All of you autograph collectors will understand these two things. The biggest celebrity you ever got a signature from after never thinking it would happen (mine would be Paul McCartney; took me 10 years). The other thing we all love is that autograph project we’re working on. It might be that “American Graffiti” movie poster you’re trying to get signed by the entire cast, or that Eagles album that’s signed by only two of the band members. It can be frustrating trying to get it done, but once you finish it, nothing is more thrilling.
I’ll tell you the projects I love. It’s when I have something fall into my lap, that becomes a project, and one I’m excited to get done. Here’s how the latest one developed.
As a movie critic, I’m given the opportunity to interview countless actors. When “Hell or High Water” came out, director David Mackenzie and actor Gil Birmingham (Twilight, The Space Between Us) came to town, but I hadn’t seen the movie at that time, so I declined the interview. What a fool I was. When I eventually saw the film, I loved it. In fact, it’s my favorite film of the year.
I was lucky enough to run into Birmingham again, with his co-star Jeff Bridges. I brought my Hell or High Water DVD for them to sign, but instead of jumping all over Bridges, I thought I’d be funny. I walked up to them saying, “I am so thrilled to be meeting you. You’re such a great actor and were terrific in this movie.” As Bridges smiled, I shook Birmingham’s hand as if it were him I was referring to. He and Jeff both laughed, and we talked a bit about the movie. I had them sign my DVD and couldn’t have been happier. My favorite movie of the year, signed by one of the best actors around.
Fast forward to a month later. I see in the L.A. Times, a quick interview with Margaret Bowman. You might not recognize that name, but you will soon enough. She’s a character actress that was terrific in her scenes in “Hell or High Water”. In fact, she’s so good, that one of her co-stars from “Best in Show” (Michael McKean) claimed that performance the best one of the year, in his favorite movie of the year. So I did what any journalist would do. I tracked down Ms. Bowman in her hometown in Texas and did my own interview with her.
The interview went well (and excerpts of it appear below), and what really was the cherry on top, was asking for her autograph. Now, I considered sending her the DVD that the other two signed, but the thought of it getting lost in the mail scared me. I once had a “Raging Bull” photo signed by Robert De Niro, and I sent it to Cathy Moriarty. I never got it back. I still cringe thinking about that. Well, as I was putting the interview together and preparing to post it on our website, an idea occurred. Since she’s the waitress barking orders at Bridges and Birmingham, I would get one of those receipts from a waitress at a local restaurant. I’d sent it to her and that way, if it got lost in the mail, I don’t lose my Jeff Bridges signed DVD.
I asked Margaret if she’d sign it for me, and she said she would. I also asked her to write “What don’t ya want?!”
If you saw the movie, you realize how funny that is. She wouldn’t let those two guys order anything off the menu but T-bone steak, and merely snapped at them about what sides they didn’t want.
I’m hoping to someday meet Ben Foster, one of the most underrated actors working today (check him out in “3:10 to Yuma” or “The Messenger”). Unfortunately, when I met Chris Pine at the screening of the last “Star Trek,” I completely forgot he was in the movie. I was telling him how much I enjoyed his dad’s work when I was a kid (he was the a cop in CHiPs). It wasn’t until my wife said, “Did you tell him how much you loved him in ‘Hell or High Water’?” that I remembered he was in the film.
That’s what happens when you see five movies a week. You forget who’s in what.
Anyway, I can’t thank Margaret Bowman enough for a terrific interview, and helping to make this project a fun one. Once Foster, Pine, and Mackenzie sign my DVD, I’ll be framing these all together.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
JOSH BOARD: You started acting classes in your 50s. Did you ever imagine it would lead to roles in movies, or did you just think it would be something interesting to pursue, even if that just meant doing small, community theatre productions?
MARGARET BOWMAN: I decided to re-invent myself in my late 50s. My first career, raising a family of six kids, was drawing to a close. I had one 9-year-old left at home, my husband Jay was on a job in South Korea, I was grieving over a loss, so I had to find something to occupy my time. Did I mention that I hate housework? So dusting and vacuuming were really not appealing time occupiers. My sister said to me, “God is moving you on to the next level of your life.” She was so right. I saw a one paragraph article in the Houston Chronicle about acting classes at the YMCA. Aha! I thought that might be interesting and fun. I never thought it would become a career with movies and touring company plays in my future, but that’s what happened. It was love at first line for me, and the teacher recommended AADA. I auditioned and was accepted, called my husband in Korea and said “I’m going back to school”. He said, as he always did for my hair-brained ideas, “Go for it Babe.” I loaded my 9-year-old in my van and we were off to California for summer school. The rest is history.
JOSH BOARD: When was the first time you were recognized, and what was that experience like? Julia Roberts told me it was in a bathroom, and somebody slipped a piece of paper under the stall for an autograph. What was your moment of being recognized like?
MARGARET BOWMAN: The first time I was recognized was when I was working at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN, the Mother Church of country music, doing a show called Lost Highway, The Music and Legend of Hank Williams. It was in a restaurant when we were waiting in line for a table. My daughter had come over from Dallas to see the show and she noticed a group of people whispering and looking our way. I heard her say “Yep, that’s her.” I was thrilled but tried not to show that it was my first time to be recognized. It happened the next time a few days later at the mall when my granddaughter and her husband were visiting from Longview TX. They got to share the thrill.
JOSH BOARD: Who did you meet on a movie set that was a lot different than you thought they’d be?
MARGARET BOWMAN: Sissy Spacek, whom I love. She’s shy until she gets to know you, then she’s warm and friendly. Javier Bardem is a prankster, loving to pull jokes on people. The wonderful four men in Hell or High Water. Ben Foster is a dear man and won a place in my heart. Chris Pine loves to laugh. Gil Birmingham, that handsome man, is warm and friendly and then there’s Jeff Bridges, one of the most generous. He’s interested in other people. Warm, friendly men it’s been my good fortune to meet. I would love to be able to call all of those men, as well as Taylor Sheridan, the writer and David McKenzie, the director, friend. I have only had one really bad experience on a movie set and that was many years ago with an actor who thought he was much better than he really was. I’ve been privileged to work with some great directors, some of the top stars in Hollywood, and some of the best makeup artists, hair dressers, and costumers in the business, to say nothing of the cinematographers who make me look like the character I’m portraying.
JOSH BOARD: Movie critics and reporters have long commented on how tough an interview Tommy Lee Jones can be. He always seems grumpy, and is a man of few words. Yet Meryl Streep recently said how he said some encouraging things on the set. Any conversations you had with him that you can share from No Country For Old Men?
MARGARET BOWMAN: I had heard that Tommy Lee Jones is a bear to work with. He wasn’t that way with me. He co-wrote the screenplay to Elmer Kelton’s book The Good Old Boys. I played an old woman, Mrs. Faversham, whose mind has gone. He was friendly but focused on the business at hand. It was his first time to direct as well as star in a film. He used the word “exquisite” a lot, as in “exquisite Margaret” when I’d bring something to the character that he really liked. Although it was early in my career it’s one of my favorite movies. He cast me from my first audition tape, back when we were still doing mostly live auditions. It was a beautiful TV movie for TNT. I liked working with Tommy Lee.
JOSH BOARD: As a teenager, my little sister had posters of Don Johnson on the wall. His TV show Miami Vice was the biggest thing in the world. You worked with him on The Hot Spot. Was he as good looking in person? Again, I’m asking for my sister.
MARGARET BOWMAN: Yep. He was good looking!
JOSH BOARD: Who have you been most excited to meet on set? You’ve been in movies with Steve Martin, Liam Neeson….
MARGARET BOWMAN: I’m always excited to get on the set. I’m excited to be working with that director, perhaps even more than working with that actor. Rick Linklater is one of my favorites as are the Coens. David M. of course. I was very excited to be in a couple of scenes with Glenn Ford. He was the epitome of a gentleman. Jack Fisk, Sissy Spacek’s husband, directed that one. I’ve done two films with Sissy and that was great.
JOSH BOARD: Did you realize No Country for Old Men was as violent as it was? And, did you laugh at Javier Bardem’s haircut on set?
MARGARET BOWMAN: Yes, I realized that No Country was a very violent movie. I had read the script. Javier’s character was so scary and seemed simplistic at first glance but then you began to see that he had a code of conduct that he lived by. What made him the way he was? I found myself talking silently to the other characters because I knew what was coming even when reading the script. But what happens between him and the sheriff at the end? No I didn’t laugh at his haircut. I didn’t want a bolt through my head. We had a laugh because he said I gave him the evil eye. I guess that’s why I was allowed to live.
JOSH BOARD: Hell or High Water was my favorite movie of the year, and you’re one of many reasons this film was so terrific. You were incredible in your scene. I remember Bonnie Hunt once talking about how her first role was a waitress in Rain Man. She rehearsed her lines for days, and her first take, she did horrible. She screamed the lines and Barry Levinson (the director) had to tell her to merely act surprised, not angry. Sometimes with a small part, it seems it would be hard to rehearse lines, or understand exactly what the director wants. How many takes did you do? I had this impression you may have done a few, because I don’t know how Jeff Bridges or Gil could keep from laughing with you snapping at them like that.
MARGARET BOWMAN: Ah, we get to one of my very favorite roles. It’s been good for me. I prepared the same as I do any role I’m fortunate enough to get. I create a back story. A scene doesn’t begin when the director says action. That’s just when the cameras roll. A scene begins many years before. What’s your age, your marital background, your education, economic situation, why are you at this place at this time? I call the T-Bone waitress Maizie, because Maizie don’t take nothin offa nobody. Oddly enough we didn’t have to do many takes. David told me to take it and run with it. Gil and Jeff, being the generous and fine actors they are let me have the scene. Their reactions are priceless which made me look good. Generous men, as I said.
JOSH BOARD: Lastly, my wife wants to know…if you’re only asking the customers what they “don’t want,” why do you need a notepad to write their orders down?
MARGARET BOWMAN: I guess the props people need to look needed.