Blyth Danner: New Beginnings

By Michelle McHugh

Blyth Danner: New Beginnings
Actress Blyth Danner talks about life after loss and learning from your family.

Actress Blythe Danner, 72, chats to MiNDFOOD about her life after the death of husband, Bruce Paltrow, in 2002. She also reveals what she’s learned from her famous daughter, Gwyneth, and talks about the importance of equal rights for women, and her involvement in philanthropic and environmental causes.

Gwyneth has spoken many times about you giving up your career to raise her and your son, Jake. Did you ever have any regrets about it?

I am fulfilled. I wanted children more than anything and then I won my Tony Award (in 1970 for Butterflies are Free) and there was such a hoopla about it but I felt that I was in such an unstable business that I didn’t want to put a lot of trust in it. So, I got married immediately and had children three years later

Gwyneth has had an amazing career while raising her kids. Are things easier now for women?

I don’t know. I know when I had given birth to her I had it in the contract that I had to have on-

demand nursing. (laughs) And they were very angry with me and I know a few times the director, said, ‘That’s enough now.’ But I was like a mother eagle with my talons out and I said, ‘That’s a deal breaker!’ So I think there’s probably a little more flexibility than there used to be and there are more women’s roles. I think it’s a better place now. I remember when I first started out it seemed to me, there were a dearth of women’s roles compared to now, particularly for older women.

You’ve gone through a lot of emotional upheavals in your life. How do you comfort yourself when you’re lonely or bored?

Oh, I am very fortunate, I don’t get bored. I’m sometimes lonely but I am never bored. There are so many books I haven’t read and so many things I have to catch up on, like movies, and I have grandchildren on both coasts. So my life is full. The last two years I have been working almost non-stop; I did two plays and I did one with Sarah Jessica Parker in New York (The Commons of Pensacola) and I have a movie, I’ll See You in my Dreams.

You’ve been an avid environmentalist for many years now. What else are you involved in?

Well, I have always been very, very active in environmental things for 45 years and so I have always had that to work on and I am a member of Union of Concerned Scientists and I am on the board of Environmental Advocates. I am so happy and elated to see how far the environmental movement has come. Back then, people were poo-pooing it and saying, ‘Why are you recycling? That’s ridiculous.’ So it’sreally wonderful to see how it’s gained so much ground among young people. I also worked with Planned Parenthood and I am on the National Advisory Board. Since my husband died, my daughter had raised a lot of money to Stand up for Cancer for the Oral Cancer Foundation. We have the Bruce Paltrow Fund umbrella which goes into disenfranchised communities and gives free screenings because one of the things that made Bruce the happiest was winning the Diversity Award from the Directors Guild, for helping women in minorities in our business. And so that’s why we chose to go there but I have always been busy.

What is the best way to deal with grief?

I think by being involved, going on with your life and doing things that interest you. But I miss my husband today as much as I ever did, especially with all the grandchildren now and he would have been just be so happy.

Do you think you might fall in love again?

I don’t expect it. I don’t have any expectations at all. I just don’t. I have been alone for thirteen years. It’s not on my bucket list, let’s put it that way. It’s not a priority. I do miss him terribly, and as they say, “When you have had the best, the heck with the rest.” (laughs)

Do you share your daughter’s interest in healthy eating?

Yes. When she was a baby I found the one organic supermarket on the West Side and that’s where she grew up in New York but I was never the cook. She is and so was my husband. They both loved to cook. I always made sure that if I could find organic, we had organic. So I am very happy to see that she’s carried that on to such a great extent.

Do you spend a lot of time with friends?

I have very, very close friends from my school days and from my early career and a few new younger friends. But I am happy to say that I am very content in my own company. I am not areal social person and I am kind of a loner and I always have been. My husband was the great people person

Does Gwyneth resemble you in any way, other than physical appearance?

Well she’s much more together than her mother, thank God. (laughs) I mean she is capable of any and everything. I marvel at her ability, her mothering is extraordinary and she is so well schooled. She has read everything and I am so admiring how she communicates with the children. Nothing is ever rushed and it’s always that attention must be paid and she does that very well. And she’s an extraordinary cook and a wonderful daughter. In school we were always told she should be a scientist or a lawyer because she is very quick. We discouraged her from doing this because we thought this is so unpredictable. But she’s a great businesswoman and there’s nothing she can’t do.

How do you stay in touch with the grandkids? How involved are you?

Well as much as I can be. Sadly I am missing some sporting events today and yesterday, volleyball and there’s a poetry reading that my granddaughter is involved in and my daughter does all those which is great. But I try to do as much as I can. And they have Skype so we have visits when we are on the other coast, but I try to be involved as much as possible.

You have great taste. Do you and Gwyneth talk much about that?

Well, not much at all. She takes pity on me, I came to LA without a proper pair of boots and she gave me these. (laughs) They were in a closet and she said, ‘Oh mom, you can keep them.’ I am just not very organised but thank goodness she’s more like my husband.

She dresses you or you dress her?

No, but she helps me. I certainly don’t dress her, I did when she was a little girl. I used to put her in those Osh Kosh Bigosh legging things and she looks at those pictures now and says, ‘Why wasn’t I in pretty dresses?’ I said, ‘That’s all you wanted to wear.’ And she has very much her own taste in life and we have similarities and some of the things may have been what she saw at home, but it’s really her own world.

There’s a lot of talk recently about women’s rights in Hollywood. Carey Mulligan talked about it, as did Patricia Arquette at the Oscars.

Yes, absolutely. I think it’s a conversation that needs to be had. My daughter also brought that up in Goop, her website. I am very happy that the strong movie stars who are very much in the news are vocal about it because I think that’s very, very important. And I think it will help change.

How do you conquer Fear?

Meditate(laughs). Challenges, just try to meet them. I have always felt that way. I have always wanted to do things that have frightened me a bit because I think it challenges you and makes you grow.


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