs - was shelved for three years before I would eventually see it and experience how eerily it compared perfectly with my life...ploint-point after sickening plot-point.

Instead, I was treated with Big Fish, Masked and Anonymous and Normal - which all show a rather lost, subdued Lange. Flighty and elusive. All three performances - and films, in fact - reflected a time in my life filled with just as much wandering, philosophizing, changing, drifting and disappearing.

Then comes Prozac Nation, based on the electrifying and sobering bestelling memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel. Lange's high-strung, volatile and shattering performance not only embodied where I was in my life - specifically the horrific and crushing telephone scenes (shudder) - but the Ricci and the film as a whole was a blow by blow of my life:

Having been a writer all my life, I'm no stranger to the manically depressive, extremely introverted mind: After having been diagnosed with the HIV virus in the summer of 2004, I cemented by then-growing relationship with my best friend, and he and I both packed a few bags and took a bus all the way from Hollywood, Florida to San Francisco. At the time, though I wasn't aware of it, I was in the midst of an explosive manic episode. My boyfriend broke up with me, flew back to Hollywood. I stayed behind in San Francisco, attempted suicide twice, called and wrote him obssessively, immersed myself in booze and crystal meth and basically whithered. Insane telephone calls with my estranged father and mother, pill-popping - all of it was too much my life.

I got into the study of theology. Started researching and studying all the major religions - their roots and origins. The fundamentals of spirituality. And boom - she hits me with Broken Flowers. A character and performance that channeled me. Yes, I believe in the collective unconscious. And that was me. And is me now, as I just hung up the phone with my ex-boyfriend - the one that trecked with me to San Francisco - after an hour conversation about "getting back together." And he actually gave me those two cliche man-lines: "How about we go out for a drink?" "How about something to eat?" And, yes, you bet I did: I gave him Carmen. "No...I don't drink. Ah...I don't eat."

I haven't seen Don't Come Knocking, but I did find the clip of Jessica tearing Shepard to shreds after he proposes they get back together. And it looks like that'll be something I'll be living next week.

As for her other looming projects: Sybil, Bonneville (I think I'll be ready for another road trip by then), The Mermaids Singing, Grey Gardens, The Lost Doll...I'll just have to check my astrological forecast for the coming months...

Signing off...


Thursday, March 30, 2006


Jessica Lange: Body and Soul

April 2006

Kent Jones salutes the fearless screen presence of Jessica Lange.

It's fascinating to watch the careers of todays female stars, notable for their managerial savvy and self-protective skills. Witherspoon, Parker, Barrymore, and Diaz are quite a talented lot, and given the fact that they're in a business known for wasting its talent, especially its women, you can't blame them for controlling every square inch of their careers on screen and off. Each project, if not each move, seems to have been vetted and re-vetted, and they always seem to know precisely where they're going to land and exactly how hard. Witherspoon's justifiably vaunted performance in Walk the Line is a marvel of mental and physical engineering, but there are no ragged edges or gray areas - she's terrific on June Carter Cash's humility and righteousness, and she adds her patented spunkiness to good effect, but there's an overtone that has less to do with acting per se than with career management, a feeling of efficiency, containment, and economy of means. With all due allowance to the differences between the people they're playing, Witherspoon's performance makes a fascinating contrast with Jessica Lange's Patsy Cline.

Like any good Lange creation, her Patsy plays like a bullet fired with her first appearance (on the bandstand) that hits the target only with her exit from the action. Come to think of it, a plane crashing into a mountain and exploding into a beautiful ball of smoke and flame is the perfect ending to a Jessica Lange performance: pure energy and movement that can only be stopped by brute force - a frontal lobotomy, for instance, or a knife plunged into the neck - or, in this case, an act of God. Of all the soul sisters who came into their own during the Seventies and Eighties - Winger, Spacek, Clayburgh, Keaton - Lange is the most fearless, the most physical and the least cerebral. Not to imply that she's all about intuition, because Lange is a fiercely intelligent artist, but her method seems antithetical to that of the supremely meticulous Meryl Streep. Where Streep works point by point, Lange works from a basic vocabulary of moves that is retooled and modulated for every character: hand movements for emphasis that are sometimes sweeping, sometimes delicate, never less than exquisite; a penchant for quick change-ups in speed, lunges forward, and wounded withdrawals; an equally physical use of voice, which makes any given line reading a musical event; a fully dimensional sense of her own body and a very unusual if not singular feeling for line and volume. And then, of course, there are the eyes-hypnotically entrancing and always locked in, facing down errant husbands, domineering mothers, a father who might be a war criminal, even De Niro's blazing Cape Fear sociopath, with tangible self-possession."Why...you're Max Cady aren't you?" she says to the goofy lunatic who's pulled up outside her house in his convertible. Her slightly sneering diction, her lightly creased smile (more quietly and believably lethal than anything in De Niro's broadly entertaining turn), and, most of all, her game presence, standing destruction down, make for a typically electric, voluptuous moment. Lange is finally the secret heart of Scorsese's underrated remake. The tension in Cape Fear doesn't build as much as it mutates - mother-daughter, husband-potential girlfriend, husband-wife, husband-assailant, family-assailant. A short-haired, alert, discreetly middleaged Lange puts muscle and bone into a portrait of a marriage gone sour, along with her equally fearless director and co-actor (Nick Nolte), and the domestic scenes-raw, tightly coiled, filled with a thousand little domestic irritations-stay in the memory for longer than anything that happens on the river.

Staring down the monster-this is the keynote of many Lange performances. One might say that it comes with the territory of the official cultural emergence of the Strong Independent Woman, but in Lange's case it's not a rhetorical gambit or a "statement" but an internally generated reflex. "I always have to find the simplest line, the most organic emotional thread," the actress has said, and it strikes me that locating the threat must be at the heart of her process. Lange hones in on her characters' conflicts, within and without, and each resulting performance is an ongoing, dynamic struggle to right the balance, resolve the tension. Much more than an aria of madness, in Frances her Frances Farmer is a soldier fighting battles on multiple fronts: against her mother, her straitlaced community, her professional exploiters, her doctors and attendants, her own unruly neural impulses, and finally - and so, so sadly and eloquently - her own mental containment. Carly Marshall in Blue Sky, for which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress (1994), is less agonized and more vivacious, a bright flag flying in the breeze, fighting her wildest urges and compulsions. Similarly, her highly enteraining duels with Sam Shepard's returning cowboy star in the shaggy Don't Come Knocking become face-offs with her own past vulnerability. To look closely at Lange's full-frontal career is to realize how many other actors, even the good ones, make an art of retreating, or digging in.

The legend goes that Lange, a Minnesota girl of Polish-Finnish extraction, was so entranced by a screening of Children of Paradise in the early Seventies that she left SoHo and her boyfriend behind and headed for Paris to study with the great mime Etienne Decroux. Did miming bring the physicality out of Lange, or had she found a discipline that allowed her to hone and refine what already came naturally? It certainly came in handy when she was playing to a blue screen for most of her debut in the 1976 discoid remake of King Kong. To revisit this entertaining de Laurentiis tinker toy is quite a jolt - was there really a time when moviemakers made comic book extravaganzas this unpretentious? Lange's Dwan ("Dwan - D-w-a-n - Dwan, like Dawn, except I switched two letters.") is, on paper, a funny variation on the ditzy chorus girl (she arrives on an inflatable raft, having escaped the explosion of a luxury yacht because she refused to watch Deep Throat with the rest of the passengers). The young Lange brings the role a lot extra, spilling out of the smutty AW magazine conception in much the same way that Dwan keeps spilling out of her rhinestone dresses. If, say, Goldie Hawn had played Dwan, then the full comic potential of a line like, "Put me down, you male chauvinist ape!" might have been realized. As Lange delivers it, you get the feeling that she really means it. Broad comedy is not her strong suit.

I will assume the minority opinion and say that The Postman Always Rings Twice was another false start. Not that Lange is bad in the film-it's a formidable performance and a fascinatingly imploded one, emphasizing the wounded hurt and devastation in Cora, the discomfort, the pockets of darkness. But she has no room to breathe, let alone move, and neither does the audience. This Postman is over-art-directed and overcomposed, the tempo too rigidly set, the tone too uniformly downbeat, and Nicholson, aside from the fact that he's too old for the part, seems like he's conducting a secret acting experiment and reporting back to Kubrick. Lange certainly had the equipment to pull off a good Cora, but both the actress and her character needed a little more room to stretch out. Which she got plenty of in both Frances and Tootsie, the latter earning her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (1982).

Allow me, for a moment, to step back and remember myself at 22, plunking down my $4.50 and coming out dazed by Lange and her extraordinary power in these two very different movies. And by her beauty. The adjective "luminous" is employed way too often to describe actresses-critics use it as liberally as the customers at Nathan's use ketchup. In Lange's case, it's just. Liberated from King Kong's airbrushed light and Postman's sallow compositions-and leaving behind all the scrims and fancy angles of All That Jazz - Lange revealed herself in full, and it was a shock. Who had skin so soft and glowing eyes so blue, a smile so big? Her joy was as overpowering as her waves of sadness, and her physical eloquence delivered the killer blow. I remember sitting in the audience, gazing up at the screen, and silently vocalizing what was surely a collective sentiment shared by young men across the country if not the world: "I surrender..."

Lange is about as captivating in Tootsie as it's possible for an actor to be - self-assured, effortlessly winning, going about the business of playing a charmingly naive character with an ease and a self-assurance that acts as a balm on the hardworking tone and relentless pace set by the star. By itself, her Julie Nichols is a nice comic performance. In tandem with her Frances Farmer, which came out the same year, it's astonishing. Lange is ferocious in Frances, and very, very scary. She commits herself to her character's instability and unpredictability as fully as her Tamora pledges revenge in Julie Taymor's Titus - it's her character's best defense in a hostile universe. Her scenes with the clinic director (Lane Smith) are probably the most terrifying in the movie, and they are remarkable for the fact that Lange the actress is embodying Farmer the actress exercising her own cunning, playing mind games with the obtuse doctor, hovering near physical violence, and, once she's cornered, retreating. Many actors have "done" madness, but few have understood its underlying logic and imperatives or described its contours so well. Lange's Frances overwhelms and finally dwarfs the filmmakers' Frances, and she is far more powerful and fully realized than the modish, lazy movie around her (on the other hand, someone was smart enough to turn the movie over to her in the first place). The same is true of many of Lange's movies, and it doesn't strike me as a result of vanity or excessive self-admiration (as it is with, for instance, Warren Beatty or Harrison Ford). Lange always works in tandem with her fellow actors, and never steps aside from the movie around her. In the end, this is a directorial problem - few have been up for the challenges she throws down without even trying.

Blue Sky is finally as ungainly as Frances, and Sweet Dreams now seems disappointingly monotonous, moving dutifully from one biopic chapter to the next just as Lange and Harris are getting started. Sam Shepard was smart enough to build the underrated Far North around her, but it's a modest, homemade enterprise. Lange met her match in Scorsese, but Cape Fear is not her movie, as hard as she and Nolte work with their director to turn the genre setup inside out. She has done wonderful and more self-effacing work in the air-filled 1986 adaptation of Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart (probably her sexiest performance), Men Don't Leave and A Thousand Acres, and she's hilariously uptight and buttoned down in Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Arguably, her shining hour thus far came in 1989 with Music Box. "She has the will and the technique to take a role that's really no more than a function of melodrama and turn this movie into a cello concerto," wrote Pauline Kael, ever so aptly.

Music Box is a fairly solid example of the late Eighties/early Nineties subgenre of the career woman under threat, her vulnerability located and her mettle tested. Remember Cher as a crack criminal lawyer? Sissy Spacek as a whistleblower? Or (God help us) Melanie Griffith's 1992 doubleheader as a WWII super-spy and an undercover cop? Probably not, but Lange's haunted Ann Talbot is hard to shake."The only thing I know about this film is that it's a love story. It's about this woman's devotion and love and commitment to her family and to her father," Lange said of Costa-Gavras and Joe Eszterhas's riff on the John Demjanjuk affair. Casting Armin Mueller-Stahl as the beloved father, a man who in all probability is a Nazi war criminal and who has asked his daughter to defend him in court, was a canny move. He is motionless, intransigent, unyielding; she is in constant motion, searching for the one vantage point that will allow her to see into her father's past. Lange doesn't exactly try to bend the film to her will, but the genre allows her to, and Costa-Gavras in turn allows her enough time and space to turn his issue movie into Kael's cello concerto. Thus, a moment that might have been tossed out of any other movie - Ann sitting on the stairs, the weight of middle age and the weight of the awful task before her all but inseparable, opening her robe and studying her body - becomes a central event. The then-topical issues - the not-so-veiled anti-Semitism of the Lake Forest set, the ethical traps and dilemmas of lawyering, the presence of ex-Nazis in the heartland-are finally so many stops on one woman's painful sentimental education and psychological readjustment.

This is, finally, one of the bravest and most naturally expressive actors who ever stepped in front of a camera. Let's hope she gets to work with more directors who are up for the challenge.

- Kent Jones

On April 17th Jessica Lange will be honored (with the Gala Tribute) at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Below you will find links to the center and to Film Comment Magazine where you can purchase this month's issue (with the above article).

http://www.filmlinc.com/special/gala/gala.htm - Gala Tribute
http://www.filmlinc.com/fcm/fcm.htm - Film Comment Magazine

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Jessica Lange
By Ann Roth

April 2006

She launched her career with a celebrated flop, then proceeded to surprise the critics with some of her generation's most searing performances. Renowned costume designer Ann Roth gets the scoop from a woman who has never shied from taking chances or stopped exploding expectations.

[Jessica Lange and Ann Roth are shown to a quiet corner table at Gotham Bar and Grill in New York City. It's 3 p.m., and the lunch crowd has mostly dispersed. With the tape recorder whirring between them, they settle in for the following conversation.]

ANN ROTH: I was just remembering seeing you in Bordeaux while you were making Cousin Bette [1998]. Was that a great experience?

JESSICA LANGE: I wasn't all that thrilled with my work in it, nor with how the film turned out, but I had a wonderful time doing it. I mean, we were in that chateau, living out there among the peacocks and the exotic gardens. And we had a great cast. So any dissatisfaction is with my own work.

AR: I've heard you say that a few times in your life. Do you think that you could love 70 percent of your work? That's a number that keeps coming up for me. I feel like I got 70 percent of it right, whether it was exactly what I was after or something else. That's not a percentage that makes me happy, by the way.

JL: Well, sometimes the odds are against you-the director doesn't know what the hell he's doing, or something falls apart in the production, or you're working with an actor who's just unbearable and there's no chemistry. But there are also times when I feel I let myself down, and usually it was because I was distracted-I was thinking about the kids or my relationship.

AR: Did you have satisfaction with doing Titus [1999]?

JL: I did, because it was the first time I had tackled Shakespeare. And working with Tony Hopkins was great-

AR: I just have to interject here because I remember going over to your house and you were making a huge pot of soup. You had some kids there, your sister and her daughter were there, and it was a very Minnesota moment. [Lange laughs] But you were in the midst of doing Titus!

JL: For me, nothing has ever taken precedence over being a mother and having a family and a home. I've been thinking a lot about next year, which will be the first time in 25 years that I don't have a child at home.

AR: Do you already feel free thinking about it?

JL: No, I actually feel a certain trepidation. But, I'm thinking to myself, Now, just as an experiment, if I could work straight through for that year, the way I've never been able to approach this acting business because of not wanting to leave home and not wanting to drag the kids somewhere, what kind of experience would that be? Would my work get better? Would I discover something?

AR: Of course you would. And you will! Talk to me about Bonneville, the movie which you recently finished.

JL: Oh, it was great! It was the first film in I can't tell you how long that was actually a joy to do. I'd have to go way back to some of the great experiences like Sweet Dreams [1985] or Music Box [1989] or Blue Sky [1994] or Rob Roy [1995] to find anything that compared. It was exciting material and a great group of people. There was this collective energy between Kathy Bates and Joan Allen and me. The way it just fell into place and ended up being the three of us was perfect. Who knows, maybe the film will turn out well. It's an interesting story.

AR: Oh, it's a very good story. What tends to draw you to a script?

JL: It comes down to something really simple: Can I visualize myself playing those scenes? If that happens, then I know that I will probably end up doing it. The worst is when I talk myself into something. Sometimes you take things because you want to work with a certain actor, or you want to work with a director, even if the script or the part's not that great.

AR: Are there any roles that you regret not having done?

JL: Yeah. There are a few, but I hate to speak about them because it's not so nice for the person who ended up doing them-I mean, I'd hate for somebody to do that to me. But my greatest regrets are for the ones that I shouldn't have done.

AR: What's the regret for?

JL: That I wasted my time. You know what it's like-you're on set and your kids are little and they're back at the rental house or out having a little excursion. They're going somewhere, they're doing something, they're having fun; something happens in their life that day, and you're sitting on a set somewhere with a group of jerkoffs [laughs]. That was always the hardest for me.

AR: What can you tell me about making Sweet Dreams?

JL: That's another one of those films that were just blessed. I remember the first time I went out to Owen Bradley's barn, you know that famous recording studio outside Nashville, and I was so intimidated. I remember thinking, I can't do this, and I certainly can't do it in front of anybody. When I first started working on that project, he explained to me the difference between Patsy Cline's voice and most other country-western singers. He said that unlike the others, Patsy actually had operatic range.

AR: Oh, that must have made you breathe easier! [both laugh]

JL: Yeah. But boy, when I saw Walk The Line-what they did and how they worked on their voices-I was so impressed. I worked on my voice for Sweet Dreams but only to match my speaking voice to Patsy's actual singing voice. That was my way into that character. All I did for months before I started filming was drive around New Mexico in my little bathtub Porsche with Patsy Cline blasting on the tape player. It was so much fun, and it was a very liberating part for me to do because it made me open up.

AR: Well, you weren't Jessie in that role in any possible way. The bra alone-

JL: Oh, yes, another great touch of yours. [both laugh] But also, Karel Reisz [who directed the film] always made me feel so secure. I wonder how it is that some directors these days have no sense of how to make actors feel like they can do anything, and that it will all be all right. Actors can always alter their performance, but you've got to have the sense that no matter what you try, it's okay-even if you screw up.

AR: Yeah. You must feel welcome to do whatever. There's not that sort of cowboy approach of "Let's go crazy here" with so many young directors these days. How did King Kong [1976] come to you?

JL: I had been living in Paris studying mime with Etienne Decroux. And I came back to Minnesota during the Watergate scandal because I wanted to witness the downfall of Richard Nixon. That autumn, instead of going back to Paris, which I had intended to do, I went to New York and started taking acting classes. So I was taking classes and waitressing at night at the Lion's Head, and I was also registered with Wilhelmina modeling agency - although I never made any mony as a model. Then just before Christmas in 1975, the agency called me about this huge cattle-call audition for the film, and because they knew I was serious about acting and was taking classes, they were recommending I audition for it. The agency sent me and this other girl to Hollywood to try out. So I went out there, auditioned, and they gave me the part.

AR: Was it torture, or was it easy?

JL: It wasn't something I thought twice about. To begin with, it was just so much fun that they flew me out there. I was on the studio lot, and they got me a suite at the-what hotel was it? The Beverly Wilshire? I mean, I was a waitress living in a fifth-floor walk-up in the Village at the time.

AR: Who directed the film?

JL: John Guillermin. It was released right before Christmas. What's weird is that this last King Kong also came out right before Christmas. It was haunting because it brought back to me what it was like being in the eye of that hurricane in 1976 when our King Kong was released. Of course, my situation was very different from Naomi Watt's [star of the new King Kong], who already had a career, and who was already considered an evolved actress at the time of the film.

AR: What about Frances [1982]?

JL: This is a funny story. When I was taking acting classes, my coach said to me about Frances Farmer, "There's this book you should read, and if they ever get around to making a film of it, you should think about doing it." And then time went by-I did King Kong and returned to New York and was back studying acting and Bob Rafelson cast me in The Postman Always Rings Twice [1981]. ANd while we were shooting, the editor, Graeme Clifford, got involved with this script of Frances. Graeme told me he'd sit in the editing room all day watching me up there, and all the time he was imagining me as Frances. It was one of those years when everything just explodes; Shura [Lange's daughter] was born, I met Sam [Shepard, Lange's long-time partner], and I moved to California.

AR: You were married at the time, right?

JL: I was married, and Mischa (Mikhail Baryshnikov] and I were still together too. It was a horrible mess, and I'm not going to say anymore about that! [laughs] But yes, I got divorced that same year. Anyway, Shura was born in March of '81, and I started shooting Frances in October or November of that year. That was another long shoot.

AR: Now, what is this piece you're going to shoot in Nova Scotia?

JL: Sybil. Remember that book about the woman with 16 personalities? It's that. This young, very talented actress, Tammy Blanchard, is in it.

AR: When did that project appear?

JL: When I was shooting Bonneville in Salt Lake City. It's being made by CBS. TV is sort of the only way to go for an actress my age to make a descent salary; with independent films, you just can't.

AR: Do you like the script?

JL: I do. And if the director shoots it the way he wants to, which is really almost like a film noir or mystery movie, it could be very interesting.

AR: How long will you be there?

JL: Three or four weeks, and then I go to Mexico. After that there are all these possibilities:" Will Grey Gardens actually happen? Will Cheri actually happen? They're both great roles and movies I'd really like to do, but they're not mainstream pieces, so who knows what'll go on with them. And there was another project based on that book [The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll, about model, photographer, and children's book author Dair Wright] that Julian Schnabel talked to me about that i would love to do.

AR: He's a really good director. I read an interview he did with Mickey Rourke for Interview recently, and you oculd tell he'd gotten an awful lot of understanding about the world we inhabit. Now, the new Wim Wenders film, Don't Come Knocking, which Sam [Shepard] wrote. Are you pleased with it? Have you seen it?

JL: I haven't seen the finished cut. But it's a very interesting film, and it's very Sam and very Wim. So I did that, and then i did Broken Flowers, and both were about men searching for their progeny. That kind of coincidence always surprises me. There's that "collective unconscious" out there that you're able to tap into. Like, I remember the year I did Country [1984] a few other films about families losing their farms came out.

AR: How about A Thaousand Acres [1997]?

JL: Not a good experience. The book was great, but the film was a disaster.

AR: So what else?...Were you a cheerleader growing up?

JL: Oh, dear God, no. I never fit in anywhere, Ann, and I'm telling you the truth. I try to go back and think, Okay now, where was it that you belonged? And I can't. I never felt like I belonged in Minnesota when I was growing up there. That's why I was out the door as soon as I turned 18. The only place I've ever felt was really my home is my cabin up north. Do you know that last line from A River Runs Through It?-"I am haunted by waters." There's something in the water up there that connects me to that place. But there's also this sense of isolation and loneliness about it that I've never been able to shake.

AR: Do you dislike that feeling?

JL: I don't mind it - I mean, I've lived with it my whole life. [laughs]

Thursday, February 23, 2006


"The movie is sparked...by Jessica Lange's fast yet dreamy comic style. Her Dwan has the high, wide forehead and clear eyed transparency of Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey"... She has one liners so dumb that the audience laughs and moans at the same time, yet they're in character, and when Lange says them she holds the eye and you like her, the way people liked Lombard."
The New Yorker
"Speaking in a baby doll voice that turns every syllable into a come hither, Lange does a very smart caricature of cuddly seductiveness, a knowing take on Marilyn Monroe's embarrassing irresistibility - and a little less innocent."


"Jessica Lange is the best reason to see the movie...she is good-sized, muscular but rounded and with her short, curly blonde hair, a Japanese silk wrapper pulled tight and a lewd, spectacular smile, she's both sepharic and steamy."
New Yorker
"With this performance, Lange has passed from the status of minor curiosity as the heroine of Dino De Laurentis' King Kong to that of respected actress and, maybe, star."
"Lange, particularly, is a revelation as she suggests a '30s beauty unhobled by censorship."
The Village Voice
"Jessica Lange, however, shows that she might turn into an actress of some range. Her pale, thin-lipped beauty catches glimpses of the haunted, hungry Midwestern girl Cain had in mind..."
"Jessica Lange is physically present on screen in a way that few movie actresses have ever been--Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren and, perhaps in a different way, Marilyn Monroe...we can feel the suppressed rage and desire in her muscular neck and shoulders, and in the powerful curve of her back. One look at her and you know that this woman is no pushover. And from the way she cocks her head and narrows her eyes at Frank it's clear that there's not much in life that she hasn't seen before, particularly when it comes to men. In Postman, Lange makes no attempt to hold herself in physically, and her solidity on the screen is a kind of a challenge. It says, "Go ahead. Try to knock me over. Give it your best shot."
Boston Herald


Frances (1982) is based on the tumultuous life of Frances Farmer, the notorious 1930's movie star whose impassioned opinions and outspoken behavior created scandal throughout the Hollywood industry. But after a painful break-up with famed playwrite Clifford Odets, she was betrayed by the studio system and committed to an insane asylum by her domineering mother, where she descended into a madness that revealed the most horrific abuses of mental illness and exposed the cruelest consequences of Hollywood fame.
Kim Stanley, as Farmer's mother Lillian, and Sam Shepard, as Harry York, both co-star. Kevin Costner, as "the man in the alley", and Anjelica Huston, as a mental-ward patient, both have cameos.
Frances was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Actress for Lange, and Best Supporting Actress for Stanley.
Source Material: Will There Really Be a Morning? by Jean Radcliffe and Shadowland by William Arnold. Also, Frances Farmer Tribute.
"A magnificent performance by Jessica Lange. Here is a performance so unfaltering, so tough, so intelligent and so humane that it seems as if Lange is just now, at long last, making her motion picture debut..."
New York Times

"A soaring performance...a combination of forcefulness, intelligence and a haunting sensuality. Frances belongs utterly to Jessica Lange."
Los Angeles Times

"A scalding performance by Jessica Lange, whose Frances can only be described as miraculous...she leaves you outraged, stunned and deeply moved."
New York Post

"Jessica Lange is exhilerating...her performance as the bright, beautiful, emotionally damaged Hollywood actress of the late 1930's is stunning."

"Jessica Lange plays Frances Farmer in a performance that is so driven, that contains so many different facets of a complex personality, that we feel that she has an intuitive understanding of this tragic woman."
Chicago Sun-Times

"...Lange, blonde, nervy, witty, with huge restless hands, captures, without self-pity, the haunting quality of the eternal misfit."

"Lange has a rare intelligence and intensity that beam through...a brittle tenderness, combining the fluffy alertness of a kitten with the prickly defensiveness of a porcupine...[her performance is a] triumph."
The Village Voice

"...The magic, the charm, the airy recklessness of Jessica Lange. As haunting in her own way as Frances Farmer was in hers, she conveys the inexpressible poignancy of a woman who never quite fits in—who is too smart to be a beautiful plaything, and too beautiful to be just smart."


1982 Academy Award
Best Supporting Actress

"Lange is a total delight in a comedy role in which she brings the same sort of intelligent gravity that distinguishes her work in 'Frances'."
New York Times
"Lange brings a beguilingly spacey sensuality, Monroe-like in its poignancy, to her part..."
"Let it be recorded for the year 2022 that in the year 1982 a bedazzled reviewer for The Village Voice suddenly decided that Jessica Lange was more a knockout than Frances Farmer ever was, that she was everything Marilyn Monroe was supposed to be in Some Like It Hot, and a great deal more besides, that she lit up the screen with so much beauty and intelligence that she and Dustin Hoffman were able to transform what might have petered outinto a tired reprise of Charley’s Aunt into a thoroughly modernist, thoroughly feminist parable of emotional growth and enlightenment."
The Village Voice
“…The best of the supporting players, though, is Jessica Lange, who brings something dangerous and spacy to the character of Julie; she reminds one a little of Tuesday Weld...Lange shows us the turmoil behind the shifting eyes...churning with inexpressible desires; she suggests hidden depths, distant edges and textures. Lange is slender, with a swanlike carriage and a regal neck, but there's something of the towheaded scamp in her face, a mischievousness that can seem chummy one moment and predatory the next. We know exactly what Michael sees in this woman, and we also know how easily she could destroy him."
Boston Herald
“When Jessica Lange appears, the movie changes … to something calmer, and perhaps richer. She has a facial structure that the camera yearns for, and she has talent, too. Her face is softer here than in Frances; her Julie is a dream girl, and she’s like a shock absorber to Michael. She helps to keep the movie from being too frenetic. There is none of the usual actress’s phoniness in her work; as Julie, she says her lines in such a mild, natural way that it makes perfect sense for Michael to stop in his tracks and stare at her in wonder."
The New Yorker
"Sipping at her white wine, depressed and wistful yet rapturously beautiful, Lange is soft and curvy, with an easy swiveling roll to her hips as she walks. She’s like Marilyn Monroe with brains, Kim Novak with class; she doesn’t project what those two icons did—that intoxication with their own beauty that was as infuriating as it was provocative; she’s responsive and concentrated, using her looks to create a character.”
New York
“Jessica Lange, tremulously beautiful, is the most exciting star to emerge since Marilyn Monroe, but she has more talent and backbone than Monroe ever had. She and Hoffman complement each other in the most extraordinary way, as Dorothy receives the gift of shared intimacy in return for which she provides Julie with a lesson in female gumption.”


1984 Academy Award Nominee
Best Actress

"'Country' has the sharp edge of informed journalism [and] more than anything else, it reflects the drive, realism, conviction and intelligence of Jessica Lange's performance."
New York Times


1985 Academy Award Nominee
Best Actress
"Lange makes herself a perfect physical extension of the vibrant, changeable, enormously expressive woman who can be heard on these recordings. Both skillful and credible, her performance is a triumph."
New York Times
"Jessica Lange keeps on astonishing. Her triumph as Patsy Cline is a stunner!"
“In Sweet Dreams, Jessica Lange plays the pop-and-country singer Patsy Cline with a raw physicality that's challenging and heroic. When Lange's Patsy slings her strong young body around she gives off a charge. Lange has real authority here, and the performance holds you emotionally."
New Yorker
"Nothing could be more breathtaking than what Jessica Lange does with, and as, Patsy Cline. Gaudy, gorgeous and raunchy, with a shiny face and a high giggle, she rips into the role like a prizefighter and never looks back, giving the most exuberant performance of her versatile career."
Rolling Stone
"A touching and entertaining performance, stricken with tragedy within and without"
"As Patsy Cline, Jessica Lange is sultry, nervy, delicate and altogether amazing."
"Lange pours herself into her role, she gained 20 pounds and dares to prance around unashamed in a collection of magnificantly tawdry cowboy costumes. She's learned her West Virginia dialect well enough to use in high style... Though often ribald, Lange translates an innocent force into Cline, with assorted growls, yelps and down home hyperbole, and exudes earnest, simple heartfelt desire."


1989 Academy Award Nominee
Best Actress

"Intelligent, searching, womanly...Lange verges on the astounding. She is one of those star performers whose characters don't necessarily come on as stars. What counts instead is the Old World, New World texture that she brings to her character's toughness. Her beautiful throatiness counts. She has the will and the technique to take a role that's really no more than a function of melodrama and turn this movie into a cello concerto."
New Yorker
"Lange's performance is very good - as strong as her work in 'Frances'."
Chicago Sun-Times
"With her hair in no-nonsense curls, her drab businesswoman's clothes and a discreet cross around her neck, Jessica Lange is the picture of a working-class daughter. Ms. Lange comes as close to inventing a character out of thin air as any screen actor can, and with profuse energy and intelligence, she gives her best performance since 'Frances'."
New York Times
"There's tragedy in the hollow of Jessica Lange's huge eyes, and terror in her face, which is as pale as the winter sun. Lange moves through the spooky landscape with the haunted urgency of the movie's Gypsy violins. Her romance with the lens sustain [this film's] terrible poignancy and grant it a power beyond the elementary."
Washington Post


"Nobody else in the movies is as skilled as Lange at expressing the tangle of emotions behind the silences and shy awkwardness of a character such as Beth. This is painful, moving material and Lange doesn't censor or tidy up Beth's imperfections or her impulse to crawl in a hole. She gives them to you straight, contradictions and all. Lange's performance is magnificent."
Washington Post
"Throughout, Lange turns herself into a mess. She looks frumpy, scowls, nags. She in fact creates such a complete character - a woman totally overwhelmed - that it almost doesn't matter what's happening on the periphery."
"With the exceptional ability to hold an audience's attention, Ms. Lange makes Beth a moving and sympathetic figure...poised and beautiful..."
New York Times
"[This] performance by Lange is altogether too good to be wasted."
Chicago Sun-Times
"Lange's performance is excellent. Absorbing, truthful and full of insight..."
Time Out London


1994 Academy Award
Best Actress

"It is a lavish role for Ms. Lange, and she brings to it fierce emotions and tact...dazzling..."
The New York Times
"[Lange gives] a compelling and beautifully acted portrait..."
Los Angeles Times
"Lange [offers] a plush, platinum star turn. She is what Carly imagines she might have become if only she hadn't been a military wife: mostly Monroe with a soupcon of Bardot."
The Washington Post
"Lange is passionate and devastating."
Rolling Stone
"Lange, without romanticizing the character's destructive energy, makes us understand that Carly is right-that her life is stifling. This is a fierce, brave, sexually charged performance, one of the most convincing portrayals I've seen of someone whose behavior flirts with craziness without quite crossing into it.....It captures the mad grandeur..."
Entertainment Weekly
"...Lange's most brilliant screen work to date..."
"Lange has the showy role, with almost unlimited opportunities to emote and strut her stuff, which she does magnificently and with total abandon."


"Jessica Lange gives this film its dramatic focus. She is the motor of this movie. The moral center, too."
Entertainment Weekly
"Serious and affecting, Jessica Lange breathes real life into her character with a tone that is thoughtful and temperate."
New York Post
"Lange gives the film its core of haunting sadness. A knockout performance."
Los Angeles Times
"Jessica Lange gives the kind of performance for which an Oscar nomination is deserving."
Reel Views
"Ms. Lange - tough, solid and a little weary, hardened by all the insurmountable troubles she has seen - brings such believable anguish to this role, she makes her character's desires touchingly clear."
New York Times
"Jessica Lange explodes the sentimental homilies with the raw power of her performance."
"Jessica Lange's performance as a loving, struggling mother is nothing short of heroic."


"Jessica Lange, as Liam Neeson's wife, has a fierce sense of drive and character."
Chicago Sun-Times
"Jessica Lange brings her usual presence and skill to the role."
Los Angeles Times
"Ms. Lange, who plays the sauciest mate in all Scotland, has real charisma here and some dazzling moments, displaying great dignity mixed with raw, barely contained emotion."
New York Times
"Lange, who plays the earthy, sexy wife, is a far more compelling character than Liam Neeson's Rob Roy, but as much as you want it to be, the film isn't about her. Still, Lange takes her role to the limit -- sometimes she's awkward, other times she's so passionate that she burns up the screen. She's the only real human - vulnerable, angry, resourceful - you remember."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Lange, who doesn't know how to be untruthful on screen, is perfectly believable and full of life."
San Francisco Examiner
"The romance belongs solidly to Jessica Lange. She brings a fresh, realistic, earthy quality to her character. Her clothing looks homemade, and her red hair blows wild in the wind. Even more strikingly, she is a female film character with more common sense than many of the headstrong men around her."
New York Observer


"Jessica Lange is luminous."
Chicago Sun-Times
"Lange gets to go all out and inhabit a role different from any other she's ever played, and she does so marvelously."
San Francisco Chronicle
"An excellent, well-rounded performance by Jessica Lange."
Boxoffice Magazine



"The happy surprise is Jessica Lange, who carries off the sexy, ruthless Tamora with force and conviction."
New York Post
"Jessica Lange makes a splendid Goth queen!"
The Village Voice
"Everything about [Lange's] daring performance is an astonishment. Donning breastplates, vowing vengeance, tearing into Shakespeare for the first time as if nothing could be more fun, Lange steals the show-and when the star of the show is Anthony Hopkins, that's grand theft."
Entertainment Weekly

"This is Lange's first attempt at Shakespeare, and she couldn't have found a role more suited to her: a woman of formidable sex appeal and boundless rage."
San Francisco Chronicle


"It is hard to imagine Christina Ricci and Jessica Lange not receiving Oscar nominations for their performances."
Ebert & Roeper


"Lange is expert at conveying Irma's shock waves of disbelief and anger."
San Francisco Chronicle
"[Jessica Lange] gives a superbly moduated performance...Guiding her character smoothly over a bumpy emotional road, [she] makes Irma a richly sympathetic woman, even in her moments of harshness."


"Lange pierces the heart as Sandra climbs in the tub with Edward to offer comfort and forgiveness."
Rolling Stone
"Jessica Lange is magnificent."
New York Post


"Jessica Lange [creates] a full life in miniature."
Rolling Stone
"Lange is very good as Carmen, whose conversion from lawyer to animal whisperer is - we glean from the sharp looks given him by her protective assistant - not the only change she has made."
New York Daily News
"Conversely, Jessica Lange suggests acres of pain and loss behind her lines, playing her role as someone who has been through the ringer and has worked on herself in some systematic way in order to overcome it."
San Francisco Chronicle
"It would be wrong of me to consider this a competition, but Lange wins it hands down with a brimming-over-with-life portrait of a confidently wacko animal psychic. In just a couple of scenes, Lange slyly suggests that this woman has secrets, and they are juicy, and she's not going to tell us any of 'em."
Pioneer Press
"...Carmen is played by the incomparable Jessica Lange, as a dreamy lawyer-turned-"animal communicator.” Though it’s funny to watch a man leaving her office tell his bunny rabbit that its comments were very brave, Lange’s Carmen is no joke: She’s the yuppies’ Jane Goodall. Lange imbues her character — who could easily have become a walking punchline — with such deep wells of intelligence and kindness that it’s revolting the actress isn’t beating away job offers with a stick."
The Journal Times
"Lange gives her earthiest performance in years, and her two main scenes really resonate throughout the movie."
Fox News
"Jessica Lange especially stands out of the four actresses, as the flaky, new-wavy "animal communicator" Carmen. Though Lange's appearance is brief, it is incredibly impressionable due to her great conviction and humor."
Silver Chord Online


"Jessica Lange is amazing."
Ebert & Roeper
"Lange is strong yet vulnerable, and in one memorable scene, scorchingly radiant."
The Boston Herald
"Even-keeled through most of the film, Lange has one magnificently performed exchange with Shepard, the actress raging, pining, reproaching and wilting in the space of a single scene."
The Courier Post
"Lange uses irony and calculated coolness to disguise her rage at this selfish and cowardly man she once loved."
Hollywood Reporter
"Lange dependably comes through with a full-blooded turn."
Box Office Magazine
"Jessica Lange’s performance screams for an Oscar nomination. She is the perfect woman for her role, as you forget she is acting — her emotions are conveyed powerfully and you believe she feels the pains and the pleasures of her character."
MIT Tech

SYBIL (2006)


Jessica Lange was born in 1949, in Cloquet, Minnesota, USA, where her father worked as a traveling salesman. She obtained a scholarship to study art at the University of Minnesota, but instead went to Paris to study drama. She moved to New York, working as a model, until producer Dino De Laurentiis cast her as the female lead in King Kong (1976). The film attracted much unfavorable comment and as a result Lange was off the screen for three years. She was given a small but showy part in ‘Bob Fosse’ ’s All That Jazz (1979), before giving a memorable performance in Bob Rafelson's _Postman Always Rings Twice, The_ (1981) , as an adulterous waitress. The following year she won rave reviews for her exceptional portrayal of actress Frances Farmer in Frances (1982) and a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her work in Sydney Pollack's Tootsie (1982) (as a beautiful soap-opera actress). She was also outstanding as country singer Patsy Cline in ‘Karel Reisz’ ’s Sweet Dreams (1985) and as a lawyer who defends her father and discovers his past in Music Box (1989). Other important films include Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear (1991) (as a frightened housewife) and 'Tony Richardson' 's Blue Sky (1994), for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award as the mentally unbalanced wife of a military officer. She made her Broadway debut in 1992, playing Blanche in Tennessee Williams' ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.