In my career as an actress, I have played many roles. Some interesting. A couple REALLY interesting. But most forgettable. Any of you who know me know that my career has ended up pretty...mediocre. Things started out strong. I moved to Los Angeles, got an agent immediately, started working immediately, had serious interest from serious people. Lots of people thought I'd be the "next big thing". I was thiiiiisssssss close. But it didn't happen. I'm not exactly sure why. Luck? Not enough talent? I think it was a mixture of things, the most important of which was a lack of ambition. I have just never been able to "sell" myself. And possibly been a little afraid of success.
Lately, I seldom even think of myself as an actress. I do commercials, which are profitable, but are in no way artistically fulfilling. My artistic jones gets fulfilled with writing.
But every now and then, I'll think about a role. A great role. A role I'd love to play. To sink my teeth into and inhabit. And then I'll start thinking that maybe I should get off my butt and get back into the acting world again, give a pep talk to my agents, get new headshots. Then I think...nah, then I wouldn't have time to ramble on on the internet, or, frankly, spend time with my kid. But if there was a REALLY good role...
So for Sprite's Keepers Spin Cycle this week, I've made a list of my Ultimate Dream Roles. Roles that I'd give my eyeteeth to play, roles that I consider to be some of the greatest roles ever written. Not that anyone in their right mind would have ever cast me in some of them, but it's my dream, so I can pick whatever I want. This list originally had 30 roles on it. You'll be glad to hear that I narrowed it down a little. I will present them to you in alphabetical order...
Adelaide - "Guys and Dolls" - Broadway musical. Originally played by Vivian Blaine.
Poor Adelaide. Headlining showgirl with a heart of gold. Has been suffering from a psychosomatic cold brought on by fact that her degenerate gambler fiance, Nathan Detroit, won't marry her, even though they've been engaged for 14 years. She's got all the great punch lines, and fantabulous song and dance numbers.
"Adelaide's Lament" is one of the greatest comedic songs ever written:
"You can feed her all day with the Vitamin A and the Bromofizz
But the medicine never gets anywhere near where the trouble is.
If she's getting a kind of name for herself, and the name ain't his.
A person...can develop a cough."
Alice Kramden - "The Honeymooners" - tv show. Originally played by Audrey Meadows
Long suffering Brooklyn homemaker wife of the blowhard but lovable Ralph. When I first married Jimmy, I started developing my "Alice Kramden" look, which I believe I have now perfected. You know the look -standing with arms crossed, dry, serious expression, just waiting for Ralph/Jimmy to finish his rant so she/I can deliver the zinger. Cause Alice is the Queen of the Zinger:
"You don't need anything to keep your weight down. You need something to hold it up."
"Maybe you don't need to get the margarine, Trix. Four hundred pounds of lard just walked in."
"Seaman Kramden Third Class is retiring to the poop deck until this big wind blows over."
Annie Hall - "Annie Hall" - movie. Originally played by Diane Keaton.
I identify with Annie in so many ways I can't even explain. Mostly because Jimmy is, essentially, the Italian Woody Allen. I understand her sense of humor, her need to be taken seriously on an intellectual basis. Her sort of neurotic normalness. She's sexy and smart and odd and modern.
Great lines - "La dee da. La dee da." "You're what Grammy Hall would call a real Jew."
Bree Daniels - "Klute" - movie. Originally played by Jane Fonda.
High-class prostitute/model. Tough as nails exterior, covering tremendous vulnerability. Brilliant dichotomy of strength and weakness.
Outrageously cool dialogue -
"Men would pay $200 for me, and here you are turning down a freebie? You could get a perfectly good dishwasher for that."
"What's your bag, Klute? What do you like? Are you a talker? A button freak? Maybe you like to get your chest walked around on with high-heeled shoes? Or make 'em watch you tinkle? Or maybe you get off wearing women's clothes? Goddamned hypocrite squares!"
Carly Marshall - Blue Sky - movie. Originally played by Jessica Lange.
Crazy, beautiful, alcoholic, volatile, sex-addicted army wife in the '50's. Loves her straight-laced husband, but can't stop herself from acting out and acting up and making a spectacle of herself.
"Bridget Bardot strips for millions, she's a goddess. I sunbathe topless, and I'm a scandal!"
Carmela Soprano - "The Sopranos" - TV show. Originally played by Edie Falco.
Prototypical mom, homemaker. Amazing cook, turning out the best baccala and braciole. A fierce she-bear protecting her children and family. Do not fuck with Carmela.
"You know, Tony, it's a multiple choice thing with you. 'Cause I can't tell if you're old-fashioned, you're paranoid or if you're just a fucking asshole."
Diana Christensen - "Network" - movie. Originally played by Faye Dunaway.
Hands down, THE toughest, smartest, sexiest, working-woman bitch EVER written.
Amazing dialogue by Paddy Chayefsky. Get a load of this monologue:
"The American people want somebody to articulate their rage for them. I've been telling you people since I took this job six months ago that I want angry shows. I don't want conventional programming on this network. I want counterculture, I want anti-establishment. I don't want to play butch boss with you people, but when I took over this department, it had the worst programming record in television history. This network hasn't one show in the top twenty. This network is an industry joke, and we'd better start putting together one winner for next September. I want a show developed based on the activities of a terrorist group, "Joseph Stalin and His Merry Band of Bolsheviks," I want ideas from you people. This is what you're paid for. And by the way, the next time I send an audience research report around, you'd all better read it, or I'll sack the fucking lot of you. Is that clear?"
Elizabeth - "Young Frankenstein" - movie (and now a Broadway play). Originally played by Madeline Kahn.
Brilliantly over-the-top comedy. Full on slapstick. Wacky and wonderful.
"OOOOOOhhhh, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!"
"Oh. Where are you going?...Oh, you men are all alike. Seven or eight quick ones and then you're out with the boys to boast and brag. YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT...Oh...I think I love him."
Ellen Ripley- "Aliens" - movie. Originally played by Sigourney Weaver.
She's a scientist, she's an action goddess. She gets to tote guns and run through tunnels and fight aliens and mother an orphan waif. What more could an actress want?
Plus she gets to say this:
"Get away from her, you bitch!"
Joanna Kramer - "Kramer vs. Kramer" - movie. Originally played by Meryl Streep.
An extremely difficult role. Because, while the audience will hate her for abandoning her husband and child, they also need to feel sympathy for her struggle and tremendous pain. The most amazing "on the stand" courtroom scene ever.
Remember at the end - just reading the lines makes me sob:
" I woke up this morning, kept thinking about Billy and I was thinking about him waking up in his room with his little clouds all around that I painted and I thought I should have painted clouds downtown because then he would think that he was waking up at home. I came here to take my son home. And I realized he already is home."
Maggie the Cat - "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" - play and movie. Originally played on Broadway by Barbara Bel Geddes, and in the movie by Elizabeth Taylor.
I have actually worked on Maggie THREE times in my life. With THREE different Bricks. Maggie is the definition of perseverance. She knows what she wants and she is going to get it, come hell or high-water. She is strong in a deep, Southern way, and I love her. Plus, I can rock a slip.
"...And the no-neck monsters were ranged round the table, some in high chairs and some on the books of knowledge, and all of 'em wearing those fancy paper party hats on account of Big Daddy's birthday."
"Maggie the cat is alive! I'm ALIVE."
Mama Rose - "Gypsy" - Broadway and movie. Originally Ethel Merman on Broadway and Rosalind Russell in the movie.
Tyrannical stagemother extraordinaire.The ultimate Broadway musical role for a woman. Three women have won Tony's for playing her. Love her or hate her, Rose is a force to be reckoned with.
"SING OUT, LOUISE!"
Here's the amazing Patti Lupone on Broadway in a pirate video shot from somebody's cell phone or something. Even though the photography is awful, please watch it all the way through - the last minute gives me chills every time I watch it.
Maude Findlay - "Maude" - TV show. Originally played by Bea Arthur.
I have, for many years, had a fear of turning into Bea Arthur. I'm tall, deep-voiced. I have a penchant for long scarves. I enjoy bourbon. But I have to say that the character of Maude was truly brilliant. A tv icon. She was WAY ahead of her time. She could get away with anything. Broke all sorts of rules and barriers. And I could deal with the pantsuits.
"God'll get you for that!"
Mrs. Robinson - "The Graduate" - movie. Originally played by Anne Bancroft.
What middle-aged woman wouldn't want a crack at being Mrs. Robinson? Lonely, desperate seductress of young Benjamin. Lots of pain and anger and frustration. Cigarettes and martinis.
"Benjamin, do you find me undesirable?"
Phyllis Dietrichson - "Double Indemnity" - movie. Originally played by Barbara Stanwyck.
Oh, it's so fun to be bad. And Phyllis is so bad. Luring poor Walter into murdering her unsuspecting hubby. Then dumping him. The best snappy film noir dialogue. Double entendre galore...
Phyllis: Mr. Neff, why don't you drop by tomorrow evening about eight-thirty. He'll be in then.
Phyllis: My husband. You were anxious to talk to him, weren't you?
Walter: Yeah, I was, but I'm sort of getting over the idea, if you know what I mean.
Phyllis: There's a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff. Forty-five miles an hour.
Walter: How fast was I going, officer?
Phyllis: I'd say around ninety.
Walter: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.
Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.
Walter: Suppose it doesn't take.
Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.
Walter: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.
Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband's shoulder.
Walter: That tears it.
Sally Bowles - "Cabaret" - play and movie. Originally played by Liza Minnelli in movie.
Bad girl American expatriot, performing in a Cabaret in 1930's Germany. Kander and Ebb music to die for...
Cabaret, Mein Herr, Maybe This Time. "Maybe this time, I'll be lucky, Maybe this time he'll stay..." But he never stays for poor Sally. Sigh. Cause "I made my mind up back in Chelsea, when I GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I'm going like Elsie."
Scarlett O'Hara - "Gone With the Wind" - movie. Originally played by Vivian Leigh
"Fiddle dee dee." Spoiled, fickle, flirtatious Southern belle. Hopelessly hung up on that stupid milk toast, Ashley Wilkes. But she's got an inner toughness that gets her through some shit - war, death, abject poverty. But you know that no matter what, Scarlett will always survive, using her prodigious feminine wiles to get her way.
"As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"
Okay, that's my rather lengthy list. I'm already thinking of more to add. Oh, I forgot...No. I will publish this quickly, or this could go on forever. Please visit Sprite's Keeper to find others spins on "Roles".