WASHINGTON, DC—For more than 40 years, Jessica Lange has captivated audiences in theatres and movie screens, accumulating multiple Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony awards along the way—and she shows no signs of slowing down in an industry fraught with ageism. In an exclusive interview with AARP The Magazine (ATM), the amazingly talented actress provides a retrospective look at her career and her thoughts on life, happiness, resilience and aging in Hollywood.
Known for taking on the edgiest roles in Hollywood, Lange shares how drawing on grief, sadness and rage have led to some of her most surprising successes, and her thoughts on how award shows have changed since her first big win. Lange also gets personal with ATM, sharing her perspective on motherhood and family and how her love for photography led her to write her first children’s book. The actress also reveals her point of view on the unequal playing field of ageism in Hollywood and how she has remained viable.
Lange’s perseverance continues to drive her success, making her more relevant than ever in an industry where aging is often unwelcome. Nevertheless, her staying power isn’t just about the boom in meaty roles for older actresses on TV, “It’s the desire to do something brave,” she says, “to be challenged.” In her latest Emmy nominated role, Lange portrays, Joan Crawford, in this year’s FX series, Feud.
The following are excerpts from the August/September ATM cover story featuring Jessica Lange, available in homes starting August 1st and available online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
Selections from Jessica Lange’s Cover Story in the August/September issue of AARP The Magazine
5 things you didn’t know about Jessica Lange:
- On Bob Dylan: “Lange says she can “sing every lyric Dylan ever wrote. He was a transformative artist in my life.”
- If she could change one thing: It would be her “absolute willfulness.”
- On her experiences with the paranormal: “I’ve seen a presence. Most ghosts are easy, benevolent.”
- On loneliness: “Where I grew up, it seeps into your bones. Seems I’ve spent my life trying to fill it up.”
- Her tattoos: Lange got her first tattoo in Paris at age 19 – a crescent moon on her hip, the smallest one offered. She also has a Celtic knot on her wrist; her older daughter is similarly inked.
On older women in Hollywood:
“Ageism is pervasive in this industry. It’s not a level playing field. You don’t often see women in their 60s playing romantic leads, yet you will see men in their 60s playing romantic leads with costars who are decades younger.”
On her staying power:
Lange announced in 2013 that she was thinking of retiring, yet has shown no sign of slowing down. Her staying power isn’t just about the boom in meaty roles for older actresses on television. “It’s the desire to do something brave,” she says, “to be challenged.”
On her ascent to happiness:
“In recent years, I’ve tried to come to grips with the idea that you can actually choose to be happy. You can choose not to let things affect you negatively. I’ve always had such a quick temper. I realize now, it’s such a waste of energy. You can actually choose to let things roll off you.”
On her first Academy Award:
“I knew when I did Frances that it was something extraordinary. I love those kinds of parts, with huge emotional swings. But Tootsie turned out to be the best film I ever made. And to win my first Oscar for it was thrilling, not terrifying, the way it might be today. The awards were more casual then. You did your own hair, you did your own makeup. It wasn’t the fashion event of the season”
On the meaning of home:
“My father was a traveling salesman and a teacher, and we moved around a lot. I went to eight different schools – I was always the new girl in town, the outsider looking in. I’ve felt that way my whole life, like I never belonged in one particular place. The imagination was my escape and my entertainment. That’s what acting still is for me.”
On the joy of family:
“Having children gives you a perspective you didn’t have before. You are no longer the center of the universe. It opened my heart, made me a different person. Every move you make is with someone else in mind. I loved being a mother more than anything else in the world, and being a grandmother is even more fun. There’s the chance to do it again. It’s in the perfect order of nature: You raise your children, and then the next generation comes along. They are the redemptive force in nature. Plus, it’s easier!”
On Mikhail Baryshnikov (Her partner from 1976 to 1982):
“When I first met Misha, there was something so familiar about him…physically, emotionally, everything.”
On Sam Shepard (her partner from 1982 to 2009):
“I wouldn’t call Sammy easygoing and funny, but everybody has their dark side, and he always does it with a sense of humor.”
On writing her first children’s book:
“It started as a little story I wrote for my granddaughters. I was very interested in turn-of-the-century photographs and the way they would be hand-tinted. So I collected a lot of photographs I had taken of the kids and started hand coloring them. Then the story came together after I had a dream, and I put it together as their Christmas present, as a book. And then a friend of mine saw it and said, “You should publish this.”
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About AARP The Magazine
With more than 37 million readers, AARP The Magazine is the nation’s largest circulation magazine – and the definitive lifestyle publication – for Americans 50 and older. AARP The Magazine delivers targeted content in three demographic versions – for readers age 50 to 59, 60 to 69 and 70-plus – including health and fitness features, financial guidance, consumer information and tips, celebrity interviews, and book and movie reviews. AARP has been publishing a magazine for members since its founding in 1958. AARP The Magazine is published bimonthly in print and continually online. Learn more at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With nearly 38 million members and offices in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the world’s largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.