There aren’t many women who have sustained a movie star career past the age of 40, but at age 69, Sally Field is still playing leading roles in films and on television. Now in the upcoming comedy drama, Hello, My Name is Doris, she shines as a lonely woman reeling from the death of her mother. Through the drudgery of her life as an accountant, she springs to life when a much young manager (Max Greenfield) begins working at her firm.
In her own life, Field has been married twice and has three children. She’s earned two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, two Prime Time Emmy’s and a Screen Actors Guild award.
The accomplished actress began her career on TV in 1965 in the titular role as Gidget, and followed with The Flying Nun a couple of years later. She has appeared in numerous movies, most notably, Mrs Doubtfire, Forrest Gump, Not Without My Daughter, Lincoln, and played the lead role in the TV drama, Brothers and Sisters.
With everything she’s experienced in life and what she’s endured, Field delivers many pearls of wisdom during our chat about her life, ageism, and feminism.
Your character in Hello, My Name is Doris is a terrible hoarder? Do you relate at all to that aspect of her personality?
I relate to it, but not quite like that. I relate because I keep way too many boxes of stuff, memorabilia of my family and my kids and my grand-kids and all the moments of my life as a child growing up. So I have sentimental value connected to that. And I have tried, many times I have shed myself of stuff that seems to be weighing me down, and I too like Doris, have had big turning points in my life when I realised I have got to turn it all over and move on.
Would you date a younger man like your character Doris? Maybe you are already.
Sure of course I would, absolutely. And am I now? No, I am not in any way. But the picture isn’t even about that, the picture really is really a coming of age, a person of age story. It’s about moving into the next part of her life. It is the lure that pulls her out.
It was heart-warming to watch Doris being in love. Can you talk a little bit about the beauty of being in love?
From my being in love? Holy smoke. (laughs) I don’t remember.
I have a crush on my grandson right now, Noah, my ten year old grandson. When he comes to visit, I feel that way about him, like, what can I do? Am I doing the right thing? How do you like the meal? What do you want to play? I just so adore him. And I have so much fun with him. And that feels very similar to the kind of plan you go on when you meet someone new and you just come alive. But do I feel that way about a person outside of my own family right now? No. I can’t remember when I felt that way about that. But you never know; it could happen at any moment.
You are a mother, you are a grandmother, you were once a wife or girlfriend, you are a daughter yourself. Can you address a little bit in which way you sometimes have to stop your own life to be there for others?
Well, anytime you have a family and you have a career, you are always grappling with what goes where and how much time belongs here and how can you achieve something in your career and your work and still not let down your family, whether they be your children, your grandchildren or your aging parents. As you take care of them as they are aging and they need you to be there for them in every way you can, so it’s always been a battle and most especially for women, and I know that there are many men who also feel the weight of all of this, but mostly it’s women that are trying to balance all of these things and still have a place in their life where they achieve things for themselves. And it’s never easy. One part of you is always aching that you are not there, you are not doing enough, but I think that’s life.
This character feels like an outsider. Can you give me an example of when you felt like that?
I always feel like an outsider, (laughs) I can’t give you an example of when I felt like an insider. (laughter) I have always felt like an outsider, absolutely. I would be very suspect of anyone who felt like they were an insider, I really would and I would think they were faking it. Cause all of us, it’s engrained in the isolation of human beings, we all feel like we are kind of outsiders and maybe no one will notice, maybe no one in the group will notice that I don’t belong here. I think that is hard wired in us. And the part of us that always feels isolated and like maybe we came in the wrong door and if we are lucky, we have our good friends. You may have a few family and friends where we all feel like we are in it together. But I never felt like I was an insider.
I know your mum passed away. What did you learn from her and what do you remember still?
Every day of my life, I mean every moment of my life. My mother is a huge part of my life, and still is, even though she’s not here. I am waiting for her to haunt me, she told me that she would and I am waiting for it. But who I am is very much because of her. And I would be hard pressed, doesn’t everybody feel that way, even if you had a mother that was rotten, who you are is still because of who she was. So I am here because she was there. And that is really the facts.
You’re very youthful. Does it help that you have young grandchildren?
Well I don’t know that I stay young through my grandchildren. I don’t know that I stay young first of all, I don’t know if I agree with that. And I very much feel what it is to be heading towards 70 at the end of the year. But I definitely feel that I am not any different, in that I am trying to stay healthy. I feel there’s my knees and things like that that are saying, ‘Are you going to do that to us again?’ And parts of my shoulder from too much yoga going, ‘Well, you’ll have to rethink what you do now wont you, Field?’ And so it is, how do I keep doing what I want to be doing while my body is adjusting to how long it has been asked to carry me around? I don’t know that I stay young. I just stay (laughs).
You have been a huge advocate for women’s rights for many years, so from your personal standpoint view, do you think there has been some improvement in that area? And we also live in strange times politically speaking, and you are a big Hillary fan?
Yes. (laughs) I have been a supporter of Hillary’s for a very long time. It’s no big surprise. I think she is brilliant and it doesn’t have to do with being female, it has to do with being brilliant, and she would be a really wonderful President in the United States. I feel that strongly. I do work for groups, basically By the Voices, which helps empower women entrepreneurs all over the world. And do I think that the equality in this country for women? Certainly I think it has improved.
What about income gender disparity?
I think from the time I was in the business as a kid during the women’s movement, it was actually the second wave of the women’s movement because there were the Suffragettes, but the second wave of the women’s movement was incredibly important and valuable. I can’t tell you how much it affected my life at 18 and 19 and 20, it urged me to think things differently and urged me to find myself in a different way. I came out of the 50s, so there was this tight rigid mentality about what women were allowed to wear and say and do and be, and it has been maligned by a lot of other political groups that I think want to lessen the impact of how important they have been. Something else is about to rise out of it, another group, another feminist movement that will incorporate all of the goodness that has been done, but will move it to the next place.
It has been stalled by political groups that don’t want change to happen, that don’t want there to be an equal world, where we are at the proverbial table in an equal way. But the fact that this country doesn’t have equal pay for equal work is not alright. It’s not alright and there isn’t a way that anybody could look at that and say that it is fine. It isn’t, it is not fine. It is outrageous. So there is a next wave in the midst of coming about and I think its part and parcel of this whole rising up against the inequality and lack of diversity in film. It isn’t just about the motion picture business. It’s about everywhere.
Have you felt overlooked in your life? It’s not as easy for women ‘of a certain age.’
Well that is a hard question. I don’t really know that someone would overlook me and look the other way because of my age? Or because of my looks? Or because of my personality? It all goes together, age and looks are the same thing and personality has to do with who you are as a human being. They all go together, I don’t know how you can separate them. I mean anybody that would look at me across a crowded room and say, and not any celebrity mishegas (Yiddish word for crazy), ‘You know what? I don’t want to know her, she is old.’ Honestly, I wouldn’t want to know them anyway. So that person is a jerk, so I don’t care whether they are overlooking me or not. I live in a business where all my life they would say how you would be judged by how you look. ‘Sally is not right for this role, she is not pretty enough’, or ‘Sally is not right for this role, she is too old’, ‘Sally is not right for this role, she is too young’ and ‘Sally is not right for this role, she is not sexy enough.’ I live in a business of that, so it is hard for me to separate what that is. I am my own commodity and that has been my whole existence. So it’s hard for me to say. I have always been judged on that. If someone needs to cast you in a Brigitte Bardot kind of character who is a femme fatale, where you walk in the room and every man and woman in the room falls over – and oh my God! Is that female pulchritude? You probably wouldn’t hire me. I am just saying right off the bat. So it’s hard for me to answer that question, because I have lived with that kind of paradigm always. It’s all hard to take, but human beings judge.