Andie MacDowell Is Still Scaling New Heights
The star of the movie “My Happy Ending” gets a boost from Sam Harris and bell hooks audiobooks, the music of the 1970s and the quiet intelligence of “EO.”
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By Kathryn Shattuck
There isn’t a mountain that Andie MacDowell can’t climb, or at least won’t try to.
Take her new film, “My Happy Ending,” which was shot on a shoestring budget and a whirlwind schedule in Wales, leaving MacDowell wishing for an extra week for longer prep, different angles, more takes.
Yet she eked out the time to summit Snowdon — because, well, it was there and that’s what she does — all while living with the cast and crew in campers’ housing. In the movie, MacDowell, 64, plays Julia Roth, a Hollywood star whose planned comeback on London’s West End has been canceled the same day she learns she has Stage 4 colon cancer. Denied a private room, she receives chemotherapy treatments in public at a British hospital.
She finds the character relatable. “It’s hard, but that’s like it is for an older woman,” she said in a video call from Los Angeles.
Despite the drama enveloping Julia, MacDowell didn’t want to play her as a diva. “It’s more complex, and I wanted to make her real: someone who’s struggling with her career but also has a sense of humor about it,” she said.
MacDowell — who can also be seen in “The Way Home,” her new time-traveling Hallmark series — held the rescue pup she calls Lazy Daisy for its desire to be carried as she talked about her enduring love for Paris, nightly audiobook listening and why being in nature is her happy place. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
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Walking in Paris
I moved to Paris when I was 20, and there’s that thing like ownership. It’s a piece of me. And I love it because I know how to walk there. Don’t ever go to Paris with someone who doesn’t want to walk. I always go to the Tuileries and everything around it — the Orsay, the Orangerie, the Jeu de Paume and the Louvre. And Rodin’s Garden, just so gorgeous and beautiful and romantic.
Hiking in the Smokies
My sister Beverly was a teacher, and when she retired at 65, she started leading backpacking trips. I have backpacked with her. We did Mount LeConte, the third tallest mountain in the Smokies. It has an old historic lodge and cabins from the 1930s, no roads there. You hike in, no electricity. Weathered old mountains, not new like the Rockies. Beautiful hardwood forest streams. Wildflowers. Views to make you weep along the way.
I did a movie with Harvey Keitel called “Ginostra” a long time ago, and we shot it on Panarea. It’s one of the Aeolian islands in Italy, and it looks out on Stromboli. My son Justin and I climbed Stromboli, and that was just magnificent. I mean, it’s a live volcano. You can sit there and watch it erupt, and I think there’s people that camp there. You can dig in the sand, they told me, and bury a chicken and cook your food. And then when you come down the other side, it’s like you’re flying.
I love all ’70s music — Led Zeppelin, the Who, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, Carole King and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I was supposed to go see Ringo at the Greek Theater, but I can’t go this time. I’m looking for something like that. I love “Abbey Road,” the Beatles. I used to listen to it under headphones and feel like my heart would just soar.
‘Waking Up’ by Sam Harris
At night I like to listen to audiobooks to calm me down. I’ve listened to a lot of Jack Kornfield, over and over again. Likewise bell hooks’s “The Will to Change.” And Sam Harris’s “Waking Up” — it’s like neuroscience and reasoning, and he is very spiritual. It’s pretty dense, a lot of information. It doesn’t hurt to listen to it twice.
My daughter Rainey got a little part in it toward the end, so I binge-watched the whole thing. The reason I appreciated it was it gave me insight into the struggles that made my mother mentally unstable. There’s so much that happened to women during that time that was treated as normal, but it was definitely toxic and debilitating psychologically. I think a lot of women struggled because they were dehumanized. “Mad Men” did a really good job of portraying that in a way that was easy to digest, but if you sat and thought about it, it was profound.
‘The Florida Project’
Maybe because it’s in the South, the immense poverty, the suffering, but I really loved the way Sean Baker shot it. I thought it was like watching a painting. He has a very artistic eye. I watched “Tangerine” and “Red Rocket” as well, and they’re both great. But “The Florida Project” talked to me.
“EO” is my favorite this year. I like the quietness of it. It treats you intelligently. It doesn’t tell you everything. You’re telling yourself, and you’re feeling it.
My friend Mary Alice Monroe and I turned one of her books, “The Beach House,” into a movie for Hallmark. She lives in Charleston. I go down there, and you ride your bikes and there’s a certain smell. The trees have all the Spanish moss and the sound that you hear is a different sound. There’s a lot of wildlife, a lot of beautiful birds. You take the kayaks out early in the morning, and you can see dolphins swimming beside you. I’ve checked on the sea turtles and watched the babies going into the ocean. My goal is to do more nature things because it brings me such joy.
I got a house in South Carolina this summer for me and my sisters. I just hope they can all come. Usually I book these fancy houses, but I have the dog so I couldn’t this time. But I love the house I found because it’s a little bit more like a cottage. It looks really beachy. I haven’t taken a trip just with my sisters since we were children — oh my gosh — and I’m going to be 65 in April.
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