Andie MacDowell left Gaffney, her hometown of South Carolina, to move to New York in 1979. She was 21 years old and had a contract with the Elite modeling agency. Her career was unstoppable: in the eighties she starred in Calvin Klein campaigns, posed for Richard Avedon dressed as Versace and in 1984 she made her acting debut in Greystoke, the legend of Tarzan, the king of the monkeys and linked iconic movies like Sex, lies and videotapes, Caught in time or Four Weddings and a Funeral. Glenn Close had to dub it in his first film, because of his strong southern accent. At 63 years old, he still does not erase it. It seems that she does not care much what they say about her, that she makes her own rules.
He’s in Wales shooting a new movie, and he’s on the video call wearing glasses, curly hair tied back, and a baggy wool sweater. Natural and thoughtful when speaking, she exudes confidence. That self-confidence led her to leave Hollywood to raise her children on a Montana ranch (she has three, Justin, Rainey and Margaret, the result of her marriage to model Paul Qualley, to whom she was married from 1986 to 1999). “They appreciate you making that decision. Now I live in Los Angeles again and am enjoying it. But it is that there people are obsessed with the industry. The conversations my children grew up with were different: nature, animals. You could talk about series, but not obsessively like in Hollywood. I came to feel that if I wasn’t working all the time I was a loser; Even though you just finished a decent project, they don’t care, I felt the pressure, that I was never doing enough, ”he reflects. That did not mean that she stopped acting, posing – she has been the face of L’Oréal Paris for more than three decades – and starring in news. Her hair, which she has decided to wear gray, revolutionized the Cannes red carpet in the summer and now she has worked with Margaret, the youngest of the house (26 years old), in The assistant, the Netflix series based on the harsh memories from Stephanie Land, who struggled to raise her daughter away from a violent and alcoholic father. Qualley is Alex, the protagonist, and MacDowell plays Paula, his mother, who has a bipolar disorder that she does not want to treat.
The production company of Margot robbie is behind the series. Are women in the industry changing narratives and creating more diverse roles for women of all ages?
Yes, I think there is much more camaraderie now, that we are a growing group and that we have recognized that we have to make the changes for ourselves, that no one else is going to do it.
Alex’s character suffers emotional abuse from her husband, runs away from it with her daughter and finds support in other women who have also experienced abuse. Can telling these kinds of stories help other people, give them the courage to flee from certain situations?
Yes, I think that the book and the series are a way for women to see another woman take the right steps to change her life, to be aware that she has been a victim of abuse. Watching the series you realize that there are different types of abuse, and some are sometimes not recognized as such, even the father of the protagonist does not see that abuse occurs in certain situations, he does not see anything wrong. And I think that it is very important for people to see these behaviors that have been accepted and are blatantly abusive, but that have been very common in society. Recognize them and take the necessary steps not to be in such a situation anymore.
She has said that her mother was an alcoholic and since she was a child she had to take care of her. Did that experience help you and your daughter build your characters?
Oh yeah. One of the reasons my daughter wanted me to be on the show and suggested that I be hired is because she knew my story and knew that I had first-hand experience with someone who had suffered from mental illness and the complexities that surround it, the darkness that comes with all that. I knew I was going to understand my character.
Mental health is a very present issue in society today, lately figures such as Simone biles or Naomi osaka. But why has it been a taboo for so long?
Things are much better now thanks to the talk about them. Betty ford [ex primera dama de Estados Unidos], for example, alcoholism changed. When he revealed his dependency and opened his center, it was a great advance to understand that it is a disease. When it comes to mental illness, in the last decade people have become more understanding that they are illnesses, not something you choose. In 1958, when my mother was diagnosed, she was hiding, it was somewhat embarrassing and nobody cared, it was used to say that women had nervous attacks and with that the debate was closed.
Was it difficult for you to prepare to play Paula?
I’ve had so many dark life experiences that are too personal to share with anyone that I didn’t have to look outside. I knew what was being told, I grew up that way, and I could support myself in it. And then I made decisions about my character, her sexuality. Paula is addicted to being with a man, and I know many women like that, who do not feel complete or good about themselves and within society if they do not have a partner.
You, on the contrary, have been single for almost 20 years [en 2004 se divorció de su segundo marido].
I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, the only thing that bothers me is when they project on me that something is wrong because of it. For a long time people just wondered who I was dating. And for me my life is something much more interesting than that part of my life. If I had not been married and had children, maybe I would not feel that way, but I have had that experience and there are many others that I want to live.
On Cannes showed his gray hair, why did he leave it?
I thought it was about time. For me, when your face reaches a certain age it is strange to see you with dyed hair. It’s my aesthetic vision, I don’t like how dyed hair looks on a 60-year-old man.
Is it no longer thought that a gray-haired man can be attractive and a woman seem careless?
That is no longer true. I think living in fear of getting old is terrible. I can’t be afraid of the inevitable, truthfully, I can’t pretend. And I think everyone is ready to allow women to feel beautiful at any age. Our society is created to glorify young women, and to make older women feel bad about themselves. Now I look at Instagram and it fascinates me to see that there is more support for me and my current appearance than there has been in the last 20 years. It’s almost as if people are relieved to see a comfortable woman at her true age being honest about who she is.
What are the biggest changes in your industry, besides that?
Many things are similar to when I started, but one of the great changes is that we have evolved as human beings: my daughters [ambas actrices] they better understand what is appropriate and what is not, what they accept and what not. With Me Too and Time’s Up we have made a great transformation and they are very educated in these matters. They can handle any situation.
Did you endure a difficult situation at your age?
No, I never had that kind of problem at work, no one tried to pick me up, touched me, or was inappropriate. Yes there were men who told me “spend the weekend with me” and I said no, or people that I knew had a bad reputation and would meet me in one place and I said: “No, see you in this other place.”
She showed a lot of self-confidence.
Well, they would have been in trouble if they had tried something. I don’t know how I would have reacted… I grew up in a small town redneck [apelativo referido a la clase baja blanca del sur de Estados Unidos]I would have kicked them in the balls if they had done something to me.
Models like Carré Otis have accused of abuse to Gérald Marie, former Elite boss. As a model, didn’t you have any problems either?
No, I never had sexual problems, my only problem with being a model was that everyone is complicit in starving young girls, and nobody does anything about it. That need to be a skeleton. I was scared to play sports, because I could look healthy. I warned Margaret of this when she started, I told her that sometimes they treat you like cattle. But that is changing now, there is an awareness.
Throughout your career you have worked on films that have gone down in film history, what is your best memory?
It seems silly, but when I worked on Sex, lies and videotapes I never set the alarm clock. I just knew exactly what time I had to get up each day, and that surprised me. It was a creative shoot without pressure. Everything was intuitive. Steven Soderbergh was brilliant, although it was his first film there was no doubt. You felt heard.
And in Caught in time, which is already part of popular culture?
It was similar, Harold Ramis was extremely organized, he treated everyone with deep respect, everything was warm, you went to work happily every day, you always knew you were going to have what you needed, you felt support, there was a lot of camaraderie. It was a hilarious, incredible shoot.
What kind of projects would you like to do in the future?
I would love to do projects like that, but getting there is difficult. I need to work because it is my creative outlet, I find it pleasant. But it’s hard to say what you want to do, until you see it.
* Makeup: Valeria Ferreira (The Wall Group). Hair Stylist: Ken O’Rourke (Premier Hair and Makeup). Manicure: Michelle Class (LMC Worldwide). Set designer: Jack Appleyard. Local production: NM Productions. Photography assistants: Darren Gwynn and James Hobson. Set Design Assistant: Julia Collington.
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Andie MacDowell: “Our society is created to glorify young women”