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Shirley MacLaine: ‘Terms of Endearment’ was my favorite role

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Shirley MacLaine pulled no punches when asked about her take on life at age 80.

“Well, I’m a lot closer to dying,” she said with a chuckle.

Maybe so, but there still seems to be a lot of life left for the vibrant woman — and her Oscar-winning career.

MacLaine is among the few octogenarians who still get name-above-the-title billing, which she shares with 84-year-old co-star Christopher Plummer in the big-screen dramedy Elsa & Fred, the upcoming American remake of the 2005 foreign-language favorite, in theaters Friday.

“I had seen the Argentinian film,” MacLaine said in a recent interview. “Loved it,” she continued. “Loved the relationship between the two. Older people falling in love was really attractive to me.”

At first glance, MacLaine’s Elsa is merely the nutty neighbor to Plummer’s Fred, who has pretty much given up on living in the wake of his wife’s recent passing.

But there’s a lot more to Elsa than Fred — or the film’s viewers — sees coming. Getting specific would spoil the surprises, but moviegoers should take what Elsa says with a grain of salt.

What Elsa does of greater importance is reintroduce Fred to La Dolce Vita — the classic Fellini movie, and its English translation, “the sweet life.”

No doubt, the character looming largest over MacLaine’s career and persona is the feisty, fiercely protective Aurora Greenway from the 1983 blockbuster Terms of Endearment.

“Adore her,” MacLaine said. “Would like her on my tombstone. Loved her. My favorite part.”

It’s ironic that, after more than a quarter-century making movies, playing Aurora finally earned her the best-actress Oscar because, MacLaine said, it wasn’t really acting.

“I’m kind of like her,” she explained. “That’s the closest I’ve come to being like a character. I mean, I don’t know, frankly, how difficult it was to play her. I think I just played myself.”

When asked if she’s had la dolce vita, MacLaine said, “I can’t imagine a better life. I’ve sat back and looked at it and thought, ‘Oh, my. What haven’t I done?’

“I can’t think of anything except I’d like to live on a wild-animal farm,” she said. “I’d like to live as though I’m on safari in Africa, maybe permanently, and get to know those animals. But as far as my work and stuff, I’ve done everything. I just want to keep on doing what I’m doing.”

MICHAEL LENNOX

Associated Press

Come meet a few cast and crew members from Elsa & Fred, such as Osvaldo Rios (who plays a doctor) and producer Ricardo Kleinbaum, at an official movie-release party starting at 11 p.m. Friday at Kitchen 305, 16701 Collins Ave., Sunny Isles Beach. For table reservations call 786-302-0230 or email Newport@skripstein.com. Two for one drinks until midnight.

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