The Education of Ellen Barkin

Ellen Barkin interview about her role in Ocean’s 13, her divorce from Ron Perelman, and aging in Hollywood.

By Jancee Dunn
Ellen Barkin on the cover of MORE's June 2007 issue
Photograph: Photo by: Lorenzo Agius

Beauty, the Break-Up, and Bouncing Back
Ellen Barkin is feeling a lot of love these days in her hometown of New York City. Fans cheer her in the street, at the supermarket, in the nail salon. They holler their support from passing cars. "I’ve been getting a lot of shout-outs," she says with a laugh. "It feels really good. I have eight million people watching my back."
New Yorkers feel protective of their Bronx-born girl, having witnessed her acrimonious, high-profile split from billionaire Revlon chairman Ron Perelman, which began last January when she was surprised with divorce papers; in February she was ushered out of their Upper East Side town house by security guards. During Barkin’s seven-year relationship with Perelman (they were married for nearly six years), she was largely absent from the screen, reportedly because Perelman preferred that she stay close to home. Given the film industry’s notoriously short attention span, that’s a long time to be away.
But after a painfully raw year and a half, Barkin has come roaring back, landing the female lead role in this month’s Ocean’s 13, alongside Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, and her Sea of Love costar, Al Pacino. She has started a production company. She’s writing a novel. She is dating again. And, at 53, she looks sensational. Lounging in Cafe Cluny in the West Village, Barkin is trim and chic in her black Dior Homme pants, stiletto boots, and slim navy Lainey Keogh sweater. Her hair is the perfect shade of buttery blond, her skin luminous and supple. It’s hard not to immediately bombard her with questions: "Who’s your facialist? Where did you get those glasses?"
Fortunately, she’s a sharer. In fact, she practically provides store hours. "I’m not one of those people who hides her beauty secrets because I’m afraid someone’s going to look better than me," she says. The glasses: Paul Smith. Her facialist: Cristina Radu, in Los Angeles, and no, she doesn’t use Botox (more on that later). Barkin is the most delightful company: warm, cerebral, tough, funny. Her two favorite expressions are "quite frankly" and "spectacular," which neatly sum up a person who tells it exactly like it is and refuses to be jaded or cynical, no matter what life throws her.
After Seven Years, a Second Act
"I had a bad run for seven years," she says. "I mean, I don’t want to compare it with real tragedies. But I feel like some sort of survivor, quite frankly." Her life finally turned upward last spring. At the time, a fragile Barkin was staying at the beach house of a friend, stylist L’Wren Scott, who gave her some ground rules. She was allowed to cry, talk about the past, and brood freely until seven o’clock at night. After that, she was done.
One morning, Barkin was on the beach, doing her customary five-hour cry. She had her cell phone nearby to keep in touch with her son Jack, now 17, and daughter Romy, 14. They were staying with their father, Barkin’s first husband, Gabriel Byrne, whom she calls a good friend. "They were there because it was a difficult time for everybody, and also," she says, pausing to laugh sharply, "they didn’t have anywhere else to live."
It was uber-producer Jerry Weintraub, whose latest project was Ocean’s 13, phoning to ask how she was doing. "At that point if a stranger said ‘How are you?’ I always burst into tears," she says. Well, he told her, in 30 seconds you’re going to feel a lot better. The movie’s leading female role was hers if she wanted it. Barkin was elated. Weintraub was too. "I’m 69," he says. "I’ve been doing this a long time, and it’s rare to be able to make a call like that one."

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