In case you haven't been paying attention, Blythe Danner is a lot more than just Gwyneth Paltrow's mom. The 71-year-old actress, who stars as a widow who finds love unexpectedly coming back into her life in the new film "I'll See You In My Dreams," is an Emmy ("Huff") and Tony ("Butterflies Are Free") Award winner. She has enlivened shows like "Will and Grace" and appeared in a slew of movies, including "The Great Santini," "The Prince of Tides" and "Meet the Parents" and its sequels. Danner has also been a regular performer at the Williamstown Summer Theater Festival, and is on its board of directors. Lewis Beale spoke to the Philadelphia native during a phone interview.
When "I'll See You In My Dreams" was shown at Sundance, you gave an interview in which you talked about not finding anyone to replace your husband, the late producer-director Bruce Paltrow, who died in 2002. Is that one of the reasons you took this role?
The part felt very comfortable. I'd done a lot of things in the last few years dealing with loss, and it was an extension of that. I've been around a long time, and after all these years there is so much to call on, different kinds of losses.
You're still a very attractive woman. Are you saying that you haven't been looking? Or that no one has been interested in you?
We had a really good cinematographer on the film. [She laughs.] I've always been a loner, I like my own company, so I have not ever felt the need to get out and about. It would be lovely if someone fell from the sky, but I've never sought dates. It would be nice to have someone in my life, but I don't want to get married again. I have children, grandchildren, I feel my life is very full.
You've been the female lead in several films, but this is the first time in your long career that you've actually been the lead in a movie. How did that feel?
It was great, because it went so smoothly. I've never been out there, never had a career that was aggressive, I'm not considered for the "A" films. I kind of left the movies when I had kids. I never had tremendous ambition, I guess. I was never a movie-star type. I wanted to be a great actress and work with good people. There are people who are movie stars, and some who aren't. There's something that the camera picks up on and loves; it's sort of mysterious.
There's been a lot of talk lately about the lack of opportunities for older actresses. How do you feel about the situation?
It's a lot better than it's been. When I started out, if you were older than 35, that was it. But it's changed with Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, much richer roles. I see it as much more positive than it used to be.
You've never been the object of the kind of tabloid and gossip attention that your daughter has been. How do you deal with that?
Thank God I turn a deaf ear to all of it. I'm not Twittering, and I don't read it. So much of it is just hateful stuff, so I just don't engage. She's a phenomenal woman who's multitalented, and I think that intimidates people. And I'm proud of her for raising so much money for my husband's oral cancer fund [Bruce Paltrow died of complications from cancer and pneumonia], and the environmental work she's doing. I am proud of her; what she's done considering all the shrapnel she gets, she handles herself well.
What kind of advice did you give her when she decided to go into the business?
We told her not to get into it, originally. You have to have very thick skin, and she probably has the thickest of skin of all of us.
Anything coming up you can talk about?
No. I'm reading up at Williamstown, and doing another commercial for the osteoporosis drug Prolia, which is good for my pocketbook. And I love having time being with my grandkids, being free for a bit. I gather there were some poor TV pilots my agent didn't send me. There's not a whole lot. I'm playing grandmothers, I even played a great-grandmother in one film. You know, I have friends who won't use their senior citizen pass on the subway, but I do, and I ride the subway all the time. Some people are just embarrassed to be getting old.