News Column

Shirley MacLaine offers an astounding, often funny interview ahead of Tulsa appearance Saturday

June 20, 2013


June 20--I knew that Shirley MacLaine has never been afraid to speak her mind. Not the woman whose books have detailed her beliefs in reincarnation and her "open" marriage arrangement. Not the woman seen as a member of the "Rat Pack" boys club. Not the woman now sparring with Maggie Smith in the divine "Downton Abbey."

And yet it's still a bit of a shock to speak with anyone who truly works without a filter these days, and it's a joy. Anyone who defies political correctness and is willing to say anything is a reporter's dream.

More than 40 minutes passed, and it was filled with laughter and astounding statements. More are likely to be made on Saturday at Osage Casino in Tulsa, where MacLaine will talk about her career and take questions from the audience.

She assured me, in my role as a reporter and on behalf of the audience at the show, that no question is off-limits.

So I asked: "When you won the Academy Award for 'Terms of Endearment,' you ended your speech by saying 'I deserve this.' Why did you say that?"

"Because I did. That was a very difficult shoot," said the 79-year-old, with a touch of impatience.

"What made it so difficult?"

"Debra Winger!" she exclaimed.

I explained that sometimes when the public hears of friction on film sets, it seems puffed up as a way to promote a movie.

MacLaine countered with a hearty cackle that may have lasted a full 10 seconds.

"Oh, oh ho ho, that was not the case on that movie! I hated her!" she said of the woman who played her doomed daughter in the movie, and who earned her own best actress nomination. Winger would lose to Mac-Laine on Oscar night, when "Terms of Endearment" also won best picture of 1983.

"Jim (director James L. Brooks) thought that the tension would work well in the movie, but we didn't need as much as there was. I didn't like her, but she is talented. Or she was. It would have been a wonderful movie without all of that."

Those attending on Saturday night should come primed to ask any question -- and then buckle up for the answer.

She told me that audiences apparently learn enough from her talking about "The Rat Pack" and her movies including "The Apartment," "Sweet Charity" and "Steel Magnolias" that they don't ask many questions on these subjects.

Most of the questions, she said, are about her books (like "Out on a Limb" and "Going Within") and her beliefs.

"They want to ask about reincarnation, my trek across Spain. They want to know how to relate to the events in the world, which are so horrible sometimes. They want some kind of spiritual answers, and they come to find out what I seem to know."

She was calling from her Malibu home when I asked her some questions and delighted in her candid answers.

On the film version of "August: Osage County": "I wanted to do that part (the role of family matriarch Violet Weston, being played in the upcoming movie by Meryl Streep), but there's nobody better than Meryl in the world. The older she gets, the fewer parts there are for me."

On Tulsa native Tracy Letts, the play's writer and now a best-actor Tony Award-winner on Broadway for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?": "I saw him on Broadway, and Tracy was brilliant. He was so brilliant. He's that good an actor and that good of a writer? Wow. (I went backstage to meet him), and he's studying everything you do, everything you say when you're talking to him. Omigod, Tulsa has got a right to be proud of him."

On her relationship with her brother, Warren Beatty: "I'm going to his son's graduation on Saturday. I wish we could all come back and get drunk, but (Warren) is a health freak. So we sit around and talk, and we look at the world and say aye-yie-yie about all of the craziness."

On who's the better performer between Beatty and the triple-threat MacLaine: "Oh, well, I'm the better singer and dancer. He can't do any of that. As for acting? Hmm ... I would say equal. He's the better director. He likes to be in charge."

On her association at the mention of Oklahoma, regarding the tornadoes and the musical: (her first job on the New York stage came when she was chosen for the chorus of "Oklahoma!" in an early-1950s revival of the musical) "Oh, I remember the line about 'Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain,' and with these tornadoes, Jesus Christ, they were right."

On the subject of happiness: "I couldn't be more content. Happiness is another question. There's nothing more important than my own inner peace, and I'm learning to stay away from things that disturb that."

On the two other Oscar nominations she should have received (she's earned five): "For 'Madame Sousatzka,' I think, and then for supporting actress for 'Postcards From the Edge.' But what do I know?"

On her "Evening with Shirley MacLaine" appearances: "I show a film, a compendium of films that won stuff, and I tell the people stories. I tell them what love affairs I had, what directors I hated, what producers tried to jump on me. That kind of thing."

On why she shares so much with her audiences -- but not on social media: "Sharing is fun for me, I do it for me, and when I go to do live shows, that's for me. I love to work, I love to be creative. I don't need the money, but I need the creativity ... I don't do Twitter. I think it's schmucky. Who gives a crap about some little dress you got and how you look or that you bought a new pair of shoes? Twitter. Gee, I guess I'm really missing something."

An evening with Shirley MacLaine

What: The actress/author/activist talks about her career, her books and more in this show, and then takes questions from the audience.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday (doors open 6 p.m.)

Where: Osage Event Center at Osage Casino, 951 W. 36th St. North

Tickets: $50, general admission seating, available at casino, online at, by phone at 918-699-7667


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