Interviews are always a bit nerve wracking beforehand. You have a few questions going in. You want it to be an upbeat, exciting time for everyone, etc. Then moments before 3 POWERHOUSES walk into the room you get butterflies in your stomach….or at least I did. Then they all walked in. THE Meryl Streep, fashionable Christine Baranski, and the comedy legend Tracey Ullman. A round of applause because 1. They deserve it 2. They are Kick ASS women. 3. The performances they all put on in Into The Woods. As they sit down and the interview begins you can feel their friendship immediately. These gals aren’t doing it up for the camera. The love they have for one another (and the cute nitpicking) is genuine. Below is a bit from the interview:
Q: So, it’s completely obvious you guys are friends. I love the chemistry. Can you tell us how that friendship came to be? And any funny stories you want to share with us?
Christine: [LAUGHTER] Where do we begin? Well, Tracy and Meryl are old friends, so you can start there. That’s an old friendship.
Meryl: Well, I’m a way older friend than Tracy. I met her when she was 21. We did a movie called Plenty. I was 31. And I thought I’d just met my new best friend, who was my age, because I had no idea she had — I think you were 20, maybe, when we started it.
Tracey: I was a pop — I was a pop star.
Meryl: She was a pop star in England. Yeah. Totally, she really was.
Tracey: I was a one-hit wonder here. And an MTV vee-jay. And yeah, we got on great. We ended up in Tunisia, and we —
Meryl: Yeah, we lived through that.
Tracey: Yeah. We broke down in the desert, and, oh, we — we flew back together, and the plane had been — the engine went, and we thought we were going to die.
Tracey: So we went through these dramatic moments.
Meryl: It was amazing, but we stayed together. In spite of it all. Had kids the same age. And Christine and I —
Christine: We were dynamos in Greece together, on Mama Mia. So then we — we had to do research by being friends, so we just hung out all the time, doing “research,” so we had a lot of fun with all of that research, and then —
Meryl: But we’d known each other a hundred years.
Christine: We have. We have, because we’re theater babes, and we’re Connecticut moms, and our kids are roughly the same age, and all three of us had long marriages, and like, shared, y’know, parallel — parallel experiences, and it’s a trick, being an actress, and wife, and mother, and having that longevity. That’s — that’s a real achievement, in my — in my opinion. That’s the greatest achievement, not just in career, but holding your life together, and look at Meryl, with four kids, and our sense of equilibrium. But, yeah. Girl friends. It’s great. So we did — we did — but then I met Tracy, and it was like, “Oh, wow…”
We didn’t spend nearly enough time together on this movie, because, you know, you have different scenes and plot lines, but we did have one wonderful, long dinner one night in London. And that was great to have .
Q: You all mentioned motherhood. What advice do you guys have for us young mothers with little kids, eight and under, little kids. What do you do to survive the life? You know, what advice do you have for us mothers, I mean, because you ladies are moms. You’ve got older kids already —
Meryl: Well, I really feel — I mean, just speaking for the group, I feel like so much has changed. Raising little kids now is so different from when our children were little kids. I mean just that — and I think that’s part of why this film and its warnings and its, you know, overweening care of the mothers and — it speaks to this time when children are, it’s harder and harder to keep the world out.
The worst parts of them out. To keep them in the little tower’s impossible. And all of the bad stuff comes in, and people worried about this film, that it maybe is too dark for kids. Kids know so much now. They’re aware of so much, and yet they’re so resilient, and innately hopeful. So that’s sort of what the film is.
The song Meryl mentions is “Stay With Me” which is a wonderful song where they are warning children to “listein” The soundtrack is phenomanol and I found the Audio of this on VEVO/Youtube so you can sample it. It just gets you into the vibe of what they are trying to say:
Tracey: Would we have taken Mabel and Grace (their children) to see this? When they were like, six? They would have handled this.
Meryl: They would’ve loved it.
Christine: Maybe. Maybe seven, eight. But kids are really like, visuals can really affect, and you can explain it away, but be careful what — what you give them visually. I mean, I remember being — seeing a — a documentary on an African tribe. There was this leopard man with long fingernails, and a mask, and I mean, it just had such an impression on me, and it just happened to be on the television set, so you never know what image will — can really get to them.
Tracey: But it goes back to these Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and we all portray them as they were written. You know. I do smack the kid ’round the head, and I was always loving him afterwards, but, you know, when you would cut your child’s foot off to marry a prince. Fairy tales were so frightening when I was a kid. They were for children to be scared of. They did get sort of sanitized a bit, fairy tales, the last 20 years.
Q: Which fairy tales did you love when you were children and wanted to share to your kids when they were little? Which ones stayed with you the most?
Meryl: Well, for me, I mean, I don’t know if that’s what I wanted to stay with me the most is what I wanted to share with my children necessarily, but I remember being really marked by Bluebeard, by this idea of a man who would take serial wives, one after another, and kill them in the castle. I was terrified by that. It’s probably why I just stayed married.
I remember being dropped off at the library when I was eight, and just having the run of the place….kids want to get ready for trouble. It’s why my son used to draw lots of monsters. Boys draw lots of scary things, because they want to get ready.
Christine: They’re intrigued by it. I mean, look at our fascination with violence in our culture. It’s just a part of it. I was always telling my kids, as read to them, that — that there was such a thing as the world of the imagination. I said, “You’re safe. If you’re in the world of the imagination, you can go anywhere, and you all come back from that, so you’re safe.
We will read this book, and it’ll take you places, but don’t worry. You will come back. There is that world.” And movies are like that. Movies should — you go there, but, remember that you can come back. You don’t transfer. It can be tricky when a child is too young. They don’t know how to do that. So, I think — one, you know, be careful, be careful, I would say. Just take care of them, their little psyches.
We both (Her 7 Meryl) raised our kids in Connecticut. I literally hauled our television set. This sounds so quaint. It’s impossible, now, I guess, but literally hauled the big television set out of our house, and we raised kids without a television set. My daughter was maybe six or seven, and she just happened — and I was downstairs. Cooking dinner, so it wasn’t like I was 3,000 miles away on a movie set. I was downstairs cooking dinner, and she was upstairs, and the TV — she just took the clicker, and like, did that, and suddenly she was watching male strippers. On Sally Jesse Raphael, and she came downstairs, and she was very disturbed.
She said, “Mommy. All these women were screaming. And there were these naked men.” And I was like, “What are you watching?” And this was an afternoon show. And I just said, “If I can’t control it when they’re just upstairs, and with a click of a button, they see something that’s so troubling,” took the damned thing out, now, as Meryl said, I don’t know how you protect kids now. From all of this. All of these toys. But I would really recommend encouraging quiet time when you just talk to your kids. And say, “Okay. We’re just going to get rid of all of this stuff. Let’s just be together, and experience, like, real time, and quiet.”
When Christine shared this it made me think of our last family vacation and while we are a very connected tech family it’s important to have those “unplug” days as well. It just goes to show that even BEFORE technology became so prevelant in todays society Moms were worried about showing their children “too much”. Which begs the question “How much is too much?” I get this question a lot about movies I screen and review and the answer lies within each parent. Only YOU know your child and what they can and can’t handle. Each child is unique. As long as communication is kept open then you as a family can decide that. The whole thing is a very interesting topic, but anyhow onto more Into The Woods Interview:
Q: Last night you had mentioned that one of the things that kind of helped you find your character was coming up with designs. So, what else — for all three of you — what else helps you develop that character into your own, instead of being that exact character that was on Broadway or just to kind of create it as “you”?
Meryl: Well, for me, I feel like the part I played was so indelibly done on Broadway by Bernadette Peters. But it’s also been indelibly done by many, many kids, throughout the country, in their high schools, and in colleges. Like any really good play, the part can morph to the shape of the person who is, you know, in there. So, I felt completely free, and also a failing memory helps me in this. I would’ve stolen from Bernadette more, if I could remember the thing. I felt free, too, he made us feel that way, Rob Marshall, and certainly Sondheim said “Do what you want.” He also wrote me a song for this, that isn’t in the film, because it sort of halted the action, but it’ll be in the DVD extras. When he sang this for me in a private session, and I was so thrilled, and he gave me the sheet music at the end.
I said, “Could — do you mind — if I — could I keep the sheet music?” And he said, “Sure.” I said, “Well, I hate to ask this, but would you — would you sign it?” And I did! And he said, “Yeah. I’d be glad to,” and he wrote: Don’t f**k it up. [LAUGHTER] Don’t put that in the mommy blog!
Q: So, back to the costumes and the makeup and hair and everything. How long was the makeup and hair process, and what was your favorite design?
Christine: You know, I was just thinking about this in getting ready today, about how the look of the step-family, and I will never forget, my first day on the set was a huge, huge scene at Dover Castle, with the arrival of Cinderella. I had been going back and forth, doing Good Wife, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time for hair and, makeup tests and all. This marvelous man, Peter King, he put on my blonde wig, and it was really big, because we originally conceived of them as a truly over-the-top, larger-than-life, trying-too-hard kind of family.
I showed up and Rob took one look at me, and went…”too big.” Then I thought as I look at the movie, and I see my various hairstyles in there, they’re a little bit, and then a little off, I think, but that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. These women, they are trying so hard. You know. You look in the mirror and go, “Mmm, no, that’s not enough, I need more hairspray. More, more, more.” And so they’re actually — they don’t get it exactly right. And so it’s — it’s funny. Little accidents can be very helpful and very human, and exactly right for the character.
Tracey: I loved my approach. Peter King said to me on the first day, “I’m going to make you a gray wig.” And most people would be like, “I don’t want to go gray.” I was like, “Great.” Made me go gray, having this wig, and I put it up in this topknot, and I had this beautiful, simple, Colleen Atwood outfit, that reminded me of a sort of Dries van Noten peasant look, and I could roll around in the leaves, and there was just no vanity, and I just loved it. I’d done so many things where I’d wear these extravagant make-ups. Just to come in and just smudge my cheeks with mud and become a peasant girl, I found it just wonderful. It’s feeling comfortable in who you are, and getting older, and not worrying about it. It’s just such a relief. There is so much pressure on how we all look, and it’s just exhausting. Dignity, girls! Aging with dignity.
Christine: The man who is sitting right over there has created that extraordinary look for Meryl. Roy Helland. [APPLAUSE]
Tracey: The Oscar-winning Roy Helland.
Meryl: Well, that was a joke, because Roy decided early on that we would have a joke on blue-haired ladies. [LAUGHTER] You know. Making fun of old ladies, because they put the blue rinse, so you don’t have yellow in the white hair, and so he thought — he said, “Well, we’re gonna have blue hair!” And it was so fabulous. And then I — we came out to LA and I see all of these young girls with blue hair, and I think: “I am on trend!” [LAUGHTER]
This was truly one of the best interviews I’ve ever had in my career and the film! The film is just one of those that you will watch over and over. So grab the family on Christmas Day and have a fun time at the movies!
MORE Into the Woods!
***Disclosure: I attended #IntoTheWoodsEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***