The 7 Juiciest Anecdotes Told By Shirley MacLaine at the LA Film Fest Q&A with Jack Black

Leonard Maltin moderated a "game show" Q&A between Bernie stars Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black on Thursday night, where the critic quizzed the actors on their careers, lesser roles, and other trivia. Though Jack Black hammed it up and even revealed some fun details (like that Nacho Libre was likely heavily influenced by Jared Hess's Mormon upbringing), the star of the 90-minute discussion was MacLaine, who told stories about Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe, the Rat Pack, Jack Nicholson, and even the worst man she ever worked with. Sure, she's probably told these stories before, but they were no less salacious in 2011. Here are her best anecdotes.

On meeting Alfred Hitchcock, who directed her first movie The Trouble With Harry:

"I went to visit Hitchcock at the Waldorf Astoria. He was delightful, funny, cruel, cynical, and extremely kind of comedically demanding. He asked me to read with Mildred Dunnock, Mildred Natwick, Teddy Gwenn [who played Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street, Maltin noted] and John Forsythe. I didn't know how to act. I could hardly read the script. I was the dancer! I sort of played myself, or whatever. At the end, after reading with all those wonderful actors, me playing it like that, Hitch said, 'You know, my dear, you have the guts of a bank robber.' And he hired me."

On Alfred Hitchcock's peculiar directorial style:

"First day on the set, he said, 'Genuine Chopper.' I didn't know what that meant, so I turned to John Forsythe and asked, 'What does this mean?' He said, 'Well, you have to think of a synonym for 'genuine.' [Audience responds.] 'Real.' And a synonym for 'chopper.' [Audience responds.] 'Ax.' Put them together? 'Relax.' He would use this cockney way of toying with your confidence or whatever he thought it was. The only other thing he said to me was, before one particular line, 'Dog's feet.' [Audience responds.] 'Pause.'"

On meeting the greatest female icon of the 20th century.

"I'll tell you a story: I came out of the first screening of The Apartment, and it was at some little screening room here in town. I left before the lights went up, and I walked out of the door and there, up against kind of a bar because they were serving food and drinks, was a woman -- a blonde swathed in a white mink coat. I walked over to her just to talk, and she said [whispering], 'You were so wonderful! Just brilliant!' She opened up the coat and she had nothing on. Marilyn."

On being unable to appease Apartment director Billy Wilder:

"He was un-empathetic... We looked at a scene in front of everyone, and he stood up in front of everybody and said, 'I tried.'"

On working with the Rat Pack in Ocean's Eleven and Some Came Running:

"All of them hated to rehearse. They hated the idea that they were tired down to a script because their tricks would show. By not rehearsing -- and they never liked to do more than one or two, maybe three takes -- ...they could always say, 'If we rehearsed, it would've been great." They were so spontaneous and irreverent to everything, and of course that's what worked as an ensemble piece in their system of comedy."

On shooting multiple takes with Jack Nicholson on Terms of Endearment:

"He's fabulous. One of the scenes where Aurora goes over to his house and says, 'Last year you invited me to lunch." Of course he can't remember that far back. She says, 'I think it would be good if you picked me up [for lunch.]' Now, every time I went, knocked on the door, rang the doorbell, he would open the door in a different way. He opened the door once dressed as though he was having a fitting. We did ten or fifteen takes because Jim Brooks, the director, loved to see what Jack would do. Another time he opened the door in boxer shorts. Another time he opened the door with a hooker. I don't know where he got her! And another time he opened the door stark raving nude. And I said [turning away], 'We'll go next year!" He's basically cruel. He's so hilarious and so wonderfully immediate. Whatever occurs to him at the moment, he does it. He's fearless about that."

On the worst actor she ever worked with:

"Remember Laurence Harvey? He was just impossible."

For more of Movieline's coverage of the Los Angeles Film Festival, click here.

[Photo: Getty Images]


  • Tommy Marx says:

    Is it possible to say how much I love Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson? They are both such tremendous talents!

  • troofire says:

    She's one of the last of the great ones. She should be treasured.