Five Minutes With: Ellen Barkin

By Michele Manelis

Five Minutes With: Ellen Barkin
Reprising Jacki Weaver's role, Janine 'Smurf' Cody, in the award-winning drama, Animal Kingdom, the legendary Ellen Barkin, 62, takes it to the small screen.

New York born actress and producer is best known for her roles in The Big Easy (1987), Sea of Love (1991), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1988), Ocean’s Thirteen (2007), and in 2011 she received a Tony Award for The Normal Heart, on Broadway.

She is the mother of two children, Jack, 25, and Romy, 23 from her first marriage to actor Gabriel Byrne, from 1988 to 1999. She then married businessman Ronald Perelman, which ended in divorce six years later in 2006, and then dated Ralph Fiennes, director/writer Sam Levinson, David Arquette, Robert Duvall, and Matt Dillon. She was also rumoured to have had dated Johnny Depp.

Looking strong and sophisticated, she talks about her new role and her hopes for the future.

Did you watch the Australian film before taking this on?

Oh, absolutely, yeah. I had seen it when it came out. Certainly, I would say that watching it was a part of my preparation.

How did you tap into Smurf’s ferociousness?

(Laughing) Well, I think it’s probably true for most actors when you play a character, good, bad, otherwise, you have to love them. I mean, psychopaths don’t necessarily know they’re psychopaths and awful, mean people don’t see themselves that way. So, I think the first thing that I had to do was not judge the character.

And following Jacki Weaver, who earned an Oscar nomination for the role, must have been tough?

Oh, it was just an epic performance. It was like a Travis Bickle performance (Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver) something you’ll always remember. With Jackie Weaver I had to find a way to not steal from her, for lack of a better way of putting it. I had to create my own character because her character was so powerful.

Did you see the movie before you knew you were going to inhabit the character?

Absolutely, yeah. I saw it when it came out of course. I’m an Academy voter. I have to see it!

Is this the first time you’ve played a grandmother?

It’s not the first time I’m playing a grandmother at all. The age makes perfect sense.

You’re 62 years old and apparently you still have to make a living?

Shocking, huh? (laughs).

Well, in a way

Well, I don’t know why. Obviously there’s a group of actors, maybe 20 actors, that are paid an enormous amount of money. And look, we all make an enormous amount of money compared to if I was a bank teller but if you’re not in that top level throughout your career you’re living on your money. I never had a particularly grand lifestyle. An actress, who shall be nameless, said to me when she was 78 years old, ‘Do you think I’d still be doing this if I didn’t have to?’ Most of us don’t have enough time to do that kind of saving so we just work for as long as we can. And it’s hard at my age to go to work every day because you’ve been doing it that much longer but I love this particular job so it’s nice to go to work. I’m excited by it.

Where do you live?

I live in New York. I come here to LA and stay here for 4 months, shoot the show and then go back home. It’s a nice change, you know, back and forth and if I can miss most of the New York winter that would be nice.

Looking back in your career, in The Big Easy, and Sea of Love, you were the epitome of sex appeal…

Oh, thank you.

What do you think when you look back on that period?

It took me so long to become confident and develop a sense of myself which is something I think we hear often from women. It’s been said a million times but I do work in a business that is very misogynistic and it keeps you down in a way so it’s hard to grow your confidence and grow who you are.
I think, like so many people say, I wish I would have been as aware then as I am now but I enjoyed myself, I think.

What are you looking for these days in your life?

Peace, quiet, things like like that. I’m a kind of quiet person. I’m very much of a homebody. I stay home most of the time so I’d like some grandchildren (laughs). I don’t see that in my near future. You get older you want a little peace, I think. I just like the idea, the vision of getting older where you have time to sit and read and just that’s the version I like. And having grown children it’s a wonderful thing to have.

Ellen Barkin Animal Kingdom MiNDFOOD Magazine



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