In a minimal part, my film Almost famous it’s about being a fan. And so it is with Frances McDormand, who played Elaine Miller, the character based on my mother Alice in the film. I hadn’t seen Frances for a short time on the looping stage months before, so this was an excuse to reunite with one of my favorite actresses. The plan was to pay tribute to the previous days of Interview, when the then editor Andy Warhol spent an excessive amount of time chatting with the waiters while Elizabeth Taylor or Sylvester Stallone waited for the interview to begin. Frances entered the parking lot of the Norm restaurant in Santa Monica, California, exactly at 7.45 pm, fresh from the set of Untitled Barber Movie, the new film project directed by her husband Joel and her brother Ethan Coen.
CAMERON CROWE: I am a true journalist.
FRANCES McDORMAND: Don’t say, “He wore black sweatpants and smoked fifteen cigarettes.” Come on, think of something interesting!
[Waiter comes over.]
WAITER: Do you want something to drink?
McDORMAND: You don’t have beer, do you? Not from Norm.[[[[Study menu.]Iced lemon tea.
McDORMAND: the bow tie is good.
[[[[The waiter leaves.]
CROWE: I love the fact that we recorded it. My dream has already come true. All right. First of all, thank you for making my film.
McDORMAND: Shut up already!
CROWE: What’s going on in your head when you’re asked to play the author’s mother?
McDORMAND: I didn’t necessarily know it was autobiographical when I read it. And you know, the first time I met Alice, she said to me, “I find the character a little sharp. I hope you have no intention of interpreting it that way. “
McDORMAND: God bless you! Come on, you only asked to be born of her. So I said, “No, I think he’s a great character. Let’s decide now that it’s not you and it’s not me. He’ll be the character in the script.” I haven’t wanted to be a mom for a long time because I am. There aren’t many complicated, rounded and three-dimensional parent parts out there. Elaine [the mother role] he is not a delusional madman. She is a truly fascinating woman. And it is not often that you meet the director’s mother. But can we talk about a couple of things now?
McDORMAND: Okay. One is, how about the size of my ass?
CROWE: I heard you want to play Elaine with a loot.
McDORMAND: I always thought it was important that she looked like a woman from the 70s. And more importantly, it looks exactly like when I was shooting the film. Oh, my ass was as big as a barn! That was good. Seriously….
[Waiter brings dinner.]
EXPECTER: Is everything all right?
CROWE: Yes, thank you.
CROWE: Because of the body of work you have done, being already an Oscar winner, when you enter a room you are preceded by expectations – everyone is standing to watch the “Oscar winner Frances McDormand” now. Do you feel that pressure?
McDORMAND: I feel a personal obligation with myself. It’s like when a toy is a registered trademark and after that they have that little Mattel symbol in a circle. “Frances Louise McDormand” is quite long.
McDORMAND: I’ve been dealing with Frances Louise McDormand all my life. I learned to manage Frances when I was in second grade – when everyone else was called Debbie or Candy, I was Frances. But I don’t need a parenthesis statement that completely outlines who I am. Many people have a parenthesis statement that says “Nominee this”, “Nominee that”, blah blah blah, and that has nothing to do with what Frances Louise McDormand has become.
CROWE: How are your fans?
McDORMAND: You know, you really couldn’t characterize – I don’t really know. I really didn’t notice. At the beginning of my career, many of them were men imprisoned in maximum security prisons and Joel loved to read their letters.
McDormand:[[[[To the waiter]I was hoping to get a cup of hot ice cream, please. No cherry.
CROWE: I’ll have one too. No cherry.
WAITER: It doesn’t come with a cherry.
McDORMAND: Good. The red dye number-something.
CROWE: Now fans of the Coen brothers – it must be a bit like with [Bob] Dylan fans, where they look for clues, add things, ask for confirmation of their theories.
McDORMAND: It’s extraordinary. It must be what appeared to be Sherlock Holmes. But for me, especially when it’s in collaboration with Fargo, so many people need – not what they want – but they must be allowed to make their own version of the accent.
CROWE: For you?
McDORMAND: For me. So it’s like, finding a situation where you can do it and run it for someone who wants to watch. Why not me.
CROWE: But you haven’t really heard a great Marge[IlpersonaggiodiMcDormandin[McDormand’scharacterin[IlpersonaggiodiMcDormandin[McDormand’scharacterinFargo]and said, “I don’t want to say it, but he’s a really nice Marge.”
CROWE: Can I get your personal reaction for making these films? Um … Madeline.
McDORMAND: He lived in Paris – what an explosion. Above all, those little girls put me on tiptoe and I had two ingrown nails when I left.
CROWE: Wonder Boys.
McDORMAND: One of those roles that was difficult for me to accept, being a middle-aged woman. Although the pregnant character really helped a lot.
CROWE: Mississippi Burning.
McDORMAND: It may have been a nightmare. But luckily it wasn’t – personally. As a political statement, it went very badly.
CROWE: Lonely star.
McDORMAND: I was completely deprived of sleep. I had met my son three weeks earlier. He was with me. I went to the set, opened my mouth, said my jokes, fell asleep for lunch for an hour and a half, woke up, finished my jokes and went home. And it was a perfect job.
CROWE: Raising Arizona.
McDORMAND: This was the first job I ever used prosthetic breasts. I loved that character.
CROWE: I think we need an exclamation mark after “prosthetic breast”. How about a version of Blood Simple.
McDORMAND: I was very disappointed when I found out that all the movie sets weren’t like that. All my expectations were based on that experience. I judge every movie set I go to from that.
CROWE: Looking back to the seventies, if I had known you then, how would I have perceived you?
McDORMAND: Geez, I hope you didn’t like it, I didn’t go out. Have you ever gone out together? You went out together.
CROWE: I went out together.
McDORMAND: Dating wasn’t a problem in the group of people I dated. Males and females frequented together and several people brought carnal knowledge, but there were no real relationships. I have had all my relationships with women and experimented with men. And then I would like to go back and understand all the emotional things with women. I think we probably would have been friends. You know, that part of my life is really private for me. I had a wonderful family and a great childhood. But leaving home marked the beginning of my freedom. And it’s all mine, everything I’ve done.
CROWE: I would have completely asked you for an appointment. I believed in that stuff, which is why I went out to places like this, because I feel comfortable with Norm. So now, the official Interview questions. I read them last night and there is something very powerful in their simplicity. Here’s a good one: “How does it work with me as a director?”
McDORMAND: It sucks.
CROWE: Okay. “Do you think he did a good job of directing you?”
McDORMAND: You could have been better.[[[[He laughs diabolically.]”He tried.” Are you joking? That goes without saying. Isn’t it evident in my performance? Look, you’re milking this, Cameron. Do you want me to continue?
CROWE: How about this? “What makes me different from Joel?” This really interests me.
McDORMAND: In what way? It seems a strange reference to a sexual relationship: “Did he do it better than me?”
CROWE: I just asked differently. In fact, I know the answer to this question. His technique is very different from mine. And he has –
McDORMAND: his partner.
CROWE: He has a serious accomplice. Is fantastic.
McDORMAND: Not so personal, to say so much. Yours is more personal than his, your technique.
CROWE: It’s great. I forgot to ask you one of the Oscar questions, so let me go on this one: “What emotion takes over when you get up there and get on the podium?”
McDORMAND: It was a really theatrical moment for me. And it was, it was something, in fact – I wasn’t completely unprepared because I had already passed the battery of other award ceremonies. So the most unprepared that I heard was not – not unprepared, but a little impromptu – was at the SAG Awards, because that’s when I celebrated the most. Because I really felt like I had been judged by a group of colleagues. I have been judged by jobless actors is what I have been judged.
CROWE: Last thing, in the spirit of Interview. Let’s make a toast to Andy Warhol and ask ourselves, “How did our meal go?”
McDORMAND: You know, I think the best thing was the hamburger. I wasn’t impressed with the french fries. I liked the sight of the small piece of banana still in its skin next to the french fries and the hamburger. It didn’t make me want to eat it, however. Bananas should not be on the same plate as a hamburger and french fries. And you?