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'Crazy? No!' Jessica Lange says of 'Big Edie' Beale in 'Grey Gardens'

August 17, 2009 |  5:15 pm

At any time during her bizarre later years as she and her daughter dwelled among mountains of rotting garbage in a dilapidated, raccoon-infested house by the sea, "Big Edie" Beale could've sold the property and moved into a clean, comfortable residence, but she refused.

The Emmy nominee who portrays the oddball aunt of Jackie Kennedy in "Grey Gardens" doesn't think Beale was officially nuts, though.

Grey gardens jessica lange 3

"I don't think insane, no," Jessica Lange tells Gold Derby in our podcast chat. Lange does admit that Beale and her daughter were "eccentric to the point of (being) beyond the realm of what we can understand," but, she adds passionately, "You can't sum it up easily."

Listen to our full chat – click on the audio player below.

"I think she was extremely courageous at a time when women were cautious," Lange adds, particularly applauding Big Edie's decision to declare, "'I'm going to live the life I want to live and I'm going to live it my way – circumstances be damned – I'm going to do what feels true to me.' So I actually find her quite admirable."

However, some observers consider Big Edie to be not only crazy, but a cruel, domineering mother who kept her daughter (Drew Barrymore) living at home in squalor with her by crushing Little Edie's self-esteem.

While preparing for the role of Big Edie, "I read a lot things, letters from the family, certain diaries," Lange adds. "What became apparent to me is that everyone had a different opinion. Some people saw Big Edie as a pariah who sucked the life out of her daughter, but on the other hand I read letters from family members who understood Big Edie knew that Little Edie didn't have the wherewithal to function and flourish in the world she imagined" on Broadway stages and Hollywood sets far away from Grey Gardens.

Lange knows what it's like to hit it big in showbiz: she's won two Oscars — "Blue Sky" (lead actress, 1994) and "Tootsie" (supporting actress, 1982). In our podcast, Lange revisits both victories and explains why they were extraordinary experiences. In the case of "Blue Sky," the movie rallied from doom and obscurity. "Tootsie" had been a hit comedy, but those rarely get the last laugh at the Oscars.

"Of all the films that I've done, that one will probably become the most classic," she says of "Tootsie."

But we began our awards chat with discussion of this year's Emmy derby and a question Lange would probably like to skip. I couldn't, though, since it was the buzz of the Internet and the TV industry before nominations came out . . . .

Photo: HBO

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