Movies

Andie MacDowell Is The Positivity We Need In This World Right Now


Getty Image / Tribeca

Have you ever read Andie MacDowell’s Twitter feed? It’s an earnest ray of positivity seeped in the muck that is this world right now. If these tweets weren’t written by Andie MacDowell, there would be at least some hesitation at to the sincerity of these words. Is this irony? What does it all mean? But when it’s Andie MacDowell, we take it at its core meaning. Over MacDowell’s 30-plus year career, when have we ever doubted something she’s said. MacDowell is here to spread positivity, but she is not here to suffer fools.

MacDowell can currently be seen in Russell Harbaugh’s Love After Love, which is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival. She plays Suzanne, the mother of two adult sons (played by Chris O’Dowd and James Adomian) who are all coping with the death of Suzanne’s husband, which happens early in the film. Love After Love is a meditation on grief and how people don’t react the same way.

MacDowell is a delight to interview – a straight shooter who is open to talking about anything. (At one point she started quoting lines from Hudson Hawk and even did the dolphin sound.) To the point that, when reciting her films that play often in heavy cable television rotation, I haphazardly threw out Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, which I immediately wished I could take back. (It was MacDowell’s first role and she infamously had her voice dubbed over by Glenn Close – which is both ludicrous that happened and is a testament to MacDowell because many actors might just give up after an experience like that. But I certainly hadn’t intended to bring up her worst experience as an actor.) Instead of balking, which she’d have every right to do, MacDowell spoke openly and candidly about her experience. (And remembers a prominent film critic who came to her defense.)

MacDowell also spoke about the much more recent experience of seeing Groundhog Day on Broadway. (Spoiler: She loved it.)

Your Twitter account is great. It’s so peaceful and positive.

That’s what I’m working on. That’s my vibe.

Yesterday you tweeted about how peaceful gardening is. My new project has been trying to garden from a New York City windowsill.

Nice. I was driving up the West Side Highway the other day when we were on our way to do a bunch of interviews, and I just remember looking out of my window and I saw all these people out there working together. I just remember staring at all those people working together out in the garden, and it was a sense of peace. Just visually seeing that – just the green and all these people working together.

See, this is just like your Twitter account, only in person.

It was just that moment of capturing. You know, because a lot of times things are going on around us and we don’t even see it. I was so tranquil looking at these people. And I remember going through my head that I’d like to be out there with those people.

I bet they’d say yes.

Those would be my people.

They would not have turned you down.

I could spend the day doing that. I could do that. That’d be nice.

You should just randomly show up at gardens and ask to help.

“I’ll garden with you. Hey, can I garden with you guys?”

When I read that Love After Love was about grief, I assumed there would be big moments of drama, but that is not this character you play.

No, no. I liked that she was a full-bodied woman, because I don’t think that I find very many mature roles where I have so much to do. Because you see her in the beginning she’s sexy, beautiful, and bold. And three marriages, an open marriage. She loves her home and husband.

Which is interesting exposition.

Yes. And openly says to her son that her husband’s good in bed. You know, so she’s like this creature. And then you see her, when she’s in the trenches of taking care of him, she’s in control of everything. Once he’s gone, she’s lost. And that’s when she’s broken. She’s in pain and lost and lonely and sad – and the look on my face. They just had that wan look on my face. It’s not the same woman. It’s a totally different woman. And then having sex with a coworker.

It’s a dramatic change.

We’re gonna go sleep together. Right? In this building. And then there’s a connection. You see them connect. It’s sweet, you see them connect. But she goes off by herself, cleans herself. Cleans herself first. Washes it off. And then is lonely again – off lonely again: Drinking alone, having a drink alone, walking through that whole dance room alone. And it’s not until the end that you see this new person. So it was a different – there are so many characters within the character.

I know you’re doing a lot of television, but I hope you do more movies.

So do I.

When you were in Magic Mike XXL, people were very excited.

I’d be happy if it was on TV, too. There’s great television. I just want complex, interesting characters. That’s all I care about. I don’t care where they are as long as I get to do some things: work with good people and do complex, interesting characters. You’re on my team.

You seemed so in charge in Magic Mike XXL.

I was up against some pretty big forces in that room, but I did try my best.

There were a lot of good-looking men in that room.

Yep.

What made you decide to be this positive force on Twitter? Or even join in the first place?

It was a natural process in that I saw a lot of negativity and sarcasm. And I don’t necessarily feel that that’s my strong suit, nor does it feel really good to me. I don’t mind it. Like, I can laugh at it occasionally if it’s done in a lighter, not cruel way. I can laugh, too. And of course, when it comes to sarcasm, you have to agree with someone’s point of view. And it’s always nice until it’s pointed at you. Then it really sucks.

True.

So it came from that whole dynamic. And I think from the fact that I live alone. I am this woman who wakes up in the morning by herself with her coffee and her little dog. And I just started using it as a way to – I don’t have regular television – so I don’t watch news.

Really?

Yeah. So I look at the Twitter feed to kind of like catch the highlights and what’s going on. And I look at the news and then I look at my notifications – and I’ll look at things I’m interested in like environmental issues or animal issues. And I look for happy stuff to post. And then I just started this whole thing where I just wanted to share love and get love back.

So not having a TV, are you not aware of how often your movies play in a constant rotation still?

No, I don’t. I don’t know.

You can’t flip the channel without seeing Groundhog Day or Multiplicity or…

Oh, really?

I think that’s one reason why people are always so excited to see you in movies, because you’re on TV like every day.

Oh, good. I’m thankful to hear that. Yay!

Hudson Hawk was on the other day.

Hudson Hawk? Isn’t that a funny movie?

It is a funny movie.

Yeah, it’s a funny movie. I think it was just before its time.

I think so too, because it was weird.

I think they started making movies like that, but it was one of the first.

People didn’t get what it was trying to do.

Yeah, they didn’t understand it. It was very broad sense of humor, and offbeat.

And there was singing.

Yeah. Definitely offbeat and broad. “What does the color blue taste like? Bobo knows.”

Wow, you can still quote it.

[MacDowell makes dolphin sounds from the movie, then starts laughing] I mean, it’s just warped.

That’s fantastic.

Yeah.

I saw on Twitter that you saw the Groundhog Day Broadway show.

I did. I did. It’s great!

Is that surreal to watch that?

It was fun. I was smiling the whole time. I mean, I just sat in my chair and smiled.

I bet they were nervous with you in the crowd.

I don’t think so. They weren’t.

Well, yeah, they are professionals.

I think they were really happy to see me and they gave me a lot of love. They were kind of like my Twitter feed. And the show kind of gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling. It’s my Twitter feed, perfect combo.

People love Groundhog Day.

I get that from the public a lot, though. I know everybody loves Groundhog Day. I get that nonstop from the public. It’s my most-loved film, I would say.

sex, lies, and videotape is obviously up there.

Right. But the meaning behind it, it broadens it for its humor because it has such a powerful meaning as far as that’s why I relate it to my Twitter feed or about just being a good person, and being kind.

Even Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan was on the other day… and I don’t want to venture into something that is probably a bad memory…

I don’t mind.

I would be so defeated.

I was.

You obviously rebounded and did extremely well.

I was devastated. I was humiliated. And I’m intelligent, I’m an intelligent human being, so I knew immediately the repercussions.

And it’s unheard of.

Believe me, baby. I know that. And I knew I had a hard journey and I knew I had a couple of choices. Because it was going to be such a hard thing to overcome, I could have just given up. A lot of choices I could have made. But you know, I didn’t want to have to live with that. This truly went through my head, which is – just to let you have an insight to who I am, that I’m so much like my Twitter feed – my first thought was my grandchildren.

Wow. Really?

I promise you. I didn’t want my grandkids to say, “Yeah, my grandmother, she was in this movie, once. But she was dubbed.” That exactly went through my head. And I was like, this is not going to be what my grandchildren think about me. That’s how I thought. And I was like, I’ve just got to do it. I’ve got to fix this. And so I worked really hard. I got into class immediately. I quit taking modeling jobs. I turned down a lot of money and I worked really hard. I was devoted, completely. I took an enormous amount of voice lessons, too. And there was nothing wrong with my voice.

It’s very distinct and I think that’s what people like.

Yeah. But I have also worked on it, so I know I’ve worked on my resonance and where my voice comes from. And my ears, I’ve worked on my ear – my sound, hearing sound. I actually make a choice of what I like about my voice and what vowels I no longer wanted. So, for instance, I like the music of my voice. I think it’s beautiful.

I think many people agree with that.

But I watch the vowel sounds to be sure that they aren’t the harsh vowel sounds of a southern accent. So I choose to keep the music, because I think it’s feminine.

It really wasn’t my intention to bring this up today.

It only bothers me if people get stuck on that, and that’s all I hear over and over again, you know? Then it’s like, how many times do I have to go through this? And I have accomplished so much. It doesn’t bother me as long as within the subject matter is what I’ve accomplished, because I should even be more credited for overcoming what I’ve overcome.

And I hope you know that that’s the point I was trying to make.

I’m sure. You know what? Do you know who Pauline Kael is?

Yes. She was a film critic for The New Yorker.

Pauline Kael hated the movie and loved me.

And she had incredible influence.

You know, I can’t remember. It seems like I wrote her and thanked her, but I wish I had met her to tell her how much it meant to me. Because I was so bruised and humiliated and that one review gave me a sense of that I’m okay, that I’m going to be okay. Just that one review saved my sense of well-being.

We don’t hear that very often, when actors talk about how a critic helped them. That’s a really nice story.

Oh, she helped me so much. So much. Because I was at the bottom of the barrel. I was humiliated, I was mortified. They were making jokes about me nonstop. Everybody was making a joke of me. And headlines, headlines: Horrible, mean, cruel things. But she was substantial, so I didn’t care. I just hooked onto that one piece and worked really hard.

Looking to the future, you should do something with Steven Soderbergh again. You guys seem very good together.

Okay, you work on that for me. [Laughs.] I would love that.

He’s got a Twitter account. Just tweet at him, “Hey, let’s do something.”

You know, maybe I will! That’s not a bad idea.

The internet would go nuts if you and Soderbergh started a back-and-forth on Twitter.

Oh, maybe I’ll just give that a try. I’ll have to try that.

Do you feel that way, that you two work well together?

Oh, definitely. Definitely. He was a huge influence on my career. He saved my life. It wasn’t until I did sex, lies, and videotape that people changed — there was a paradigm and people changed their perspective. It’s interesting. I always say this half-jokingly, but it is the truth: If you make a movie that makes someone a lot of money, and the critics love it, you’re set. It’s like, okay, you can work now. Everything changed. I could not convince people that I was okay until I showed them I was okay. And once I showed them I’m okay and I’m going to make you money – and I’ll get you good reviews and the critics will like what I do – then they give you jobs. It’s amazing how that happens.

sex, lies, and videotape was mutually beneficial, right? He was a young director and you gave an amazing performance.

And that process was a beautiful process. It was very similar in feeling to this movie, as if nobody was acting. People thought that was me, but I was actually acting – it’s just that it felt real. There was nothing false to it. It was true, it was honest. I was acting. And this movie, it wasn’t really so much making choices as just being there and things happened. I made a lot of interesting choices in sex, lies, and videotape. Like my scene with James [Spader] when we’re sitting at the table and drinking, I fondled the glass. And that was all a choice. Accidental choices. Or the scene with James when I go over about the videos and I walk in to confront him about the videos and he gives me the iced tea, I spilled my tea.

And you just kept going…

That happened. And we kept it. Yeah, and I even remember the only thing that Steven told me to add to it was to look to the door, which gave the sense of, I want to get out of here. You know?

I’m out of time.

Okay. No stress.

I’ll just go read your Twitter feed right now and I’ll feel so much better.

Say hello to me and I’ll say hello back.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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