ALSO, I WANT TO HOLD YOUR HAND AND 1941
Mike Smith at Movie Mikes talked with Nancy Allen over the holidays, touching on films such as Carrie, Blow Out, 1941, I Want To Hold Your Hand, and RoboCop. Allen talks about how her role in Brian De Palma's Carrie pigeonholed her as a certain type for a while, and also how John Travolta began getting quite famous during the shooting of that film. Here is an excerpt from the interview covering two De Palma films:
MS: You made four films with Brian De Palma, who you later married. Did you find it easier or harder to work on a project with someone you’re basically spending 24 hours a day with?
NA: We met working on “Carrie,” so my initial relationship with him was a professional one. And quite honestly we didn’t spend a lot of time together on the set because he and I had different responsibilities. So you’re not really together 24 hours a day. Maybe you find time to grab a bite to eat afterwards but you’re so tired that it’s almost like you’re not there. And that, I think, is the challenging part… to find the moments. Because whether you’re working together or not working together, you have to find those moments. On a professional level, there’s a kind of short hand you develop because you really do know each other so well. The communication is much simpler. He knew me and he knew how to get the performance he needed from me and I trusted his direction. Of course, the toughest part is everybody else’s conversations about it! (laughs)
MS: You had the rare opportunity of working with John Travolta just as his career was beginning to take off and then immediately after he exploded onto the scene. Did you notice any difference in the way he approached his work?
NA: No. John is very particular and meticulous about his work. His career actually started exploding at the end of filming “Carrie.” His show (television’s “Welcome Back, Kotter”) had just started airing. I hadn’t seen it but I could sense things on the set. The week we shot the car crash scene the police had to put up barricades. He and I drove to the set together and I was like, “Oh my gosh, who are all of these people waiting for?” On “Blow Out” I had a little trepidation because it had been a few years and a lot had happened. He had already had some high highs but also a few low lows so I really didn’t know what to expect. But the minute he came in we sat down, had something to eat and talked about the movie…started doing some improv. We always had great chemistry and John was John. He was still fun. He was still adorable. I loved working with him. He’s really one of the favorite people that I worked with in my career.
MS: You were both brilliant in “Blow Out.” It kills me that the film was virtually ignored when it came out and is so under appreciated.
NA: It’s actually become a phenomenon in France. People there are crazy for that movie. And I think over the years that people have caught on to it. But it had so many problems. How it was released was a problem and when it was released was a problem. Back then you had summer movies and fall movies. Films were really released a specific way then. Brian tried to convince them that the film wasn’t a big summer block buster. But because the studio had John Travolta they wanted to try and make it a summer blockbuster. And it didn’t work. But it’s got a great cast, an amazing script…it’s a piece I’m really proud of.
MS: You followed “Carrie” with two very strong comedy performances in “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “1941.” Do you have a preference between drama and comedy?
NA: I love them both. Comedy seems easier because you’re getting the chance to be funny and have fun. When you’re doing a dramatic piece, a lot of times you have to go to those dark places so when you’re doing the work it’s a lot more taxing on your spirit. And a lot of it is the tone…the tone of the set is certainly affected by the piece. Though I have to say that on “Blow Out” we laughed an awful lot. You have to. It’s exhausting to bring up those tears and all of that. So sometimes you have to just be silly.
In the following excerpt, Allen discusses being typecast after Carrie, and how Steven Spielberg finally realized he had a part that was perfect for the actress:
MS: Going back to the comedy or drama question, do you think that because you may have been perceived as a certain type of actress – lots of screaming, lots of suspense – that you may have been typecast in some filmmakers’ opinions?
NA: I think it’s something that just happened. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is a fantastic movie. It just wasn’t a big hit. I think that when you’re successful in a certain genre – more so even then than now – and if you’re a woman, they think “that’s what she’s successful at…let’s get her to do more of that.” You have no idea how many of those kinds of scripts I was sent after I did “Carrie.” I mean I waited a year and a half before I did “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I think it’s a case where some people don’t even think of you along those lines. Even on “1941.” Steven had cast almost the whole movie and pretty much everybody I knew was in it. And they’d tell me “there’s a perfect part for you in it.” And I’d tell them, “well, Steven knows me. I’m sure he’d be calling me if he thought that.” He finally did call and when I went in to meet with him he said, “I don’t know if it’s because I know you from your work or because I know you personally but I didn’t think of you and you’re perfect for this. I don’t even have to read you.” So there’s a case of someone who knew my work and knew me personally and professionally and didn’t think of me. So I think we remember people for what they’re successful in and we want them to repeat it. Then we beat them up for it…“why do you always do this…it’s not as good as the last one!” (laughs)