She made an early acting career of skimpy on-screen outfits in B and C movies, but later quieted skeptics with her comedic skills in "The Three Musketeers" (1974) and her SRO performances on Broadway as Lauren Bacall's replacement in the Tony Award-winning "Woman of the Year." Now, soon to turn 50 (Sept. 5), Raquel Welch is gradually easing herself out of the role of actress, aiming at a new career as a producer.
Acknowledging Hollywood's unkindness to aging actresses, she hopes "in five years time I wouldn't have to be in front of the camera" and could be producing full-time, developing strong film roles for women.
"I don't think Hollywood knows what to do with anyone," Welch says. "I think they are waiting to be told. . . . This is a marketplace. Here, they are ready for people with ideas. I have plenty of ideas."
Not that she's disappeared. She's just released her fourth fitness video ("Body & Mind") and has made a TV movie each of the last three years. But she hasn't had a feature film role since 1982 when Debra Winger replaced her in MGM's "Cannery Row." She later sued MGM and was awarded $10.8 million, a judgment that's been appealed.
"My feature career got cut off at the knees" with the "Cannery Row" incident, Welch admits, but feels it's now behind her.
Working out of an office at First Management, an arm of Guber-Peters Entertainment, she's a bit cagey about projects she says she has in development--"You're talking about a cake that is baking, and I'm not ready to open the oven door yet." She mentions features, TV movies, miniseries and sitcoms that she would produce and appear in, including a miniseries on controversial '30s torch singer Libby Holman, but won't provide many details.
The face and body that made her famous were "my ticket to ride," Welch says, although she concedes that the sex-symbol stereotype can be a trap. "Here I am an actress in my late 40s--I don't look like that, but that's where I am emotionally and personally.
"I am grown up and I don't have any yen to play in 'Splash,' you know?"