Up Late with Alec Baldwin   |  October 18, 2013

Debra Winger: I was holding on for dear life

Actress and activist Debra Winger talks with Alec Baldwin about struggles and beauties of getting older.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> if i said yes over the summer to do your radio show which promptly it got canceled because i said yes. or because -- for frz.

>> we changed it into this.

>> lucky me.

>> on radio.

>> for a woman my age.

>> you can't have the set.

>> radio is a much better thing for me.

>> why do you feel that way?

>> kind of a -- it's also the culture we live in.

>> right.

>> i don't want to get into this. this is a quagmire. we are not going there.

>> why is it a quagmire? what about the women that are your age that are thriving. which you very easily could have been.

>> thriving.

>> merle.

>> yes, great actress.

>> so were you. so are you.

>> but that --

>> you choose.

>> there is not a category of merle. there is merle. no, i think all actresses would agree there is meryl.

>> you had a chance to have the category.

>> i didn't see it.

>> when you stop in '97. a couple years go by, did you go through the thing, that adjustment of like, who am i? and what do i want to do?

>> i was always asking who am i? i think what happened was the music, underneath, the background music became.

>> sound track.

>> yeah, the whatever, the -- the mantras, go in any direction with it. became louder. and so that's what i was listening to. and you have been through, my mother passed. and then my father passed. i was listening, watch might kids grow up. and, i wasn't watching them from afar. it became compelling to me this life. and it wasn't that there wasn't room for acting. it was just i would get a script to read and it was so small. the story scum paired to -- the story that i was getting to live. and i also got so, i got very present oriented because i was working on this fact that i had gotten ahead of myself. as we, i will take aback to i wasn't as well adjusted as i could have been.

>> how did that manifest itself?

>> oh, you can read all those stories. i was holding on for dear life . friend that i am friend with. got that. i was not frying trying to hurt. i was like a wild animal .

>> yeah, yeah.

>> and i think jim bridges who was really my mentor quoted -- i would love to know who he quoted, so any way, it's i never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. it was one of the most important things said to me. because i, you know i had this wildness, a ferocity to survive whatever -- whatever i had to in my psyche and physical life. but i didn't know how to drop it. to be civilized and to take others in and -- you know? so there was a point where i would have kept going. and i think you could probably imagine that -- had i -- stayed in -- the business and kept doing roles.

>> on that conveyor belt .

>> that would be fine.

>> i love what you said. and you would read the story, it was so small compared to the story i was living. some one lent me this phrase. would you rather play it on film or live it in real life ? someone -- i dated a woman.

>> when they're the same, that's the magic. i want to know does that still happen? i am pretty sure it does.

>> for a very rarified few.

>> they aren't asking me to work with them yet.

>> i hold that. i don't care. you only need to do one every once in a while . but i, i know that they're there. i see their films. and i still cry in the thelteaters. i love the terrence malleks of the world. i only want to work with people who want to work with me. i don't know when that happened. when i first started i would show up on people's doorsteps and be undeniable. you are hiring me. i did it first time out because of whatever unfortunate series of events i wanted to change. and i read this article in -- in the magazine called urban cow boy. and i thought, wow, i should be doing that. they're making a movie out of it. and they hired sissy spacek . i thought she is perfect. but i really could have brought something -- different to it.

>> look what?

>> would have been good too.

>> i don't know what i felt. i nauknew i felt it.

>> i used to read the trades. did all that stuff.

>> you were in the game?

>> i was going to figure out how i could get a part.

>> how do you do that?

>> i dent waon't want to be famous. i wanted a part. then i read that it was postponed. and that they were recasting. i didn't know at the time why. and i didn't even have an agent. so, i snuck on the lot. that was the whole thing. paramount lot.

>> back when you could.

>> i was waiting on the steps. too bad, jim bridges is not alive for a lot of reasons. he told the story better than me. when he came back from lunch with aaron latham , i was sitting there, dressed as the character talking with a texas accent. i got the screen test . i got the screen test . i didn't get the part. once i got the screen test it was all right. so, i'm any just saying -- i don't hatch that, i don't know when, i don't have that because stom where along the line i realized it was better to work with people that really wanted you.

>> yeah. yeah.

>> because if you sold yourself. and you were always selling yourself it would show in the performance. you are going to have love me written all over. just gross to watch.

>> i had a producer say to me -- i will say the story. to do the movie, glen garry/ glen ross . with bloom, not a big ticket agent, and, bloom said to the producer, he said, you want alec to play the smaller part. and pacino was cast to play ricky roma , pacino likes to play, you know, red light / green light . and my agent, i will never forget. he said if for any reason al doesn't make the deal and doesn't show up, would you cast al as ricky roma ? they said yes. they get a phone call . he is not going to do the movie. can't close the deal. they said alec is cast in the role. wait, this speaks to what he said. they said alec is cast in the lead role of the movie to play ricky roma . i thought this is great. then they called back a week later. they go, alec came back wants to do the movie. what i realized. they said would you mind -- we will rescind your deal. who wants to do the movie where the director is looking down the barrel of the lens wishing some one else would be there.

>> the thing i want to talk about getting older, we are all decaying at the same rate. no, it is okay. it is okay. i am saying if we don't tell the story of that. who are we. if we are telling another story on our face. i say, us girls as a pep talk , if we start telling this other story and -- and we can't tell the stories we are going to get less and less, it's not about -- you know, i'm not against anything. i am just saying, i want -- i want us to -- not lose complete touch with the fact of where we are because we stand for something -- you have a little kid now. i want my kids, we are a society, we have boys. we have a society that put older people in homes. we don't want to look older. we don't want to act older. we don't want to talk about being older. a we don't like the in between.

>> rotting.

>> decaying. but whatever. it's a beautiful thing if you watch sped up like, you know, thing in a -- if you never watched though shows on tv. but nature is beautiful . we don't want it to be beautiful on us. we want it to be beautiful on something we are looking at in a gully. but it is kind of beautiful if we start writing beautiful stories about it whevenlt y.u i use vanessa redgrave . i see her eyes. i'm not worrying about, what did she do? what is going on there? how old is she? why does she look? i am just -- oh, i get it. you get to that point, you are telling a [ bleep ] story. you are telling the story. so i brought this picture, but then i forgot it. because it happens to be this, this photographer took this picture of me when i was very young. the head is actual size . so i -- i wanted to bring tight you to start, you know, with my actual size . photograph of myself. i was about 18, 19. and you know i'm a pallet, i'm an open canvas . and it's -- you know, beautiful that my husband has the picturen his office. he likes looking at that picture because now -- i have painted, you know life on here. i don't want that. i didn't want to be that again. i want to.

>> i don't want to be who i was either.

>> you know what i mean ? i did that already. i wanted to be that. i got here. but i am really curious about where i am going. and what it will look like. so if i -- if i, you know i'm not talking about that except on this show.