STEVE INSKEEP, host:

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

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

She's nominated for the movie "Away From Her." Julie Christy plays a woman falling into Alzheimer's who plans to check herself into assisted living, leaving her husband, Grant behind. Here, the character, Fiona, ends up consoling him.

(Soundbite of movie, "Away from Her")

Mr. GORDON PINSENT (Actor): (as Grant Anderson) I don't think I like the place.

Ms. JULIE CHRISTIE (Actor): (as Fiona Anderson) I don't think we should be looking for something like, Grant. I don't think we'll ever find that. I think all we can aspire to in this situation is a little bit of grace.

Away from her was written and directed by a woman still in her 20's, and Sarah Polly is the latest in an astonishing list of talent who've directed Julie Christie. John Schlesinger's "Darling" brought her fame, David Lean's "Dr. Zhivago" superstardom, then there was Truffaut, Altman, Nicholas Roeg.

Sarah Polly's "Away from Her" has been dubbed the Alzheimer's movie, but it's really not. When Julie Christie, a friend, came into our studio, we played a clip of Fiona reading to her husband from a book about the disease.

(Soundbite of movie, "Away from Her")

Ms. CHRISTIE: (as Fiona) Caregivers must be able to diagnose a wide variety of ordinary ailments under extraordinary circumstances. Imagine the person you love the most suddenly upset about something, but completely unable to communicate the problem or even to understand it himself. Sounds like a regular marriage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. CHRISTIE: There's a lot of humor in that, but what does she mean? I think the bit about that that applies to regular marriage is is the bit about when two people live together very closely all that time, somebody's going to be behaving irrationally and badly, and they wont know why because it might well be chemical. It might be something that happened yesterday that upset something that's happening today in the body, or whatever. Of course, the partner won't know why. If the person doesn't know why, the partner won't know why.

MONTAGNE: What made you want to spend the enormous energy it would take to embody this role?

Ms. CHRISTIE: Well, it always takes an enormous amount of energy to embody a role, even if it's a tiny, tiny one. I would probably, if you are playing one of these voices that are over rats, it takes just as much energy as playing someone who's (unintelligible).

MONTAGNE: As in "Ratatouille?"

Ms. CHRISTIE: Yes, as in "Ratatouille."

MONTAGNE: Oh, such a sweet movie.

Ms. CHRISTIE: The things that are difficult, if it's a director you respect, fulfilling that director's vision - I don't like words like vision and everything. It all sounds far to important, but I think it's the right word to use there. And the other thing is to be truthful to your own part. I mean, and that can be any part at all, and it can be anything. It's just that hanging on to the truth that's the most difficult thing.

MONTAGNE: Let's go back 40 years to a character that you played when you won the Oscar in 1965 in the movie "Darling." Let's play a scene from a movie where she's talking to her boyfriend. She's returned from a rendezvous with a new lover and is trying to cover it up.

(Soundbite of movie, "Darling")

Unidentified Man: When did you get in?

Ms. CHRISTIE: (as Diana Scott) This afternoon. I'm exhausted.

Unidentified Man: This afternoon?

Ms. CHRISTIE: (as Diana Scott) Yes, naturally, of course.

Unidentified Man: Yes, naturally, of course.

MONTAGNE: Again, for those who haven't seen the film, Diana, she's shallow, she uses men, she's sexually free to a degree that is shocking at the time.

(Soundbite of movie, "Darling")

Unidentified Man: And you went down well?

Ms. CHRISTIE: (as Diana Scott) Like a dozen oysters, I think.

MONTAGNE: Was it fun to play a character like that?

Ms. CHRISTIE: I won't says she's fun to play, but I don't know. I had, at the time such a lot of that conniving, manipulative, deceitful person in me that it was actually, I suppose if it was fun at all, it was always fun to hit those things I knew so well.

MONTAGNE: So you draw from something that you know?

Ms. CHRISTIE: Yeah, you make it a truthful dishonesty. because you can act dishonesty. People are acting dishonesty all the time and going, oh, yes, yes, I had a very nice time, yes, yes, yes. And you are obviously meant to know. It's what I call demonstrating what you're feeling, whereas when you hide something and you're terribly - it's terribly important that you hide it, you don't let them know what you're feeling so that the audience should be as puzzled as the man is. And he knows the truth, but still, she's doing it so well that he doesn't get it.

MONTAGNE: You know, you rather famously walked away from Hollywood at a time when you were a huge young star, in a way, that I think and fair to say, is unthinkable today. You moved to a remote part of Wales. Did it take strength to do that?

Ms. CHRISTIE: Oh, God, no. No, I'm just a hippie at heart, and there I was, you know, pretending to be something else. And all I wanted to do was get the vegetables going.

MONTAGNE: Did you dress the part?

Ms. CHRISTIE: Well, we all dressed the part. The apron I wore in Dr. Zhivago, that beautiful raw silk meant to be very raw cotton I think or something, beautiful, natural colored thing, I used to wear that quite a bit. And then you really felt like someone in a fantasy. And especially when you were going out and picking out logs and - to take back and put on the fire. I mean, to me then, I mean, it was like the realization of a dream, far, far more than Hollywood or anything like that was.

MONTAGNE: You know, a lot is made about how hard it is for actresses after a certain age to get good parts, but you have now been nominated twice for an Oscar for parts that you played after you turned 50. Has being older effected how you act?

Ms. CHRISTIE: Yeah, I think I'm more focused now. Yeah, definitely. I've not only got a bigger perspective, but I can also refine my perspective now, bring it right down and make it laser sharp - I mean, if I'm lucky. Not all the time. Most of the time, it's just as usual with everybody. It's pretty fake. But, I mean, that's my aspiration and that's what I hope. I was working more in a fog before. And as for this business of jobs and all that with older people, I think it's true of woman in every job. It's not just to do with acting. And when actors have the biggest voice, so they shout about it a lot.

MONTAGNE: You know, I have known you for years, but we have never really spoken about your work, which I think says something, maybe about the friendship, but it says something about you. Which is to say…

Ms. CHRISTIE: That I never talk about my work. That's absolutely true. I think it is so tedious, talking about your own work. I like talking and getting information, giving information, listening, growing as the conversation continues. But I have 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, and especially is when something's over, you're doing it and when it's over, it's so over that I cant remember a single thing about it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for sitting down and talking about this.

Ms. CHRISTIE: Well, it's been a great pleasure, Renee.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Julie Christie is nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the movie "Away From Her."

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.