Inside the Actors Studio aired a two-hour special in honor of its 250th episode on Bravo last night, and you know what? I actually got nostalgic. I realized I’d seen a whole bunch of James Lipton’s thespian interrogations at Pace University, and some episodes even contain marvelous insights. I’ve collected my seven favorites from beloved actresses below.
1. Meryl Streep on her “process”
“I come to each job with an open heart and trying to do my best with some connection to a character that I don’t completely understand, although I know she lives in me. I don’t question it. I have it. It’s a thing. It’s undeniable. I know I can’t make a wrong move if I just hold onto knowing what I know is true, knowing what I know is real for me.”
One amazing thing about Meryl Streep is that when she talks about acting, she makes you feel like you could be a phenomenal actor too. When discussing her work, she expresses herself in such relatable terms, you almost feel like you could’ve garnered 17 Oscar nominations just by following your heart. Oh, Meryl. You deserve another Oscar for playing our collective self-delusion.
2. Jane Fonda on Katharine Hepburn taunting her after the 1981 Oscars.
“The next day I call Kate — Katharine Hepburn – I never called her Kate. I called her to congratulate her. Her first words to me: ’You’ll never catch me now!’ I didn’t get it for a second. Then I realized, going into this, I had two [Oscars] and she had three. If she hadn’t won and I had, we be tied. So I could’ve then beaten her!”
Katharine Hepburn, who never collected any of her Oscars in person (though she made a special appearance at the ’74 ceremony), taunted Jane Fonda for falling behind in their Oscar race. That is pretty divine. And so is Jane’s impression of Katharine. Watch that.
3. Glenn Close on bombing a play audition that would later — much later — become her sixth Oscar-nominated role:
“I had gone into the Manhattan Theatre Club for a wonderful play called The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, which is [about] a woman disguised as a man. I loved the play and really wanted to do it, but I did an audition that was so bad that I said, ’I’m wasting your time. I think I’ll leave.'”
I can’t even picture what a bad Glenn Close audition would look like, but apparently she thought she bombed so hard that she excused herself from an Albert Nobbs line-reading session. Nearly three decades later, she found herself up against Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Rooney Mara, and Viola Davis in the Best Actress category for the film adaptation.
4. Angelina Jolie on why she began to cut herself as a teenager:
“I was 14 when I started dating my first boyfriend… I had started having sex, and sex didn’t feel like enough. No emotions were really enough. There was always something I wanted to break out of, or feel more. More connected, more honest. In a moment of wanting to find something honest, I grabbed a knife and cut him, and he cut me back, and we had this exchange. Somehow, covered in blood and feeling that my heart was racing, there was something dangerous, and it suddenly it felt more honest than whatever this sex was supposed to be, whatever this connection between two people was supposed to be. So I went through a period where when I felt trapped I cut myself because it felt like I was releasing something, and it was honest.”
I have to give it up. That is a harrowing account, and Angelina managed to utter it while staring into James Lipton’s hardened, grandfatherly visage. Damn.
5. Jodie Foster on why she only starred in one play:
“I love theater. I will say that the play I did at Yale was a difficult time. The opening weekend was the weekend that John Hinckley shot President Reagan. It was a difficult time for me. I went into hiding. I couldn’t finish rehearsals. I decided that the show must go on, and in hindsight, I don’t think that was a good idea. It was a horrible time, and the performances were sort of sullied by this other factor, these other things going on. The audience was frisked. It was weird. It wasn’t the right way for me to have done it. I regret that now.”
The best part of this anecdote is that Foster brought up Hinckley in response to an audience member’s question. She didn’t speak about the catastrophic event until that moment, and I presume the unassuming audience member didn’t intend to get an earful about such a terrifying time. Or maybe she did, and she’s just smarter than I am.
6. Drew Barrymore on what you learn from living in 24-hour drug lockdown as a 13-year-old.
“It made me grateful. I didn’t see the beauty in, like, a traffic light. I would just see this box with lights. When you’re not allowed to see one for a year and a half, you get out there and think, ’That is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.’ A cloud is so sacred and beautiful. We would be able to go on these little store-walks down the block, supervised with a group, once a week. They took us to meetings in a van, and I would watch the world from these windows and think, ’Does that person realize how cool it is just to walk across the street?”
Drew Barrymore is a fascinating interview because she’s so guileless and understandable, yet she endured a hurricane of personal demons by the time she was 14 years old. I thought this anecdote was pretty revealing and sincere. And a little heartbreaking. No one should have to view through the world through the dubious lens of a van window.
7. Liza Minnelli on her mother’s revisionist versions of her breakdowns.
“She did a great thing. She rewrote things. We could go through something horrendous, and the next day she’d be telling somebody about what we went through, and it was hilarious. She infused it with humor. Slowly but surely, you remembered it that way, not the way it really was. She taught me that you can rewrite memories. You know what I mean? What the hell. You’re the one who has to live with them. Rewrite them!”
This is both tragic and awesome. And that’s how you know it’s the quintessential Judy Garland tale.
What are your favorite ITAS anecdotes?