Actress Lee Grant came that close to washing Shampoo out of her hair when co-star Warren Beatty told her how to play the scene when she learns he has seduced her character’s daughter. The matter got resolved after she spoke to the actual director, Hal Ashby, and then to Beatty again. Not only did she win an Oscar for the role, but she and Beatty became great friends, even sharing a few passionate kisses after filming ended.
Grant, 88, relates the story in her memoir, I Said Yes to Everything. Here’s what else she has to say in a recent interview with Newsday.
Do you think your career would have gone in the direction it did if you quit “Shampoo”?
I’m sure that it would have taken a nosedive if I hadn’t done it. On the other hand, I had been nominated for an Oscar twice before and once afterward, so I certainly stayed in the flow as a working actress.
In the book, you deal with being blacklisted for 12 years for not testifying against your first husband and delivering an impassioned speech at blacklisted actor J. Edward Bromberg’s memorial. Did you think your career was over?
It was, and I knew it. Film and television were out. I was 24, and it went on until I was 36. For an actor, those are your years. I got a great urgency and education during the blacklist, and it made me grow up in a way I never could have before — and in very good ways, too.
You write that you had no interest in being the star who has to carry a movie. Why not?
You see stars rise and fall today if their movie doesn’t make over $200 million; whereas, the supporting actors go on from one film to another. The work was what I wanted to do, and the carrying of the film was such a burden. First of all, the leads aren’t the kind of acting work that I like. The parts that are meatier are not the ones that have to have a romance.
Of all your movies, nothing can touch “Valley of the Dolls.” Are you surprised it’s become such a cult film?
Not at all. Usually the worst films become cult films. I saw a gay version of it onstage, where they did not change a line, and it was hilarious. Those things come along once in a lifetime.