Academy Award-nominated actress Jill Clayburgh passed away on Friday, she was 66. The actress died after a 21-year battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a disease that she fought privately, never publicly announcing it. Known for playing strong-willed, independent women -- perhaps best evinced in Paul Mazursky's 1978 dramedy, "An Unmarried Woman" for which she earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination and won the Cannes Best Actress prize -- Clayburgh's last role was as Jake Gyllenhaal's mother in Ed Zwick's upcoming dramedy, "Love And Other Drugs."
"Jill was one of those people who unfortunately didn't have as much time as some, but I think its a testament to the fact that we worked together for two days and when I heard this morning it was like... she was amazing," Gyllenhaal said this morning at a "Love And Other Drugs" press conference. "My parents recently just went through a divorce and my mother said to me that 'An Unmarried Woman' was such an incredible film for her to watch and helped her so much and I think the work that she did, the woman that she is and was, she was just incredible."
"It was such a dream to be able to work with her," Zwick said. "To be able to have Jill Clayburgh and George Segal [who played her husband in the film] on the set at once was like being in a Paul Mazursky movie and she was just a fantastic lady and it was great to have her around. We liked each other a lot and I would have hoped to work with her again and I feel very very sad."
"No we did not know [about her condition]," Gyllehnaal said of the battle she fought discreetly. "I think that was maybe part of it about her, her living with that [disease] for as long as she did made her appreciate everything, everyday. Someone [with her condition] working for two days on a movie like [ours], it's insane and she was loving and open and an incredible actor to watch and giving even with the few lines that she had, which was a great irony and may all us actors learn from that."
Clayburgh was also Oscar nominated for Alan J. Pakula's 1979 picture, "Starting Over," a comedy about a divorced man, played by Burt Reynolds, who falls in love but can't get over his ex-wife. While it's not the easiest film to watch, we're big fans of her turn in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial "La Luna," a role in which her character does things too unmentionable to be referenced in a respectful obit (she was nominated for a Golden Globe).
Fittingly, and likely the reason Zwick cast her, "Love And Other Drugs" does have a Paul Mazursky-like tenor which Clayburgh, while in a small role, was perfect for. "She and George both, set up Jake’s character beautifully with their performances," Anne Hathaway said. "Because you understood the world in which he came from, who he was raised by, and I think both of their contributions were invaluable and I think I speak for all of us when I say our prayers and our best wishes go out to Jill’s family."