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Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek in Get Low

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SS: (laughing) But anyway… He was a good guy and he had a point. In fact, I met with him a few days later and he threw down a Time magazine with Loretta’s picture on the cover and said ‘this is what we’re up against.’ And I said ‘You’re right, I shouldn’t do this. Absolutely!’ And when I walked out of the room, all the executives were outside asking ‘Well?’ and I’m like ‘He’s right, I can’t do it.’ And they were like ‘nooooooooo!’ (laughing)

RD: Well who did he want, her?

SS: He wanted someone who is a fabulous actor

RD: Who?

SS: I won’t say.

RD: Why?!

SS: I’ll tell you later! She looked just like her. She was a wonderful actress, a very talented performer.

RD: Well, why didn’t they take her then?

SS: (laughing) I don’t know! They wanted me! I have no idea! They wanted me and I didn’t want to do it.

RD: (teasing slyly) I’ve never had any parts like that. ‘Oh, I don’t want to do it’/‘Well, please do it!’ I’ve turned down some things, but you know…

SS: There was another film that I wanted to do that had the same start date. A Nicolas Roeg film that Theresa Russell, a fabulous actress, did. I said to my mother-in-law ‘What do I do?’ She said ‘Well, ask the man upstairs.’ I said ‘Jack, let’s go for a drive…’ I didn’t know what to do. She said ‘Ask for a sign’ and I said (looking up to the heavens) ‘OK, you hear this?! I need a sign, give me a sign!’ She lived in a high rise in Washington D.C. and we go down to the basement, and we get in her big white Cadillac. She did not like country music, but she had left her radio on a classical station that at night was a country station. So we’re in the car and the garage gate goes up – and I swear to God this is the truth – we pull out and on the radio was Loretta Lynn singing (Spacek sings in her Lynn voice) ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter…’ And I went ‘stop the car! I got the sign!’ (laughing) And then I called and said ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ Is that crazy? I haven’t gotten any signs since then, it was the last sign I got. We’ve got to ask for signs more often.

PM: Speaking of signs, one of the most definitive moments of cinephilia happened for me while watching Crimes of the Heart at a young age. The film was an integral part of what made me want to seriously study gender and film. How does working with a predominantly female cast differ from working with a predominantly male cast like on Get Low?

SS: You know, it was great because we had all of our babies there; Jessica [Lange] and Diane [Keaton] and me, (to Duvall) and your friend Tess Harper [Duvall’s Tender Mercies co-star], who played cousin Chick.

RD: My friend? I haven’t seen her since, darling.

SS: (without skipping a beat) We had a main house, where we shot the film and they bought the house next door and made it into our dressing room. So, it was a beautiful thing because we were all together and we had our children there and it was really fabulous. But I loved working with these guys. I mean, Robert Duvall and Bill Murray? You never would think of these two together.

RD: It’s kind of what made the movie work, though.

SS: It’s just so amazing! They were like the anchors in the film. It was great, I loved it. Its fun being the only woman. The answer to your question is they are very different, yet equally wonderful.

RD: Don’t forget that young man from Alabama, Lucas Black!

SS: Oh, yes, Lucas Black! He’s just a darling young man.

RD: (laughing) He’s got such an accent you need subtitles for it!

SS: Is that where he’s from, Alabama? I’ve worked in Birmingham [on The Long Walk Home in 1990]. They have a lot of Southern etiquette, you know?

PM: And great barbeque!

RD: I like Texas barbeque better but I hear it’s good there, too!

PM: You’ve both worked with Robert Altman, one of my favorite directors.

SS: (to Duvall) What did you do with Robert Altman?

RD: Well, M*A*S*H* and I did that astronaut movie [Countdown, in 1968]. He’s very loose, gives you a lot of freedom.

SS: Everybody has a mic [on an Altman set]. I loved working with him.

RD: What did you do with him?

SS: I did two films with him, one he produced called Welcome to L.A. [1977, directed by Alan Rudolph] and I did 3 Women that he directed and I just adored working with him.

RD: Who were the other two women?

SS: Janice Rule and Shelley Duvall. And that was a really interesting film to work on. He was lovely.

RD: Duvall? She was in that movie around the time you did the one up north, Badlands, and she did one down south with Altman, which was a very good movie. Thieves Like Us.

SS: It was wonderful.

RD: (laughing) I liked Badlands, too!

SS: At the same time, Steven Speilberg did the film with Goldie Hawn, The Sugarland Express. All three of those movies were about couples on the run.

RD: That woman, she didn’t like that one, either. Pauline Kael, she didn’t like Badlands. She ripped Tender Mercies, just ripped it. City people, city people. I didn’t read it, but I heard about it. She didn’t like Raging Bull, either. Come on!

PM: That’s just plain crazy.

SS: You know, art is subjective. I remember that. You know, I’ve always thought – and please correct me if you think I’m wrong and take it with a grain of salt – but I think a film is a film is a film is a film. You know? It is, to each person, something different depending on their life. And if you read reviewers, which I like to read reviewers through the years, you really learn more about the reviewer. If you see the film, you have your own idea about it but you start to learn about the reviewer and that to me is the most interesting thing when you are reading reviewers who are really astute and intelligent. I think she was a really great writer but some of the films she loved, I thought were really bizarre, so it is only natural that the ones she didn’t like would be bizarre, too.

RD: I remember for The Godfather we had a party at the St. Regis the first time we came out. (Looks at Spacek) I won’t mention the name (laughs) but a famous director with a cigar came over and said ‘You boys were wonderful in this movie but I don’t know about the movie.’ And this guy never made a movie that even approached Godfather one or two. It’s about subjectivity and envy.

Matt Mazur is a Brooklyn-based film publicist who works on campaigns for documentaries, independent and foreign language films. A die-hard cinephile and lover of pop culture, he spends his free time writing about what he is not working on. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Mazur

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