Celebrity Sit-Down: Jessica Lange

In this Web-exclusive bonus, Oscar winner Jessica Lange talks about her new FX series 'American Horror Story,' her restless nature and her absolute favorite co-star.

by David Hutchings
Jessica Lange image
Photograph: Brigitte Lacombe

Going to the dark side in the new FX series American Horror Story

I’ve always wanted to do a horror film, but not a slasher one. I love the great horror films of the ’60s and ’70s, like Rosemary’s Baby and Don’t Look Now. Our show is in that vein. The writers have added an overarching theme, infidelity, and channeled the idea of the destructive force of unfaithfulness through the horror genre.

I must say, it’s some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long, long, long, long time. My character has a great deal of rage, she’s [also] funny and the fact that they’ve placed her geographically being from Virginia is kind of great. She’s sort of a Southern beauty queen who came out to Hollywood to make it big and the disappointment and the subsequent despair that comes with that idea of not being successful, and a bad marriage and troubled children, that kind of loads it all up and gives this marvelous dry sense of humor and that makes her so much fun to play.

Role of a lifetime

Motherhood was more important than career for me. There were many times I passed up something that I would have liked to do. But I have no regrets. The kids [Shura, with Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Hannah and Walker, with Sam Shepard] always came on location with me. It was always a great adventure.

Life in motion

I didn’t follow the typical movie star trajectory of living in Los Angeles. Except for working out here, we lived in New York, New Mexico, Virginia, Minnesota, back to New York. I think by nature I’m very restless. I got that bred in the bones. We were constantly, when I was a child, on the move and I’ve never stopped, from my 20s to 30s to 40s. I just never stopped, even when I was dragging around seven dogs, three children, households. It’s just in my nature. I’m someplace for a while and then I have a desire to go somewhere else.

Picking up a camera

Fifteen years ago, I found photography, and that has supplemented my creative impulse. I feel lucky to have discovered it. Like most mothers, I had my thousands of color snapshots I’d taken of the family through the years, but I wanted something more. I had collected black and white photography for a long time and had surrounded myself with it, but I’d never even thought of doing anything serious about it. But then as my kids were growing, instead of just having 10,000 color snapshots I have, I decided to try to document my kids in black and white portraiture as they grew. That’s how it started. Then I started carrying my camera with me wherever I traveled and whenever I went out and just little by little it grew and grew . A friend insisted I show these family photos I’d been taking to an art director in New York and all of a sudden I found myself putting together a book and putting together exhibits.

Co-star connection
There are a lot of great memories that I have from the films I’ve made, but when I think of my favorite co-star, the person with whom I shared a special alchemy, one person totally stands out above all the others. Now, I know his reputation for being difficult and cranky and all of that, but there is no actor I enjoyed working with more than Tommy Lee Jones when we made Blue Sky.  He is probably my favorite. I love his complexity, his crankiness, and I never worked with a more generous actor. The film sat on the shelf for years, unreleased, and the sorrow of that is that it was [director] Tony Richardson's last film before he died, and because it was delayed he never saw it released. Making that film was special and also sad.

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First Published Tue, 2011-10-18 12:01

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