Jessica Lange isn't shy but may be retiring NO ENCORE?

October 27, 1992|By The Hartford Courant

Earlier this year, as the Broadway revival of "A Streetcar Named Desire" was nearing the end of its run, Jessica Lange told a theater magazine writer she was going to quit acting when the show closed.

But it looked as if the 43-year-old actress was still in the middle of the acting business when she met the press recently to promote her co-starring film role with Robert De Niro in "Night and the City."

So was she misquoted? Was she having a bad day? Was she serious?

"I knew this was going to haunt me," she sighs, smiling. Then, taking a breath: "I was not misquoted. Yes, [the writer] got me on a bad day. And yes, I was serious."

And, in an equally serious way, Ms. Lange goes on to talk about her "extremely willful" 16-year film career, one that brought her an Oscar for her supporting role in 1982's "Tootsie," as well as nominations as best actress for "Frances" (1982), "Country" (1984), "Sweet Dreams" (1985) and "Music Box" (1989).

"I think, to a certain degree, I do want to stop," she says of acting. "The only reason I wouldn't is if I found something that I felt could present something to me that I have never done before. But, on the whole, I really feel that it is important now to allow something else to happen, which you can't do if you're [busy acting] . . . I keep thinking if I actually did stop [acting] that it would allow something to become apparent to me that I haven't discovered because of my own [career] velocity.

"I don't feel I have to work anymore. I suppose there are other people who would disagree with that, like my business manager. And I'm probably spinning off into some fantasy world, thinking that I can stop. But the idea [of quitting acting] allows me the opportunity to look at things differently now."

Ms. Lange says she is aware of the hazards of such bold pronouncements.

"I'm sure if I do another movie everyone will say, 'Oh, yeah. But you said you were retiring.' "

So far, Ms. Lange's true to her word.

She made "Night and the City," directed by producer Irwin Winkler, before "Streetcar" opened early this year.

And if she were offered this film, with a script by Richard Price, after her pronouncement?

She pauses. "I probably wouldn't have done it," she says. "I'm in a completely different frame of mind now than I was then."

"Night and the City" allowed Ms. Lange the opportunity to work again with Mr. De Niro, following Martin Scorsese's remake of "Cape Fear" last year.

Except this time, instead of being terrorized by a crazed Mr. De Niro, they play low-life lovers whose urban dreams exceed their grasp.

But Ms. Lange is increasingly impatient with the long and tedious process of movie making.

"I actually find [film making] more difficult to do now," she says. "But the process of acting still fascinates me. However, in film there is so little time spent acting and so much time doing other things -- like sitting in your motor home held prisoner . . ."

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