When I was asked to take part in a conversation with Andie MacDowell this week, I was thrilled. She is an actress I have grown up with and adore. To come face to face with one of your life long heroes is pretty amazing. I was told I’d be on a phone call with a few other bloggers and would be allowed to ask a few questions, so I asked about her film career, balancing motherhood and her career, on being an advocate and bringing culture into her children’s lives.
Do you have one famous person that you’ve been told you look like your entire life? For me, it’s actually Andie MacDowell. I have similar curly brown hair and when I was younger, and she had one popular film after another from Four Weddings and a Funeral, Ground Hog Day, Green Card, Sex, Lies and Videotapes and so many others, it was a constant comment from strangers. And what a compliment it was. When I was living on the Upper West Side, we saw her pushing a stroller with her husband at the time. It was a moment I’ll never forget.
So, talking to her yesterday was like meeting an old friend. I’m also from the south. She’s from South Carolina, I’m from Atlanta.
I also recently just saw her in the new film Monte Carlo with Selena Gomez, out July 1st. She plays her mother. It’s a small role, but I’m glad she’s back. She’s got a lot in the works coming to the big and small screen this year, and we talked about that, her children, how she balances work and family, and more. She was very honest and candid. Here are my favorite pieces from the interview:
How have you balanced your career and motherhood?
MacDowell: It’s always a challenge for any working mother. And there were moments that I would say to my kids, I can’t do this any more, I don’t want to work any more. My girls
in particular would say no, we’re so proud of you.
And as it turns out, I think my kids will be working moms. That’s going to be their choice of what they want to do with their lives. The generation that I came from was sometimes harsher on women making that choice. I think times have changed.
I think being a stay-at-home-mom is a lovely choice. But, having the option to be able to have a career and feel good about yourself as an individual and still be a great mother is definitely a possibility. It takes teamwork. My kids learned to be independent. We had rules and regulations, and everybody had to work together.
And all of them can cook. That’s one wonderful benefit is everybody learned to cook, so they were very helpful. They were really good kids. And now, they’re doing their own things. They’re very independent.
What can you could share from your experience of raising three teenagers and do you feel like you’ve been a different parent with a different parenting style for that younger child?
MacDowell: It all happened perfect for me because I had my son [Justin] first. And I was 28 when I had my son, and he just was a handful.
I lived in New York at the time. I remember taking him to the park, and he would be on the edge of his stroller rocking the stroller as we got there. I had to have the fanny-pack on my waist before I released him, basically because I had to run. And then, I had Rainey, two and a half years later, and same mothering, I did everything exactly the same. She was just a different person. So, I do think they come with a personality. And she was one of those laid back kids. You would stroll them in the stroller and you would say, come on, let’s go.
By the time I had Sarah Margaret, she was somewhat of a mixture of the two of them. But, I had help because she had an older brother and an older sister. And they really did help.I remember Rainey changing Sarah Margaret’s diaper and giving her a bottle. It was like her baby doll. So, it all worked out great.
I actually had seen an interview with you about Monte Carlo that you were really impressed with the teens in the movie. I would love for you to share the story of how you were sort of thinking of yourself when you started out and how these girls are also really at the beginnings of their careers.
MacDowell: Right, they’re at the cusp is what I would say. Well, I was very impressed with Selena. I have my 16 year old that has watched her on television for years, so she was in our living room. And you never know with kids that grow up working in the business what they’re going to be like. But, her mother did a beautiful job with her.
She is just such a lovely young lady, very kind and professional. And it was fun. I went to dinner with all of them, and just watched their energy. I could remember what it was like to be that age and to have the world before you and to be working on a movie that was huge. I think they all realized that they had scored big time by getting these jobs in Monte Carlo. They were very excited and happy. There was a lot of joy on the set because they know that they were working on something really special.
And Thomas Bezucha was just a great director and April Blair is a beautiful writer. It was just a magical experience. The movie’s a magical experience, and making it was one, too.
You’ve been in so many incredible movies – Sex, Lies and Videotape, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Groundhog Day, Green Card, so many of my favorites. What film experiences are you proudest of and who are your favorite leading men?
MacDowell: Not that I’m not proud of the movies that have gotten the most attention. But, I think because the ones that were highly commercially successful, people always remember them. I favor some of the ones that maybe got overlooked because they didn’t get the attention that I felt they deserved like a movie I did with Diane Keaton that she directed called Unstrung Heroes is one of my favorite movies and my kids love this movie that I did called Shadrach with Harvey Keitel that Susanna Styron directed. It’s William Styron’s daughter, and it was taken from a piece that he had written. And they loved that movie.
I did a movie called Harrison’s Flowers, which was a really difficult role for me. And I loved the movie Crush.
And so, there were some of the movies that I did that were smaller independent movies that I think were substantial that didn’t really get the same kind of attention. I’m really thankful that I did them.
And who were some of your favorite leading men or even directors?
MacDowell: –John Malkovich. I did a movie called Object of Beauty, which was also a little rather obscure. But, he was amazing to work with. He loved to try to make you laugh. I mean, he was so comfortable. He is so good at what he does that everything was different and it was always fun.
Monte Carlo is kind of a girlfriend adventure that these girls got to have, and so I wondered, what is your favorite way to connect or to spend time with your girlfriends today?
MacDowell: Well, my sister and I belong to a hiking club here. We are doing this challenge where you have to do 40 peaks over 6,000 feet. It’s very specific peaks. So, you have to do bushwhacking. It’s not an easy achievement. It’s less than 200 people that have achieved it. And so, I’m doing that with her recently. We did a two night overnight trip where we did nine peaks over 6,000 feet in two and a half days. And it was really hard. But, that’s a bonding experience that you will not forget, I promise you. So, I’m doing that, and I’m really thankful that my sister got me involved in that. There’s also 100 waterfalls that she wants to do and 100 fire towers, so I’m going be doing a lot of hiking.
I have a great group of friends that I do yoga with. It’s a completely different group. And I do a lot of teacher training, yoga training, just because it really helps me calm down, keeps things in perspective. It’s not just a physical experience for me, but it’s a spiritual experience. I really enjoy doing that, too.
Are there any books that you’re reading, your favorite summer books, or have you had time to unwind to do that?
MacDowell: I belong to two book clubs. One of them, I haven’t been great about showing up. One of them is a yoga book club. I’m reading something called Exquisite Love, and it’s written by a teacher that teaches at Davidson [William K. Mahony].
But, I did finish Shantaram. Do you know this book, Shantaram? My gosh, I think it’s 900 pages. So, I started reading that. It’s by author Gregory David Roberts. It takes place in India. It’s fabulous.
In Monte Carlo, the locations and the backgrounds and the colors are so beautiful that it’s such an inspirational movie. For people who want to travel or maybe have thought about doing it, it seems as though this could be a movie that could make them want to book some tickets. Are there any places that you’ve traveled to that you would like to travel to again or that are kind of on your top two or three that you would recommend people visit in their lifetime?
MacDowell: Oh, wow. Okay. I’ve been to a lot of different places in Africa. And I loved Egypt. I thought that was just a fascinating experience. I loved Paris, oh my gosh. Who doesn’t love Paris? I mean, it was just unbelievable. Prague is a really sweet little city. It’s like a miniature Paris. I just went to St. Petersburg, Russia and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful it was.
But, this may sound corny, but it’s really the truth for me – I love any of the beaches in North Carolina and South Carolina. There’s a place called Edisto, which looks like you’ve gone back in time because it’s so remote to get to. It’s kind of hard. It’s off the beaten path. So, there’s no modern construction. You have to drive down this two lane road, go past all these trees that are covered in Spanish moss to get to this tiny little island. And I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to, and it’s right here in the Carolinas.
When your kids were growing up, did you take them to a lot of cultural experiences, concerts, theater, etc. and sort of nurture that interest?
MacDowell: Yes. They were going to museums when they were two before they could really even understand what they were experiencing. But, they grew up loving art and going to musicals and plays.
And actually, when we lived in Missoula, they started studying acting. They had a wonderful children’s theater group in Montana, so they started dancing, taking dance and piano.
And since they were tiny, they were exposed to the arts. Rainey has some kind of a strange gift. I can’t do what she can do. It’s as if God blew air in her lungs. She has lungs like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes God blesses people with particular talents, and that was hers.
MacDowell: I think the great thing about what’s happened with me this year is I’ve had the opportunity to work on Monte Carlo, which I think is going to be a huge success. It’s very well done. It’s beautifully directed, beautifully written and very well acted. It’s nice to be in movies that people will actually see that are huge commercial successes.
I was talking earlier about some of my favorite movies that were more obscure, but it’s important to be seen in movies that people go to and have a commercial success. Also, having the opportunity to be in Footloose was I think a really big coo for me. I’m so thankful that I got that job. Again, I got to watch the director direct it because I had a smaller part. I got to watch how he orchestrated it. He was just so talented and so gifted.
And I love Kenny Wormald [Ren MacCormack in Footloose]. I knew Kenny Wormald because my daughter’s a dancer. I’ve known him for years in the dance world. He worked really hard. I think he had 12 auditions to get that role. And Julianne [Hough], of course, everybody loves her and knows that she’s a gifted dancer. So, it’s fun to be in these movies. Even though my role may be smaller, it’s fun to be in movies that people are actually going to see.
It’s great. And then, I’m going to be working on an ABC Family television show called Jane by Design that happens to be written by the same writer as Monte Carlo, April Blair.And the role for me is perfect. I play an editor that’s sort of like a little bit like The Devil Wears Prada. And the young girl that they’ve hired to play my assistant is Erica Dasher, just does a great job. She has great comic timing.
So, it’s fun right now. I’m working with a lot of young kids, young energy. It’s a really interesting time for me. I don’t know how to project out to next year. I think I have so much happening in the present, I don’t know that I can jump ahead and even project for what I want for the future, but just continue to work.
I enjoy my job. It’s my creative outlet. And now, particularly as my children are leaving, it’s important for me to have something to do that makes me feel as if I’m enjoying my life.
And when I work, it’s part of my life. I like to do other things, as well, but work is a big part of what brings me pleasure.
Well, I know that you do a lot of philanthropic work, as well. I’d love to hear about some of it and if you feel like your celebrity status has helped to make certain issues, bring them more to the public eye.
MacDowell: Yes, I enjoy very much doing philanthropic work. I think it’s important. I get a lot of attention. And I’m actually, believe it or not, somewhat of an introvert. I’ve had to learn to be an extrovert. And fame was not something I really anticipated. It’s not like you can take a Fame 101 class and learn how to handle the attention you get. But, I do think that if you can take that attention and turn it and use it and shine it on something that has value and that you find worthwhile, then it all makes sense.
I admire L’Oreal’s experience with ovarian cancer, and I not only do it on a national level, but I work locally with ovarian cancer. I also help out the community in the arts a lot. I really enjoy dance because my daughter dances. So, I support the arts in my community locally.
Habitat for Humanity, I donated enough wood off of my ranch to build a couple of houses. And it was great, because I actually had the family come back and they replanted trees. And that was a really nice connection because you could really feel that you had made a difference in someone’s life.
I really like it when it’s personal, when you can actually meet the people. I’ve met a lot of people that have ovarian cancer and worked directly with them. And that’s very satisfying to actually see that the fame has a really big purpose that you can use it for something positive.
I wondered if you traveled with your kids a lot when they were younger, whether it was on fun vacations or just trying to visit family, and if you have any tips that made that easier or just some stories about seeing things through your eyes. You mentioned culture, and so it’s exciting to be able to share something with the kids and see something new through their eyes, as well.
MacDowell: Yes. I think it’s always fun when you get to take someone with you and you don’t have to do a trip alone. And I was really lucky. I got to take my kids. You know, they went with me when I made Four Weddings and a Funeral.
We went to all the museums together. We walked all around London, did all the regular tourist things that all the other tourists did, and the same as in Paris.
My youngest daughter [Sarah Margaret] fell in love with Paris so much that she plans to move there. She wants to be bilingual. That’s her dream.
Mostly, I think I would say that I enjoyed our simple vacations, which were done with all of my family where we would go to the beach, either in South Carolina or North Carolina such as Polly’s Island. We would go to Polly’s Island, Debidue or Edisto or some place like that and get a house. And all my sisters would come down and my dad.
And those memories, the simpler times, were the fondest.
Well, you were obviously talking about living in South Carolina. I love the fact that you have sort of stayed close to your roots. And can you share how that’s had an impact on your kids, by really staying close to home instead of moving to Hollywood?
MacDowell: Well, I wanted my kids to know my family. I mean, I grew up knowing my cousins, and I wanted my kids to have that experience. And it really turned out great.
My youngest daughter and my sister’s daughter are the same age, and they went to school together from the age of four until she left. She went to North Carolina School of the Arts last year, but they went to school together. They have this just really beautiful relationship.
And I wanted them to know what my roots were like. I really admire a lot of things about the culture here about as far as manners and we have some old fashioned things here that I really enjoy.
And also, at the same time, I wanted their lives not to be about my career. I wanted it to be about whatever was happening in their lives and for the focus to be on normal things and not to be about my job.
And it was interesting because they really did turn out well. My work was never the focus of what we were doing. It was always whatever was happening in their lives.
And I was a great dance mom. I did the dance circuit with my daughter, my son’s basketball too. That’s what we were doing, and it was a lot of fun.
Disclosure: I was asked by the team at 20th Century Fox to be on the call with Andie MacDowell. I was not compensated for this interview but I was given total freedom on asking whatever questions I wanted and was able to post whatever part of the interview I chose to.