Julie Christie: After Decades, Oscar's 'Darling' Again?

Christie in 'Away from Her.' i i

Oscar nominee Julie Christie plays a woman dealing with the onset of Alzheimer's disease in Sarah Polley's film Away From Her. Michael Gibson/Lionsgate Films hide caption

itoggle caption Michael Gibson/Lionsgate Films
Christie in 'Away from Her.'

Oscar nominee Julie Christie plays a woman dealing with the onset of Alzheimer's disease in Sarah Polley's film Away From Her.

Michael Gibson/Lionsgate Films

'Away From Her' Clips

Christie in 'Darling' i i

Christie's career caught fire when she played model Diana Scott in 1965's Darling ... Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Christie in 'Darling'

Christie's career caught fire when she played model Diana Scott in 1965's Darling ...

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Christie in 'Petulia' i i

... but she walked away from the klieg lights not long after 1968's Petulia. Hulton Archive/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Christie in 'Petulia'

... but she walked away from the klieg lights not long after 1968's Petulia.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Christie in Hamlet i i

Aside from a few scattered roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller), Christie steered clear of major motion picture work until she played Queen Gertrude opposite Kenneth Branagh in the actor-director's 1996 Hamlet. Her career has seen a revival since. Castle Rock Entertainment hide caption

itoggle caption Castle Rock Entertainment
Christie in Hamlet

Aside from a few scattered roles (including an Oscar-nominated turn in Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller), Christie steered clear of major motion picture work until she played Queen Gertrude opposite Kenneth Branagh in the actor-director's 1996 Hamlet. Her career has seen a revival since.

Castle Rock Entertainment

One of this Sunday's Oscar nominees is a woman who has a long history with the statuette: Julie Christie won an Academy Award more than four decades ago. Now she's nominated for another award — for a film about a four-decade marriage.

Away from Her, in which Christie plays a woman in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, was written and directed by a woman still in her 20s: Sarah Polley, the latest in an an astonishing list of talented filmmakers who've directed Julie Christie.

John Schlesinger's Darling brought her fame, David Lean's Dr. Zhivago superstardom. And then there was Truffaut, Altman, Nicholas Roeg.

And then, when she was still a young star, and a hugely famous one, Christie walked away from Hollywood and settled in a remote part of Wales. She tells NPR's Renee Montagne, who's a friend, that it wasn't hard.

"Oh, God no," she says. "I'm just a hippie at heart, and there I was [in Hollywood], pretending to be something else. And all I wanted to do was get the vegetables going."

'I'm More Focused Now'

Much is often made of how difficult it can be for actresses to find parts in Hollywood once they're past a certain age. But Christie has twice been nominated for Oscars for parts she played after she turned 50. She tells Renee Montagne that age has its benefits.

"I think I'm more focused now," Christie says. "I've not only got a bigger perspective, but I can refine my perspective now, bring it right down and make it laser sharp — I mean, if I'm lucky. ... I was working more in a fog before."

As for the jobs question: "I think it's true of women in every job," Christie says. "It's not just to do with acting." (Though actors, she says, "have the biggest voice, so they shout about it a lot.")

Though they've known each other for years, Julie Christie and Renee Montagne had never previously discussed Christie's career at any length.

"I never talk about my work," Christie laughs. "I think it's so tedious, talking about your own work."

"I like talking, getting information, giving information, listening, growing as the conversation continues," Christie says. "But I've never been terribly interested in acting, so I wouldn't think of it as the most interesting thing in the world to sit and talk with someone about — in fact I never have."

Acting, at least for Christie, is a thing that happens in the moment, then evaporates.

"When it's over," she says, "it's so over that I can't remember a single thing about it."

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