Shirley MacLaine is on a roll. She became a trending topic on Twitter and Facebook when she appeared at last month’s Oscars with Charlize Theron. Earlier this year, she received the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. Career Achievement Award and this month was honored at the Texas Film Awards in Austin with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
She’s also been earning rave reviews for “The Last Word,” an indie drama going into wider release on Friday, playing Harriet, a controlling retired businesswoman who decides she wants to control what is written about her in her obituary. So she enlists the paper’s young obit writer (Amanda Seyfried) to write her life story.
MacLaine, 82, made her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1955 “The Trouble With Harry” and earned acting Oscar nominations for 1958’s “Some Came Running”; Billy Wilder’s 1960 “The Apartment” and 1963’s “Irma la Douce”; and 1977’s “The Turning Point.” She won the best actress Oscar in James L. Brooks’ 1983 “Terms of Endearment.”
Chatty as ever, MacLaine recently spoke over the phone about the Oscars, her new film and the loss of her friend Robert Osborne.
One of the best moments at the Academy Awards was when Charlize Theron said your performance in “The Apartment” was her inspiration and the two of you came out to a rousing ovation to present the foreign film award. Did you know Theron before that evening?
We’ve been friends. I’ve known her for years and years. I never knew I was her inspiration. They gave her three choices — who were the three people that you were most influenced by and she said I only have one. To have her choose me was ever so thrilling, obviously.
You looked fabulous.
Nobody looked but I was not wearing heels. I was wearing espadrilles. I got the clothes out of my closet. I don’t know. I’ve always been good at matching black sequins.
How did you get the role of Fran in “The Apartment”? Did Wilder see you in a certain film?
He saw “Some Came Running.” He didn’t have a script.
We started with 29 pages.
Jack Kruschen, Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon in a scene from the 1960 movie “The Apartment.”(Unknown)
Shirley MacLaine embraces her brother, Warren Beatty, at the 1966 Oscars ceremony.(Los Angeles Times)
The Begum Aga Khan, left, with Shirley MacLaine at Villa Yakimour in Cannes, France, on May 12, 1967.(Wherle / Associated Press)
Shirley MacLaine feeds cake to her “Can-Can” costar Maurice Chevalier.(Los Angeles Times)
Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft in the 1977 film "The Turning Point.”(Los Angeles Times)
Shirley MacLaine wins the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes on Jan. 18, 1998.(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Debbie Reynolds, front row from left, Joan Collins and Shirley MacLaine star in the 2001 TV movie “These Old Broads,” which also featured Elizabeth Taylor.(Ron Tom / ABC)
Nicole Kidman, left, and Shirley MacLaine star in the 2005 romantic comedy movie “Bewitched."(John Bramley / Columbia Pictures)
Shirley MacLaine as Marjorie Nugent and Jack Black as Bernie Tiede in the 2011 movie “Bernie.”(Deana Newcomb / Millennium Entertainment)
Kennedy Center honoree Shirley MacLaine, left, applauds during the ceremony in Washington, D.C., in 2013. With her are fellow honoree Carlos Santana, First Lady Michelle Obama and President Obama.(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)
From left, Amanda Seyfried as Anne Sherman, Shirley MacLaine as Harriet Lauler and Ann’Jewel Lee as Brenda in the 2017 film “The Last Word."(Beth Dubber / Bleecker Street)
Did he just begin to flesh it out once Wilder saw you and Jack Lemmon in action?
Yeah, he watched me and he watched my life and he watched Jack and me together. I was involved with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, learning how to play gin rummy with the mob. That why he put those [card] scenes in.
Speaking of the Oscars, what did you think when your brother Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope and ended up presenting the best picture Oscar to “La La Land” when ….
Please don’t ask me. I don’t want to answer. I don’t want to even think about it.
You must be thrilled with the strong reviews you have received for your performance in “The Last Word.”
Well, let’s see how it does because what I want to do now is devote my life to concentrating on roles for older women that can help this culture become more equal not only in gender but in age. That demographic of our society so often is forgotten on screen unless it’s somebody with a really sad problem or somebody with very comical Alzheimer’s. I hope it does well because that would influence the financing of the other scripts I’ve got.
You were friends with the late Robert Osborne, the beloved TCM host and film historian. What will you miss about him?
Oh my God. So many memories flood through my mind. I knew him for years. He was one of the first people who interviewed me. He loved all of us guys, you know. He just loved all the actors. What went with him was a golden history we are all a part of.