Faye Dunaway: Through The Eyes Of Faye Dunaway

Q: Three Days of the Condor is a fun ride to watch. How was the ride with costar Robert Redford?

A: A lot of people like that film. I loved doing it because it gave me a chance to play a girl who was just living her life. With Robert, it was mostly on the screen. Maybe it was just the point of development I was at, but I found him a little unreachable, unapproachable. Maybe I was frightened of him. But we never got on, in terms of being soul mates.

Q: A few years later you won an Oscar for Network. Did you get along well with costar William Holden?

A: At first I didn't want him to star. Being the rebel, I said, "Oh, come on, you've gotta get Robert Mitchum," whom they had been talking about for that role. For those of us in the Nicholson world, Mitchum had such allure. But Sidney Lumet knew there would have been nothing but trouble with Mitchum. Holden had such dignity and Sidney knew that he would hold the movie together. Holden was a truly lovely man.

Q: Have people underrated any movie you've made?

A: Puzzle of a Downfall Child. I really love that film. It's about a fragile model who has a very precarious existence because it's all about what she looks like. You can't mention any more of my past movies. [Laughs]

Q: Why not?

A: Because you're avoiding one I don't want to talk about.

Q: You mean that movie in which you play a certain very famous, child-abusing movie star diva?

A: [Laughs] Yeah but...exploitation, exploitation, exploitation. That's what it was. It was scary. But I'm not going to talk about it.

Q: Let's discuss some movies you came close to doing. The Chase?

A: I wanted to do it with Brando but they told me I wasn't pretty enough and Jane Fonda got the part.

Q: The Great Gatsby?

A: I terribly wanted to play Daisy and I tested for it, but didn't get it.

Q: Julia?

A: I wish I hadn't turned it down because Jane Fonda said she wanted me, but I had just won the Oscar, had fallen in love, so I wanted to be quieter somehow.

Q: Hitchcock's Family Plot?

A: I don't remember why I said no because I had some wonderful meetings with Hitchcock.

Q: The Group?

A: I wanted that badly but Candice Bergen got it. I felt I couldn't measure up to her beauty. That was before Candy found her niche. Do you know she once called me a barracuda? [Laughs]

Q: Why?

A: Because of the way I play Monopoly. She said I played with absolute menace. But I just love Monopoly.

Q: What other films did you regret having passed on?

A: It's a fascinating line of questioning you're following. People always look at one's career and say, "She should have done this instead," but, the truth is, there are very few good projects around in any era. The fact that I've gotten more than one is really rare.

Q: Which stars have impressed you? A

: I met Barbara Stanwyck, who was fantastic. Dietrich was one of the stars I always admired. I wish I'd gotten to know her. I really wish I'd gotten to know Ida Lupino--what a strong, ballsy, gutsy lady.

Q: Speaking of strong and ballsy, haven't you been a friend and unofficial mentor to Sharon Stone?

A: She says that when Basic Instinct came out that I was sort of there with her. I understand the kind of success she had with that movie and it is mind-blowing. You think they're handling it well but it's really wearing, mentally. I'm sure people might hear that and say, "Yeah, some problem." [Laughs] But we all have our fears. She's a pretty formidable woman herself. I just love her and thank God she's going to be fine and healthy now. I feel we're kind of cut from the same cloth. She's got a wonderful, sassy gutsiness about her.

Q: Does seeing someone like Ellen Burstyn, a mature actress, doing so well give you a charge?

A: What do you mean, doing so well? She's a mom on a sitcom. Do I want to do that?

Q: But she received an Oscar nomination for Requiem for a Dream and she's starring in Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. That ain't bad.

A: I turned down Requiem for a Dream. I didn't want to play it. I've had a different career, you know. I've made a choice in the past few years and that is to honor a dream I've had since the beginning of my career, which is to write and direct. My calling was acting but I don't know that it is anymore.

Q: Why have you lost your patience with acting?

A: I have very little patience for the way things are done now. I'm very grateful for the success that I've had, but there's also a terrible fragility to this glass menagerie world we live in, if I may borrow a metaphor from Tennessee Williams. It's a terribly sick world that success brings and there's a real wicked living-off-other-people aspect to fame that I had a lot of.

Q: As you've matured, have people in the Industry ever made you feel passé?

A: Things change as you grow older. I see it as a challenge.

Q: Do you get frustrated because you see someone like Jack Nicholson still getting major roles, but those just don't exist for you?

A: He's got every major role coming. They line up for him. He's a brilliant personality and actor and society is giving him the kinds of chances he's getting because of those things and because he's a man. They don't give those chances to women.

Q: So part of why you're directing now is out of passion and necessity?

A: Yes and I'm doing Master Class because it is about things that I understand. It's about a big career, the path of the artist, the kind of 8 1/2 odyssey we all go through, what it means, what sacrifices you have to make to get there and stay there. It's a great love story in the Casablanca vein with Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis. Al Pacino would play a perfect Onassis, because he's got that crazy audacity and flash.

Q: Your short film The Yellow Bird received a nice response on the Women's Entertainment network. Why did you decide to tackle Tennessee Williams your first time out?

A: We're both very Southern, so I am able to find the connective tissues and the rhythms in his work.

Q: To invoke the title of your autobiography, are you still Looking for Gatsby? Have you met anyone in your private life who's made your knees buckle?

A: [Laughs] I haven't given up hope. I'm a definite loner at the moment and have been for quite a few years. But I think I could fall in love again.

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

A: For a long time, I tried to live up to something that was in people's minds. I don't know what it is they want, nor do they, but movie stars fulfill some lack in people's lives. What I realized long ago is that any time people put you on a pedestal, you're doomed to disappoint. I can't possibly be who they want me to be because, mainly, they want me to answer all their dreams. But we're just people with flaws, insecurities. Maybe more insecurities than anybody else.


Stephen Rebello interviewed Neil LaBute for the May issue of Movieline.

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