Posted on 05:01 PM, August 19, 2010
BY ANGELA DAWSON, Entertainment News Wire
Midler taps her inner feline fatale
HOLLYWOOD — Bette Midler, a.k.a. the Divine Miss M, admits she had her sights set on world domination early in her show business career.
“A lot of female entertainers think that when they’re starting out,” insists the multi-talented singer-actress, looking fabulous and fit at 64.
After achieving success as a bathhouse singer, Broadway performer and recording artist, Midler became a movie star. She earned an Oscar nomination for her dramatic turn as a self-destructive rock singer in 1979’s The Rose.
So it wasn’t a stretch for her to voice the ambitious title feline villain in Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, the follow-up to the hit 2001 family comedy, Cats & Dogs, featuring rival domesticated animals.
As Kitty Galore — a James Bond character inspires the name — Midler gives voice to one of the nastiest criminal masterminds on four legs. Rejected by her human family after a tragic accident left her hairless, Kitty plots to unleash a diabolical device to not only wipe out humankind but also her species’ longtime nemesis — dogs. It’s up to a brave group of cats and dogs working together to try and stop her before she can carry out her dastardly plan.
No stranger to the recording booth, Midler says her singing background and previous experience looping her dialogue for movies made the job of recording Kitty easier.
“When I first started recording, it was just a sketch of Kitty,” she recalls. “As time went on, the backgrounds and other characters got more filled in. It was very exciting to watch.”
First-time feature director Brad Peyton uses a combination of live-action and computer-generated animation to create the fun-filled dog-and-cat caper.
“The fact that Brad could keep all these balls in the air and make all these elements that would form into one movie is absolutely staggering to me,” Midler marvels, flashing her trademark smile. “I can’t imagine how he did it because he was working with live actors and live animals … and the robots and the cartoons.”
Midler plays a sphinx cat, a.k.a. a Canadian hairless, which has virtually no fur, except for a bit of fuzz on the tail.
“They’re creepy and wonderful at the same time,” says the actress, who met the real cat she gives voice to in the movie.
Prior to recording, she read up on the breed because “you always want to know what your motivation is,” she explains.
“I think they’re very, very elegant,” says the actress of the sphinx cat breed, adding dryly, “I could completely relate.”
Midler only owned one pet in her life, and that was a dog. She loved him dearly, which is why, after he died of old age, she never got another one.
“I had the best one; why would I want another one?” she says.
Her peripatetic lifestyle and concerns about contracting Lyme disease also has kept her from having pets in her house. Instead, the big-hearted actress devotes her spare time to various environmental causes. She founded and chairs an organization called New York Restoration Project, which cleans up and restores abandoned parks and public places all over the Big Apple. It also operates 55 community gardens, where participants can grow their own plants and vegetables.
“It’s been fantastic,” she says of her 15-year-old organization. “It’s been one of the great projects of my life.”
Her other great projects include entertaining fans through her music and movies for more than four decades.
Starting out singing in gay bathhouses in the 1960s, the Hawaii-born Midler was discovered by Ahmet Ertegun, the legendary president of Atlantic Records. Her first album, The Divine Miss M, hit No. 9 on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart and went platinum. In 1973, she won her first Grammy for Best New Artist. Throughout the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, Midler’s chart-topping career continued to flourish as she released dozens of hit albums.
After successfully touring the world and returning to Broadway in the Tony award-winning musical, Clams on the Half Shell Revue, Midler landed her first starring role in a movie, playing a Janis Joplin-inspired character in The Rose.
Other roles soon followed. She proved adept at both comedy and drama. Credits include Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Beaches, The First Wives Club and more recently, Then She Found Me.
She turned down a few roles that she now regrets: the lead role in Sister Act (ultimately taken by Whoopi Goldberg) and the deadly obsessed fan in Misery, which scored an Oscar victory for star Kathy Bates.
“It was so violent, I couldn’t relate to it,” Midler says of turning down the meaty role.
Martin von Haselberg, Midler’s husband of the past 25 years, calls his wife “a cheerful soul,” a descriptive the actress amusingly denies.
“I’m not very cheerful,” she insists, with a sly smile. “Most comics are really, really sour. I’m a little bit sour.”
If anything, Midler says she’s a bit burned out after a long show business career.
“I worked really hard and I achieved my plan, but I got tired,” she reveals. “I got bored. What’s the point?”
“I went a long time on the same inspiration,” she continues. “Once you’ve reached your goal, you have to find another mountain to climb, and sometimes you don’t really feel like climbing the mountain. Sometimes you just want to sit.”
She’s partly turned off by the changes taking place within her industry.
“In the old days, when you had to have a talent to play a character — to act or sing or dance or do whatever — a real skill, your fame came out of your talent,” she grumbles. “Now that talent element is mostly gone, and the fame element has taken over from that. We happen to live in a very bleak time.”
She’s also a bit fed up with celebrities — particularly young ones — behaving badly in public.
“Sometimes I wish I were less reasonable so I could know that craziness and complete dementedness that people somehow are allowed,” she insists with a laugh. “Maybe that would make things better. But then I think, well what will I do? Can you imagine my mug shot? I’m so old.”
The blond, brown-eyed Midler learned to cope with fame early on by not reading her press — good or bad. She keeps few souvenirs of her remarkable career around her upstate New York home.
“I only have one picture of anything I ever did in my whole career on the wall — it’s my picture with Johnny Carson on the last night of his show,” she reveals.
So what’s in store for the Divine Miss M?
“I have no plans,” she says with a chuckle. “Isn’t that fabulous? I have no plans. I just want to see what else is out there in the world. I’d like to be inspired.” — Nielsen Entertainment News Wire
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