Barkin’s first act began in the Bronx, where her father was a chemical salesman and her mother was a hospital administrator.
She took acting classes while attending Hunter College but couldn’t pluck up the courage to audition until she was 26. "I had such low self-esteem in my 20s, no sense of self," she says. "I never spoke." Despite career-making roles in Diner, Sea of Love and The Big Easy, she wasn’t comfortable with her unconventional good looks until she was in her mid-30s. "In my 20s, I was obsessed with my big, fat, round moon face," she says. "Then I got older, and now I think, thank god for that fat face, because I feel like I still look good."
That’s putting it mildly. Barkin looks better now than she did a decade ago. "I never have age issues, quite frankly," she says. "Look, I have frivolous things that I think about — my neck getting old and things like that. But if I see a gorgeous 23-year-old, I think, wow, she’s not even as pretty as she’s going to be."
Not that she’s pretending that looking great is effortless. "Listen, I do everything I can to keep myself looking good," she says, including gym visits three times a week. "And I am massively hysterical about skincare." She puts "eight things" on her face every time she washes it, has facials, and regularly gets the collagen-boosting treatments Thermage and Fraxel. One step that is definitely not part of her regimen is Botox. "The whole Botox craze, what it says to me is ‘I am desperately unhappy with where I am in my life’s journey, I don’t like it, I want to disguise it, I want to erase it,’" she says. "Like, ‘I’m not comfortable being 30, 40, 50, 60.’ And I have issues with that." She shakes her head. "I don’t want to see someone I’ve watched in movies for 20 years and not know who they are, with their eyebrows somewhere in the middle of their hairline."
She has a similar reaction when she sees women on the far side of 40 running around in microminis. "Some people would say, ‘Look, if she can get away with it, more power to her.’ F—- that! It looks crazy!" She laughs. "It doesn’t mean you have to walk around in matronly things. And look, I’m guilty sometimes. I’ll pull out a pair of pants that still fit, but luckily I have a teenage daughter who tells me to stop. You want the whole package to look appropriate."
She Knows What She Wants
Barkin freely admits that she would be "panicked" if her life began and ended with being a Hollywood actor, but it doesn’t. "I don’t need that affirmation from outside my intimate, private world," she says. "I’d rather someone tell me I was a great friend or have my kids say thank you for something." She has a rich existence, brimming with friends and family, and, yes, the occasional date. Well, she wouldn’t call them dates. "I go out with men," she says, adding that she usually meets them at events around town. But her friends know better than to set her up, because she refuses to have dinner with strangers. "You think, why am I here?" she says, rolling her eyes. "And if it’s a great dinner, why are we having dinner? Why don’t we just go home? I mean, isn’t that the more important connection?" She raises an eyebrow and continues, "Like, why are we eating dinner in a restaurant? Let’s first see if the sex thing works, and then we could go have dinner."
The Education of Ellen Barkin
Ellen Barkin interview about her role in Ocean’s 13, her divorce from Ron Perelman, and aging in Hollywood.