In movies from Titanic to Unforgiven and TV shows from The Edge of Night to Two and a Half Men, Frances Fisher has been among Hollywood's busiest stars for nearly 40 years. She appears this month in the new film The Host, based on the novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.
Fisher plays the aunt of The Host's heroine (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman who is half-possessed by space aliens. The aliens have occupied the minds of virtually everyone on Earth, but an outpost of human holdouts — led by an older couple played by Fisher and William Hurt — live in a cave in the desert.
Fisher, 60, says she loved the part, which is a sharp departure from the more glamorous roles her fans are used to. In a quiet spot after an AARP Movies for Grownups Awards event in Beverly Hills recently, Fisher discussed her latest role, Hollywood's hang-up when it comes to older actors, the budding acting career of Francesca Fisher-Eastwood, her 19-year-old daughter with Clint Eastwood, and why she'll never, ever have her face "done."
Frances Fisher: My character was described in the book as a 60-year-old, wrinkled white-haired woman. Yes! Let me do that role! [Laughs.] So I wear a long white wig and I don't wear any makeup. Look! [She pulls out her smartphone and brings up a photo of herself in character on the set.] This is no makeup. We're living in the desert.
AARP: Oh, wow! They let you do that? Ordinarily you'd expect them to say, "Well, we've gotta young this one up."
A: Well, thank God they were true to the character. And Bill [Hurt] plays a 60-something-year-old guy. We're, I guess, the movie's "old people." I think it's important for people to know The Host is not just about a bunch of young people. There are a lot of hot, fabulous young actors in the movie. But there are also a few adults.
Q: So often you see a trailer for a film, and you wouldn't guess there was anyone in it over 30. Then you go see the film and you're surprised to see two or three terrific 50-plus actors playing pivotal roles.
A: You're right. There are movies where I say, "Oh, the trailer looks awful," and someone says, "No, you've got to see so-and-so's performance." Oh! Well, why didn't they show up in the trailer? You know, that's a very narrow-minded way of marketing a film. They always seem to target the young people. And the thing is, there is a vastly higher number of people over 50 who go to movies. I doubt that I'll ever be seen in The Host's trailer. [Note: The trailer for The Host does include a two-second shot of Fisher. You can see the trailer below.]
The Host: Frances Fisher appears in The Host, based on the novel by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer.
Q: What did you like about The Host's script?
A: The heroine fights so hard against the alien voice inside her. I was intrigued to be part of a movie that discusses how there are different parts of our minds that speak to us. The war between the ego and the spirit. Everyone has that going on.
Q: Are you always glad you became an actor?
A: Yeah, because there was nothing else I ever thought I wanted to do. Once I discovered that I could become a professional at what I was doing for free at the community theater in Orange, Texas, I thought, "My God, I'm the luckiest person in the world!" [Laughs.] Forty years later, you know, the ups and downs of the business are extensive.
Q: Does your daughter want to be an actor?
A: She's auditioning, yeah.
Q: How does that make you feel?
A: You know, if that's what her passion is, and that's what she wants to do, how can I say "Don't"?
Q: How does Francesca's dad feel about her being an actress?
A: I have no idea. We don't communicate about that. But I'm very happy for her. She's just completed her first feature film with her boyfriend, [director] Tyler Shields and Abigail Breslin. It's called Final Girl, and it has the most interesting trailer I've ever seen.
I've always tried to show her the pitfalls of the acting field. She's seen the fabulous side of it and she's seen the struggling side of it because she's seen what I've gone through. Not knowing where your next job is coming from is — something. After Titanic I didn't work for a year, interestingly enough.
Q: They don't come much bigger than Titanic.
A: Well, everyone pigeonholed me: "Oh, she can only play the uptight mother who doesn't want her daughter to date the boyfriend."
Q: You don't have to be an actor to face ageism, though. You can be working in a sales office and trying to get ahead at age 55 and you face the very same challenges. It's just that people who are in the acting profession have to do it on a very public stage.
A: Yeah. It is public. It's also about the availability of roles. I was talking to Jane Seymour today. You know, we haven't done anything to our faces, and the subtle pressure from people to do that is beginning to come to my attention. But I am a firm believer that if I am a true actress, to be able to play all kinds of roles in all different periods of time, I can't mess with my face. If you're supposed to be living in the 1850s, you can't look like someone who's had work done!
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