SIFF honored Sissy Spacek with their Outstanding Achievement in Acting Award and held a tribute evening in her honor at their Uptown Theater on June 8. Time critic Richard Corliss led the nearly two hour Q & A with Spacek, covering everything from her upbringing in Texas to what she grows on her farm in Virginia. "Grass," she said, but "not that kind of grass!" Highlights from their conversation are below: she talked about falling in love during Terrence Malick's "Badlands," early resistance to playing her Oscar-winning role in "Coal Miner's Daugther," working with Tom Wilkinson in "In The Bedroom," getting buried alive for "Carrie" (and the upcoming remake) and how the industry has changed.
"Badlands" was obviously a monumental experience in her life, but not just for her career. It was where she met and fall in love with her husband, Jack Fisk, Terrence Malick's long-time art director/production designer. Fisk filled the "Badlands" set (with attention to realistic detail) -- closets full of real clothes, drawers full of items, books in the shelves from her childhood. Their love story sounds like its own Malick film. On that set, Spacek said, "It felt like we were the center of the universe." She recalls reading with dozens of actors after being cast in the film (which she firmly credits to her Texan upbringing being so similar to Malick's; her childhood was like "The Tree of Life" sans Brad Pitt). The director told her that Martin Sheen was being given the chance to audition because of a favor owed to person pitching him. After Spacek did scenes the exact same way with other actors, it was a totally new experience with Sheen. Both she and Malick were then as giddy as school children.
"Coal Miner's Daughter" She didn't want to play Loretta Lynn, convinced that she was in control of her destiny and needed to get away from doing country roles. "What a fool," she admitted. Lynn herself wanted Spacek, but when she found out the director didn't want her for the role, that's when Spacek changed her mind. "I'm very simple." (The adage "you always want what you can't have" came up a few times during the conversation.) Once Spacek was game, so was the studio (Universal), so they got a new director -- Michael Apted. Spacek sang all the songs herself and won her Oscar for the role. She and Lynn are still very close and see each other "as often as possible." Lynn says that they are "godsisters."
"When you win an Academy Award you become a member of a very exclusive club," Spacek said. The distinguishing feature: "You can get a film financed."
The Industry "You used to be able to have a little fun," but now you can't do anything without getting caught, Spacek said. It was the glory days for actors when she was in her heydey. Her peers were Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange -- but she says she didn't feel competition with them because "we all got the films that were right for us," the ones that "belonged" to each of them. Streep is "the greatest actor that ever lived," and laughed at the idea of being compared to her.