Interview with Blanche Baker
Filmmaker-Actress Blanche Baker seeks
joy in everything she does
Blanche Baker has a philosophy about her career as an actor.
“I only do what brings me joy,” said Baker, who did a memorable turn as the older sister
Ginny in Sixteen Candles, when she uttered one of the most famous movie quotes:
“I've had men who've loved me before, but not for six months in a row,”
Baker, now 63, acknowledges she isn’t trying to prove anything to anyone. “So if it’s an
interesting creative project and works with my teaching schedule at New York Film
Academy, I’m excited. But otherwise, I’m happy to be around for my family and in
particular, my mother, who is turning 90!”
Mother would be actress Carroll Baker, an Oscar nominee for best actress in 1957 for
Baby Doll. She received the same nomination from the Golden Globes and won the
Golden Globe for most promising newcomer for both Baby Doll and Giant.
When she was younger, Baker felt that she was in her mother’s shadow, according to a quote in IMDB. She also never wanted to do a film with her mom.
“I didn’t want to do that because it seemed to bring on more comparison which was always hard for me,” she said. “I think the truth is, it's you on the stage, it's you on the screen, in the end. There are more children of famous people that you haven't heard of...or they're in rehab. So, it's a hard thing to overcome when you have a famous parent. And I think I was troubled by that. It was one of the reasons I needed to step back and come back now with this renewed appreciation.”
Baker is no stranger to the awards circuit. She won an Emmy in 1978 for outstanding performance by a supporting actress for Holocaust. She also won best actress at the 2013 Atlantic City Cinefest for Jersey Justice, and a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. The two musical films she wrote and directed, Streetwrite in 2017 and Make America Safe in 2019 also secured awards at the Atlantic City Cinefest. The former dealt with freedom of speech, while the latter is a sardonic look at the gun obsession in the country.
Among her other projects, Baker plays the role of Roxy in Alice Fades Away, now in post
production. “It’s a fairy tale horror film that was beautifully shot and I’m a fan of the
writer/director, Ryan Bliss. And I intend to make another movie musical next year. I’m hoping
that it will play the festival circuit and get distribution.”
Then there’s her teaching position at NYFA, a full time gig. “I really enjoy my work. It’s inspiring
to be around young people to see them grow as artists, gain confidence and develop an
appreciation of acting as an art.” She wishes she started teaching earlier in her career. “I find it tremendously rewarding and it makes me very happy.”
Baker experienced a less than tranquil childhood, and not just because of her famous mother. “It was totally crazy! We moved all the time and it was very discombobulating.” Along the way, Baker spent five happy years in Rome growing up. “I do feel blessed. That was a beautiful time. I studied with Bruno Luchessi, a wonderful Italian sculptor and teacher. I have four children and when I was home with them I worked as a figurative sculptor. I have two sculptures currently on public display: the Dalai Lama at Tibet House in New York City and Mother Teresa at the Caring Institute in Washington DC.”
Baker says she’s fortunate that she has a perspective on life these days. “When we are young, everything is black and white. It’s quite a relief to get older and perceive all the shades in between.”
She returned to Italy this past Christmas where Make America Safe, received nominations at the XWorld Short Film Festival in Rome. It screened December 28. “It seemed like the perfect excuse to take a trip back. I was very excited to show my youngest son Europe and visit with my favorite teacher from the Overseas School of Rome where I attended high school.”
Make America Safe won Best International Short and Best Original Music.
Wynnie, another one of Baker's children, serves as a producer and researcher for John
Oliver. But Blanche has this advice for all her progeny – and others.
“The secret is to find something that interests you so work doesn’t feel like a job. I just
counsel them not to expect their passion to be served up on a silver plate. They have
to just start working at what interests them and then, different opportunities will present
All photos courtesy of the Blanche Baker photo archives
Interview with Jonathan Pryce
The award-winning actor just keeps getting better
Jonathan Pryce's new film,The Wife, is the kind of drama which will mesmerize geezers, maybe
even middle age folk. Its centerpiece is not one but two veteran actors, each 71. Glenn Close
plays Joan Castleman, the wife of a famous author, Joe Castleman. They live in relative comfort,
the kind of life we’d all envy at that age.
The story kicks into high gear when Joseph is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature and the
couple travel to Stockholm for the ceremony. The trip proves eye opening, but plot aside, both
actors give an award-caliber performance as two elderly people seeking to remain relevant to
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called it Close's best performance. “I have never played a
character like Joan Castleman and am thrilled by the prospect of bringing her to life," said Close
in an interview prior to shooting. "I have huge admiration for Jonathan Pryce’s sublime talent and
am honored to be partnering with him."
Directed by 57 year-old Björn Runge, The Wife was adapted by Jane Anderson, 64, from the novel by Meg Wolitzer, who turns 60 next May.
The film opens August 17.
I interviewed Pryce about his role in the film, and his career at this stage of his life. He was both
funny and insightful.
The Welsh-born actor has had a varied career in television and film. He appeared in a Bond
movie, Tomorrow Never Knows. He played the president of the United States in the G.I. Joe
franchise and Juan Peron in Evita, among other roles.
What drew you to the role of Joe?
Firstly, the script, which is intelligent and economical. That leaves you enough space to tell an
intriguing story while keeping a secret for as long as possible. Secondly, meeting the director,
Bjorn Runge, and having an immediate rapport. Thirdly, knowing Glenn was going to be a part of it.
Do you relate to this character on a personal level?
Other than the fact that he wears some of my clothes and has a fine beard - no!
How did you prepare for this role?
70 years of life’s experience went into the creation of Joe.
Joan Castleman could well represent a negative embodiment of women in our culture through the years, being somewhat subservient to men. Did you see it that way?
Joan represents an image of a woman subdued by a male society. An image that goes way back in history. And the day we stop making the societal differences between men and women is the day we will all have won.
photos courtesy of Sony Pictures
The Wife featured an aging couple, but in truth, the story could have focused on a couple in their 40s or 50s. Do you agree that the emphasis was not on age?
It’s not about old age but it is about a long marriage where a couple, for mutual benefit, has colluded in a lie. But as we now know "Collusion" isn’t a crime!’
You and Glenn are just a couple of months apart in age. Does that make it easier to play off each other?
Our age doesn’t make a difference to our work together but our combined experience does. We were relaxed in each other’s company and trusted each other.
Has your preparation for films changed as you’ve gotten older?
Preparation varies from job to job. I’ve been around writers and artists all my working life and watched huge egos being exercised. I’ve watched talentless people bully their way through life when they get a taste of power and have a blatant disregard for other, lesser mortals. There’s a Joe lurking everywhere.
Do you find it harder to secure starring roles these days?
I’m 71 and in the last couple of years I have played leading roles in Game of Thrones, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, The Wife and most recently The Pope so - I ain’t doing too bad!
The official Trailer for The Wife can be viewed here
photos courtesy of Sony Pictures