BY Jeremy Kinser
September 26 2009 8:20 AM ET
Your film and play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is one that resonates with gay audiences. How did you come to be cast as Joanne, the transsexual?
I was sent the play by Robert Altman and was offered the loudmouthed Texan that Kathy Bates played. As I was reading I found out that Joanne used to be Joe and it was over. I decided I was going to play that part.
How did you develop your characterization?
It was a very, very difficult task, and it took me months to achieve that character. I thought I could do the trappings of a transsexual, thinking they were identical to the trappings of a transvestite, and they’re not. You can’t do the trappings. You have to do the real work and change the inside of your being. I went to all the bars and watched, and I had a transsexual lady work with me on crossing my legs and lighting cigarettes, talking to me. Essentially what I did was become a guy inside who is suffering as a girl inside. My pain of being a guy matched Joanne’s pain of being a girl.
It’s a superb performance. How did you find working with Cher and Sandy Dennis?
Cher and Sandy Dennis got to be a friendly twosome and I was pretty much excluded. I remember I came up to the table and asked if I could sit down and Cher said, “Well, you’re already here.” It wasn’t a whole lot of fun. [Cher] was brilliant from the moment she opened her mouth on-screen, but she was snobbish to me, and that was her prerogative.
You have many classic films on your résumé, but I want to ask about two in particular. I know people who claim to have had nightmares from watching Trilogy of Terror when they were children. What do you remember about it?
I almost wish I hadn’t done that film. What do you think?
I think it demonstrates your range since you play four different characters, including twins. And it’s one of your films that people obsess over and still talk about.
Isn’t that strange? Well, my manager came over and he wouldn’t go away until I said I’d do it. I told him I’d do it if they used my then-husband to be my boyfriend in the film. The thing about it is it put me on the road to being a scary movie broad and that doesn’t suit me. I like slice-of-life films. I think my work is very fine. I’m not interested in gore at all. I want nothing to do with it.
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