Syracuse Herald Journal
November 27, 1988
Two films. Back to back best-actress citations from Cannes, the granddaddy of film festivals.
In “Shy People,” Barbara Hershey hunkered down to play a tough Louisiana bayou woman who ruled her sons with an iron hand. A Los Angeles critic praised her for going against type to play a Mammy Yokum mother who is driven to the brink of insanity by her abusive husband and loneliness.
Only a handful of U.S. moviegoers will recognize these titles. Neither fil m playe d more tha n a few metropolitan centers. Instead, Americans think of Hershey as the luscious prostitute. Mary Magdalene, in the controversial “Last Temptation of Christ.” Or as Dannv DcVito’.s put-upon wife in “Tin Men.”
“It’s sad to think the films and my work hasn’t been seen,” the actress said in a recent interview here. “But IÂ don’t dwell on it. So much bounty has come my way in the last few years. I was angry about ‘Shy People.’ The distributor didn’t give it a chance. But with ‘World Apart,’ they just didn’t have the money to promote and advertise it.”
ALREADY, OSCAR TALK is swirling around Hershey for her work in “Beaches,” which casts her opposite Bette Midler. The saga spans 30 years in the “odd couple” relationship of a wealthy, cultured woman (Hershey) and a streetwise woman with show business aspirations (Midler).
Touchstone Pictures thinks the film will win nominations for its stars and has moved up its release in five cities next month to qualify for Academy Award citations.
Hershey won’t pull a George C. Scott and refuse an award.
“I was thrilled about the Cannes award, especially the second time, because you’re told you never win again. I like to think you shouldn’t care about the award but just about the work. But you do. It would mean a lot to me.”
At age 40, serenity has come to the Los Angeles-born star. As early as her teen years, she was making her initial breakthrough in the ’60s TV series “The Monroes.”
A few years later, she look conservative Hollywood abnck by hieing off to the hills with lover David Carradine and giving birth to their child, named Free.
For several years, Hershey’s star was in eclipse. Gradually, beginning with the film “Stunt Man.” and the TV series based on “From Here To Eternity,” it began to riee again. ”¢
Steadily, the actress moved back into the mainstream with such roles as Chuck Yeager’s wife in “The Right Stuff ” and the beautiful , obsessive woman i n Robert Redford’s life in “The Natural.” She made a single miscue, but receivedÂ personal praise, when she made the supernatural film “The Entity.”
NOW, HEKSHEVS versatility commands the attention of producers here and in Europe and the praise of critics on bothÂ continents.
Still, Hershey says her choices aren’t always ideal. ”ž.
“Ten percent of the scripts offered to me are easy to reject.” =ho said. “Ten percent arc good. It’s the oiher 80 percent in between you mostly choose from Sometimes, tncie s a great roie in a film thats not so great and you take that. SoTetimes, there’s a great film and a not-so-great role and you take thai
In spite of her newly exalted.status the actress says she takes no offense if asked to audition for a role she covets ‘ I think screen-testing is a ver^Ttahd request If they (the filmmakers) are insecure about you, 111 test to make them secure And, if I don I get the picture, then I got to play the part for one day ”
Besides, Hershey said, “I don’t ever want to become complacent or think ‘Oh, this was my year ‘ I wantthis to be an ongoing process I don’t want to get fearful of taking chances or of falling flat or, my face ”
The star will practice what she preache s in he r next fil m ‘ Defenseless ” in which she plays a lawyer I’ve never done a thriller before , so this will be a new challaaje,” the actress said with a smile.
Her private life also has assumeda peaceful air When there’s a lapse in film work, the-actress escapes Hollywoo d for a 300-year-old Connecticut farmhouse She shared both with her son, renamed Tom, until this fall, when he went away toÂ school Long separated from Carradme, she has not married.
THE PLACID PROGRESS of the Hershey career was shattered this summer with the controversy of Last Temptation of Christ .”Â Ironically , it wa s she who introduced Martin Scorsese to (Nikos Kazantzakis’) book with the suggestion he film itÂ Hershey said she was “surprised at the hysterics” surrounding the motion picture’s release
“The leaders of the protesters didn’t even want to see the film,” she complained
More tha n the hullabaloo, Hershey resents the fact an epic project was forced to film on a small budget
“We’d do two takes then have to move on There was no luxury of experimenting or eJfpioratton. which is Marty’s forte.
We couldn’t make the movie that deserved to be made with this fabulous director because of money . Tha t said to meÂ something horribl e about Hollywood ”
The star defends Scorsese on the blasphemy charges leveled against him
“It was’a religious film and that’s why he made it Hfe was very vulnerable and tender about it”
Whether her personal reviews or the movie’s” were good or bad mattered little Nor did the threat to her which-prompted ‘a bodyguard to follow her around the Venice Film Festival when “Last Temptation” was given its European premiere.
Contended Hershey, “I was mainly concerned abouj. Marty.