Welch is known for Fantastic Voyage (1966), but it was role in One Million Years B.C. (released the same year) which made a celebrity of her. She spoke only three lines of dialogue but it was the promotional poster in which she appeared in a bikini that solidified her image as an international sex symbol. She continued to make movies but was known primarily for her luck in life’s genetic pool. Now she stars in How to be a Latin Lover with Salma Hayek.
Ann-Margret was known for her roles in various movies starring Elvis Presley (with whom she had a relationship) including Viva Las Vegas (1964), and also starred in such movies as Carnal Knowledge (1971), Grumpy Old Men (1993), and has won five Golden Globe awards, and was nominated for two Oscars. Still going strong, she is currently starring in the heist movie starring, Going in Style, opposite Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman.
How has the business changed for you? Is making movies the same process?
RW: I think it’s quite a bit different. But I am the kind of the person who wants to entertain. I do like movies with messages, but I always felt like my calling was to be in something that was upbeat like comedies or musicals, that kind of thing. That was my idea of what it was like to be in movies when I was a very young girl, that was my fantasy. And that was when I went to the movies, watching Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, all these great stars. That was my idea of entertainment.
AM: What I’m so thrilled about is to see three women on the crew, and even a female electrician. But as far as the difference in salaries between men and women, we still have to fight.
When did you know you wanted to entertain?
RW: Well, I got married before I turned 18 to my high school sweetheart. I then had two children with him and he was dead set against me coming to Hollywood. That was a nightmare. So I gave it a lot of serious thought and decided to go with the kids, take my chances and see where it led. So that’s what I did. It was rough because not only did I not know anybody and I didn’t have a bankroll, I had the two kids. But I was lucky because I ran into a wonderful team of producers. They asked me would I like to be the billboard girl. And I thought, ‘A billboard girl? Oooh.’ And I couldn’t believe it, I just really couldn’t believe it. About that same time, my picture showed up in Life Magazine. It was called, “The End of the Girl Drought.” And there was a rather extraordinary picture of me in a white bikini, my hair was all up and very dark at the time, and I was dancing with this towel. Well, oh my gosh, my phone did not stop ringing. 20th Century Fox rang and said they wanted to put me under contract. I said, ‘But I haven’t done anything.’ They said, ‘That’s alright. They want a beautiful girl in “Fantastic Voyage.” Really, can you imagine, can you just imagine? It was like a fairytale, it is so bizarre. You couldn’t make it up, it’s so corny.
AM: I wanted to be an entertainer ever since I was four years old. This was in Sweden and the province called Jamtland. And I was four years old and it was mother, me, momor and uncle Kalje, who played the accordion. And mormor, she had worked hard all day and she has laid down on the couch. And my mother and I were harmonising for her. I knew then that’s all I wanted to be, an entertainer. I had no idea. I didn’t have a clue how, I just made a beeline. I wanted to entertain people. And I did.
Who would you describe as a sex symbol these days?
AM: That’s too subjective. I don’t know how to answer that.
RW: Do they call Charlize Theron a sex symbol? I think they might do that, yeah. I mean she is a spectacular looking girl and she has got a beautiful figure and she moves so well. She is so elegant, and she is also an amazing actress. And a sexy man, well, there was Brad Pitt at one point (laughs) He’s still cute and gorgeous and hot, but after that history, you go ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ (laughs) And Angelina Jolie is a gorgeous woman and very sexy.
Is Hollywood still glamorous?
RW: No, they don’t like it much. I don’t think they like glamour very much. They don’t like escapism very much. I don’t know, maybe they feel like Hollywood can solve the problems of the world and shine a light on important issues. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me, I just love the old Hollywood. I like entertainment and I like the fun of it. I am not sitting there and judging anything when I am watching those movies, but I can just tell you that they are uplifting, they make you feel good.
How do you maintain your beauty? Is it a lot of work or in your case maybe you don’t have to do much?
RW: Oh my gosh. I think maintaining your physical self, is a big, big job. And you have to be very disciplined to do it. For most people, it’s not pivotal to what they do in life, so they are not going to be five days a week training. For me, it’s part of my stock and trade, so I do try to keep up appearances and all that. And my diet is very strict. Of course I go off it and go pig out and have all kinds of things that I am not supposed to have and I like doing that. But then you have to go on the wagon again. But I think that’s a dilemma for most women. But I think when you are in the public eye, or you are an actress, one of the things that is kind of an obligation for me, although I am sure not every actor feels this way but when I go out in public, is because people do recognise me. When I first became famous I didn’t realise that you had to dress up for everything. (laughs) But not to a crazy degree, but if you are walking around Beverly Hills, that is going to happen. So exercise and diet and all kinds of supplements and especially as you get older, you need supplements. I have a routine, I am very disciplined. I am a Virgo, honey. I can’t help it. (Laughs)
AM: I have such a hard time. Well, I work out three times a week. And then I have a group on Saturday mornings that go for walks. And the youngest in the group is about 38 and the oldest is 86. Yes. And we go to a lot of different places. It’s just the camaraderie.
AM: Oh you should have seen what I just ate! (laughs) No. I can’t eat everything I want. I do love cookies.
Did you feel the change when feminism came in?
RW: I felt feminism coming in very strongly in the 60s. I was living in Great Britain and they were the ones that produced “One Million Years BC” and they were instrumental in pushing that image. I really didn’t have anything to do with it. I came back from the Canary Islands, where we were shooting on the top of a volcano and when we arrived at Heathrow Airport, everybody knew who I was. It was shocking. I was just very grateful for it because that was what launched my career. But I started at the same time that I became aware of the women’s movement and I did not fit into the mold that they had in mind for women.
You were too sexy?
RW: Well, I might have been too sexy, I might have been a lot of things, but I wasn’t their idea. And I thought to myself, Hello girls. I am a mother of two children here, so you can relate to me on the basis of “One Million Years BC” in the skimpy bikini, because I go home and I have two children that I am raising and I am having a career. I know what it’s like, so don’t turn your nose up at me! (laughs)