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Jane Alexander wants to get under Oscar voters' skins

January 11, 2010 |  3:42 pm

Four-time Oscar nominee Jane Alexander is rallying behind a controversial film on the academy's list of semi-finalists for best documentary feature — "Under Our Skin."

Among its critics, for example, is Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, who believes the film "embraces, with bits and pieces of skimpy evidence and a whole lot more paranoid leftist fervor, the notion that 'chronic Lyme disease' is a condition that the medical establishment is locked in a conspiracy to deny the existence of."

Under our skin 2

But "Under Our Skin" filmmakers assert that they're exposing "one of the most controversial and fastest growing epidemics of our time," adding, "Each year thousands go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, often told that their symptoms are 'all in their head.' " The docu scrutinizes the medical struggles of several people who believe they suffer from an extreme form of the disease and "Under Our Skin" shows how they had to battle the medical establishment to get treatment.

So why is Alexander giving a rare interview to crusade for the film?

"This movie is controversial because there's still been a lack of diagnosis of Lyme Disease, the tests are often faulty and the medical community still refuses to treat it in the aggressive manner it needs," she tells Gold Derby in our podcast chat. "I think it's shocking. I've been involved with Lyme Disease — I've have it twice — since the early 1970s when it wasn't even called Lyme Disease. Since then I've known so many people — at least 50% of my own family members have had Lyme Disease, if not once, twice. And I've had friends suffer severely with it."

Alexander not only discusses her passionate view of current Oscar contender "Under Our Skin," but she also recalls her own experiences as past nominee for "The Great White Hope," "All the President's Men," "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Testament." Plus, she dishes with us about her previous wins and losses at the Emmy and Tony Awards.

Listen to our full podcast chat with Jane Alexander by clicking on the right-pointing arrow below.

Photos: Open Eye Pictures

The comments to this entry are closed.


I heard an interview with the film maker about the story on the Lyme Disease Research Database. it's a pretty powerful story.

I love it -- Jane was totally there in 1977 when she was nominated for All the President's Men and lost to Beatrice Straight!

RRBrittan: I am not a celebrity-just a normal mom with two boys that I have to look at every day as they search for who I use to be. My life has been robbed by the celebrity disease - LYME DISEASE- tested negative from Lab Corp in September 2008 - continued to get very ill (family thought I was dying) Finally in December 2008 tested through Igenex positive for lyme and babesia. Unfortunately, it was soon enough and I am still battling this disease. By the way Lab Corp tested me again November 2009 and positive by CDC Standards! Read my friend - you might prevent someone you know and love from enduring the flu on a daily basis. Thanks to Ms. Alexander! Your comments are comforting!

Thank you, Ms. Alexander, for sharing your story and advocating for "Under Our Skin", a documentary that has dramatically brought this serious health problem to the public's attention. It would be great to see this film on PBS, HBO and other venues.

I have suffered from Lyme disease infection since 1998. At one time or another, I have experienced Parkinson's tremors, ALS respiratory dysfunction, encephalopathy, dementia and the list goes on and on. Now I have Multiple Sclerosis from Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme infection). My story is posted on my website at

It was an honor and a blessing to have been selected to represent Lyme disease patients by testifying at the IDSA Review Panel Hearing in Washington, DC last July 30th.

At the hearing, I publicly requested "that the CDC and IDSA and their spokespersons stop making fraudulant public statements that chronic Lyme disease does not exist", as they themselves have proven that it does exist and it is difficult to eradicate.

So far, I haven't heard a whimper out of the Lyme Medical Cartel, and it's so refreshing to not have to read and hear them spewing forth lies to the media.

Whether the Panel votes to significantly revise the IDSA Guidelines or not, we advocates have a lot of work yet to do.

We must still get the medical research into the hands of infectious disease physicians who blindly follow the IDSA's damaging and controversial recommendations for diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease.

Read L.E.A.P.'s January 2010 Newsletter at this link:

Thanks for your many efforts, Jane, Andy and Kris!! Keep up the good work!!


Tina J. Garcia
Lyme Education Awareness Program
L.E.A.P. Arizona
P.O. Box 2654
Mesa, AZ 85214-2654
480-219-6869 Phone
480-830-2788 Fax

Lyme is a very serious disease. When I was first diagnosed last year I had no idea what it encompassed. Having done a ton of research and seen many specialists I am completely amazed at the lack of information from the medical community and the lack of a united front in figuring out a cure. I was shocked to learn of the 2 "camps" with the differing opinions on the existence and how to treat it. The documentary showcases the very hardship of this disease and it's very important to educate the public what it is. That has been my mission since early 2009 - to educate those around me. This film gives light to the disease, the controversies, the struggle and the impact on one's daily life. I am one of the lucky ones and after a year of a daily dosage of anitbiotics and other drugs (up to 30 pills a day) I may be cured. Maybe. But I have talked to so many others that have been so adversely impacted by this disease that their lives will be permanently changed. I definitely think this film should make the final list as it will be a step in enlightening the general public of this growing disease.

I contracted my disease in beautiful Marin county (Northern California) on a hike around Phoenix Lake.

I want to add my support to the people who advocate for more understanding of Lyme disease. For those who believe it is not an important and often devastating illness, I suggest looking at the research articles about the amazing microorganism that causes this disease. Borrelia burgdorferi is considered one of the most complex bacteria ever discovered. Although these spirochetes are often difficult to find as there may only be a few infecting the person, they are qualitatively powerful, can change shape, and have many different strains. Better laboratory tests are needed to match the complexity and dynamics of this microbe. However the need for more information does not change the reality of the evidence that has been discovered. Evidence that begins with each person and family, including myself, who know the experience of having an illness that is yet to be recognized and respected by the general population. I hope this documentary will be given the respect it deserves. Kara B.

Jane Alexander was lucky that she was treated for Lyme Disease and recovered. I know many who were not treated in time or were not treated correctly or were not treated long enough and they never recovered. They suffered pain and overwhelming fatigue for the rest of their lives. I have seen Under Our Skin, and it is a great documentary.


"celebrity disease"...hum.....should I get my OSCAR NOW?

Yes, the brave face i wear for my children...don't want them to know the pain I have is horrible.That is Oscar worthy.

Or was it that night I stayed sprawled on the bathroom floor, too weak to move,too sick to move.Wow, that was a performance, so real....oh yeah, it was real!!!!

Lyme is here,get educated.

Thank you Jane for getting the word out.

Anyway, pray to God you or a loved one Never has to endure this living HELL.

Maybe Lyme wouldn't be a chronic condition if humans were regularly tested for it like many dogs are. My husband has spent the last three years searching desperately for an answer to his severe and dibilitating pain. He has gone from a proud and hard worker to a depressed and home bound individual. 14 doctors, three surgeries, countless drugs, MRI, bone scans and blood tests. But no one ever tested for Lyme. And when someone finally did, that doctor didn't know that the Western Blot test needs to report EVERY band for accurate results, so he told us the test was negative. It was only because we did our own homework that we finally have an answer.

What could have been a short term problem has devestated us, financially and otherwise. What could have been treated early on with a $50 prescription (or less!) has now cost our insurance company more than $100,000 in the last year alone due to a now questionable surgery. We have easily paid an additional $10,000+ out of pocket for things insurance wouldn't cover. Add on the cost of disability and it only gets worse. If not for our children, I think I would be a widow by now. The pain is so severe and it is a constant parade of doctors who can't tell you what is wrong or if it will ever get better. It doesn't leave much of a life to live.

Everyone, please, make it your mission to read more than the CDC and ISDA opinions. Learn about Igenex lab, how to get an accurate Western Blot test, and the signs and symtoms of chronic Lyme. What have you got to lose? Lyme is here, in Southern California. If this were you, or someone you loved, wouldn't you want them to get better? Better yet, educate yourself (and your doctor!) so you can recognize Lyme before someone you love is suffering unbearably too.

This is a real disease, as I've been suffering from Lyme Disease and another tick-borne infection, Babesia, since 2006. And without any conspiratorial overtones, I can say that this disease is more serious than has traditionally been mentioned in media outlets or even sites like WebMD, but slowly the tide is turning and the message is getting out there that not everyone gets Lyme diagnosed and treated right away... Nor is the treatment that is provided on time always enough to cure the disease.

I think Big Pharma would still make pretty good money off of me if it is discovered that those with late-stage Lyme Disease are infected for life, as I would be buying antibiotics and taking them like candy until I am old and gray. Since there has been no effective vaccine developed for this illness (and it's been tried, and failed) plus it is too late for those of us who have been infected to benefit from a vaccine, it makes a lot of sense to put money into research substantiating the persistence of this infection and effective drugs to treat the infection (and not merely treat the multitude of symptoms, like arthritis drugs for Lyme arthritis or antidepressants for depression caused by a bacterial infection in one's brain).

I am tired of both the conspiratorial tones as well as the politics behind Lyme. I am aghast at the IDSA guidelines used to treat Lyme, and shudder at the Dearborn criteria being used for Lyme Western Blot profiles (if you don't know what Dearborn is, it basically redefined the definition of a positive Lyme test, limiting it and excluding people who need treatment). I am tired of the arguments between ILADS ( and IDSA camps over what the right treatment plan is.

I don't really care about people taking sides any more. I just want someone to
look at all the research out there, and give me my life back.

I want scientists to do more studies on much longer term antibiotic use (beyond the Klempner study) and how it affects Lyme patients. After all, if tuberculosis patients need antibiotics for 2 years and others take antibiotics for acne much longer, isn't is justified to treat Lyme with antibiotics long-term if it improves outcomes?

During all the political in-fighting, life goes on here. Or tries to... I have had trouble holding down a full-time job because I am in pain daily, have trouble walking and getting out of bed some days, have trouble concentrating and following conversations or meetings at length, can barely multitask, and suffer other symptoms too numerous to get into (nor do I wish to).

I used to work in engineering and travel the world, now I can be a burden on the system and also my friends and family... If anyone is reading this, believe that Lyme is not a celebrity disease and has a potential to affect ANYONE. West Nile Virus and all, more people are infected with Lyme than with HIV on an annual basis, and all it took was a 20 minute walk in the woods for me one fine June day to change my life.

If you are reading this, fiscally conservative, and want me to be a productive citizen again, contributing to the economy: Petition health insurers to allow Lyme patients to be given antibiotic trials and put us on long-term antibiotics. A number of us DO get back to normal or near-normal functioning, rather than living hopelessly on disability and charity. If you are reading this, and are liberal, please push for a public option where Lyme patients are treated with adequate regimens of long-term antibiotics and where coinfections are also tested for and treated. Thank you.

Thank you for this interview and thank you Ms. Alexander for endorsing one of the most significant films that has and will continue to save lives, and quality of life for so many.

Canada just lost a leading entrepeneur at the young age of 60 to Lyme disease. Gabe Magnotta suffered for 4 years before a diagnosis was made and treatment began. see ... 'White knight' dies from Lyme ... There have been other deaths in Canada within weeks of Mr. Magnotta's passing as a result of Lyme disease.

Under Our Skin has raised the profile of Lyme disease in Canada in every Province. Nova Scotia, as Ms. Alexander mentioned only became offically aware of the disease within it's boundaries 2-4 years ago yet I acquired my infection in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in 1991 as have many others acquired it long before it was offically recognized in Nova Scotia and the rest of Canada.

Under Our Skin is a tremendous film, and it takes a hard hit, rightly so, at the heart of the medical machine which is rife with conflicts of interest. It highlights why we must take medical research out of the control of corporate boardrooms. We have the science on our side but are blocked at every avenue to get our experts at the table to set Lyme policy for doctors to follow.

Thank you Jane for stepping forward to tell how you and your family have been affected personally by Lyme disease and co-infections/other diseases the ticks carry!

We hope UNDER OUR SKIN WIN'S documentary OSCAR! They deserve to win for this well-done documentary.

I've had chronic lyme disease 40 years last Christmas; 34.5 yrs. misdiagnosed by 40-50 drs. UNACCEPTABLE. Never was lyme mentioned as a possibility to all of my health problems.

See the IDSA, infectious disease society of america's, CONFLICTS OF INTEREST .... $$$$ all over the place. Is it helping us with CHRONIC lyme and co-infections to get better? NOPE; it's making us worse since idsa undertreats lyme patients. HOG WASH!

It's time that congress refuses to accept LOBBYIST money and put our lyme disease bills on the AGENDA to be discussed since they've now been there almost 11 full years and NEVER placed on the agenda for full discussion since the "medical community" aka IDSA DRS. are paying them off NOT to discuss the nationwide epidemic of LYME DISEASE.

Accurate sites of info are:,, are just a few of MOST accurate info for lyme/co-infection patients.

TO THOSE WHO CAN VOTE, SEE UNDER OUR SKIN DVD NOW, & VOTE "YES" FOR THEM TO WIN! the Lyme community thanks you from the bottom of our hearts! :) hugs/kisses

Kudos to Alexander for stepping up to the plate on this. Lyme disease can be very debilitating, since it attacks the Central Nervous System. The medical community consistently misdiagnoses lyme disease, which is much more treatable if caught in the early stages.

Most doctors are either uneducated or too bullheaded to properly treat patients with lyme symptoms, stating that the patients can't have lyme disease because they live in California. This is total bunk... it DOES exist here, and is likely in many of our own backyards and neighborhood parks.

"Under Our Skin" is an important documentary that deserves to be recognized by the Oscar committee.

RBBrittain, are you on some other planet or do you just claim ignorance!
I have lived with this devastating,debilitating disease since 1992 and have suffered more than you will ever know!
I just hope that you never contract Lyme Disease because if you do you will forever regret your words here.
I'm a firm believer in the fact that if you have no idea what you're talking about its best to keep your mouth shut! That's what you should have done RBBrittain! Thank you Ms. Alexander for your support of "Under Our Skin"!

Under Our Skin addresses a problem that affects people of all political persuasions. As a Registered Nurse with a Master of Science in Nursing, with almost all of the research papers needed for that degree focusing on some aspect of Lyme disease, the science behind Under Our Skin is sound. It is not based on the few studies accepted by many infectious disease doctors, who only considered about 400 of the 18,000 available studies when the most recent guidelines were developed. Under Our
Skin gathered information from many of the other studies that have been published in peer-reviewed medical journal, as well as information from individuals on the front lines of this infection. The infectious disease doctors who established the guidelines do not practice medicine. They only conduct research and see only those patients that meet specific standards that are needed for the specific study. They also frequently state that patients with symptoms and a positive test for Lyme disease are sick as a result of another disease and the positive test for Lyme is a false positive. Under Our Skin presents an accurate picture of Lyme disease and the struggles that many go through when dealing with this issue.

Jane's info is accurate. This is no new made up celebrity disease. My life was destroyed by Lyme, largely because it was not diagnosed for 20 years. Most folks have no idea how large a role Lyme and related intracellular pathogens play in chronic disease and the aging process. Insurance companies deny Lyme even exists because they don't want to pay for treatment. Big Pharma suppresses diagnosis and treatment because when the cure for Lyme/Intracellular pathogens is perfected, it will also likely cure many chronic auto-immune diseases - which will cost Big Pharma billions in the sales of drugs designed only to suppress symptoms. "Under Our Skin" exposes a current real life tragedy that begs for consciousness. Coming to a skin near you.

This "celebrity disease" as you call it has affected me, a teacher, since 1993. The diagnosis was given of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome back then, when it was really Lyme Disease. After many years of struggling to continue teaching I was forced to take Retirement Disability because of shortness of breath, brain fog, and severe muscle weakness. I've been on aggressive treatment for a little over a year now, and am beginning to see some improvement. It is apparently too easy for someone like you, RBBrittain, who is clearly uninformed and closed minded to the suffering of so many others, and yes even deaths.

Previous commentator wrote that lyme was some "new celebrity disease."

Obviously, the commentator is not aware of the nose of his or her face.

Lyme is the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States, with tens or hundreds of thousands of cases diagnosed each year.

Because testing is poor, new cases often go undiagnosed, leaving the patient to journey into late stage lyme disease where a cure is often not attainable.

Like all spirochetal diseases, the lyme spirochete can evade the immune system through a multitude of mechanisms, as well as rendering antibiotics useless.

Certain powers that be would have us turn a blind eye to this disease,... for political, financial, and career motivations.

Such atrocities have happened before in history. This is not something new.

I think a little research should be required before someone has the right to express an opinion.

Puhleeze. Just because she wuz robbed of an Oscar for "Kramer vs. Kramer" (when the Academy decided to nom Meryl Streep for supporting instead of lead, probably to assure the movie didn't win more than 4 of the top 6 awards--something no film has done before or since) doesn't give her a pass to create some new celebrity disease...



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