May 5, 2020 Interview – Talia Shire
Some look at a job as merely such. Then there are others who put all of themselves into their work. Coming from an artistic family, Talia Shire is an actress who revels in the challenge of creating a character and engulfing herself in its metamorphosis. Doing just that as Connie Corleone in The Godfather films, as well as Adrian Balboa in the Rocky series, Shire’s portrayals are sincere and exceptionally human. Roles she is famously celebrated for, including two Academy Awards nominations, one should look a bit further, because throughout the decades Shire has been a part of many interesting films.
Most recently taking on a part in the timely Working Man, she once again brings life to the screen as a part of a talented cast that includes Peter Gerety and Billy Brown. A film set to premiere Tuesday, May 5th via Video On Demand, Shire recently sat down to talk about her career as an actress, what she looks for in a character, joining on for Working Man, plus a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been acting professionally now for over five decades, attaining success, including award nominations; you have accomplished a great deal. First, briefly tell us, what was your initial inspiration to pursue a career as an actress?
Talia Shire – I think there is a certain amount of freedom behind the mask of a character, which I was always looking for because I’m pretty shy. I’m somebody who watches everything very carefully, I watch everyone. I’ve always loved the performing arts since I had been a child. In fact, when I was eight years old I traveled on the road with my parents; my father was conducting the musical Kismet. I was fascinated with what took place backstage, that just dazzled me, but there was also a certain amount of freedom within it all. Also, as I grew older and started to read – let’s say the Greek plays, Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, and Luigi Pirandello – these things were so fascinating to me. They all dealt with the one thing I’m still interested in, which is how are things passed on. I know that is a lot to think about, but I’m a theater major. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it has a very deep meaning to you. It is interesting how you say you are naturally very shy, as, of your many roles, you have often portrayed shy yet strong female characters. Is this something important to you when deciding to take on a part?
Talia Shire – I don’t act so much anymore, so I’m not pursuing actively those things. Although, I act everyday in my living room, because I’m always reading or re-reading plays. Someone once said to me, “If you get a chance to play a character, you are transforming yourself.” There is something that character gives you.
I think I was always fascinated with how do you play the shy person who has prowess, and who has that moment where she can have a transformation. That was always very interesting to me. Obviously, Connie Corleone in The Godfather films, as well as Adrian Balboa in the Rocky series, were characters that had those moments.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and your character in the new film Working Man has those moments too. You play a strong, supportive wife of a defeated, recently laid-off factory worker. How did the part of Iola Parkes come about for you?
Talia Shire – I love Clark Peterson. I’ve worked with him through the years, and he brought this project to me; he is a man of good tastes and he asked me to read it. I have to tell you, it was fascinating to read because I thought, “What am I reading? There is a man walking around this town. What is his mystery? Why is he doing this penance?” The job is over, but he is still doing this.
I was fascinated with the construction of the piece – it was Robert Jury’s first as a writer and director. I thought it was extremely important, because we are dealing with this right now in our country with the closing down and transformation of factories. To be happy, a man needs a job and love. We feel this right now because a lot of us are quarantined. You need to wake up, have a job, and be productive. We are in a time of transition, with or without this virus, the technology is changing everything. This is a moment in a time where we need education. Working Man appealed to me because this was a moment that a town was shutting down and they needed to work, but also, it appealed to me because it was about a marriage shutting down, as well.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, it is very powerful. The film really hits home on various fronts, from the aspect of the mistreatment of the working class, to the struggles with facing issues in our lives, to ultimately the power of the human spirit. What was your biggest takeaway from the film’s message?
Talia Shire – Transformation; spiritual transformation, and the extraordinary capacity for the human being to have a transformation. The transformation is very interesting to me, and that’s what actors look for. Also, it is about loss, the loss of a child. The takeaway was profound for me.
My oldest brother, August Coppola, who has passed away, was the dean of creative arts at San Francisco State. His big thing was education: we need education and we need to prepare people for this moment in time; it’s a moment of transformation. I hate to speak this way, but we are all quarantined, so we’re looking at these things, right?
Cryptic Rock – Yes, that is why the film release is very poignant. No one planned it this way, but it hits home even more because of what we are all presently going through.
Talia Shire – Yes, we are all going through it. I know people don’t realize this, but Hollywood, that great, stable place, was also a factory town. People woke up, they were musicians, actors, set designers, costume designers, and they went to work in this factory. Well, that has closed down. We need a place to work, we need a product. It is a moment in time and I think all of us in this quarantine are introspective and asking questions – What is our product? What is the meaning of our life?
Cryptic Rock – Most certainly. It certainly touches on a lot of issues facing us in society. The majority of the film you are playing alongside Peter Gerety, who plays your husband, and Billy Brown, who plays his co-worker. What was it like working with them?
Talia Shire – Wonderful! I love low budget movies; I come from that Roger Corman tradition and I value that. I think Peter and Billy felt that way, as well, and they work all the time. I just love actors: I love the crazy things we do. We made this oddball piece of fiction together; I felt we were all really collaborators in this project. Robert Jury was wonderful, he let us have great permission and freedom. We were also low budget and I love that the most. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it was a great experience. You briefly mentioned your role as Adrian in the Rocky series. An intricate piece to the story, what was it like being a part of that for five of the films?
Talia Shire – I loved having a chance to work with Sylvester as we were evolving. These are all wonderful men. I loved the Rocky movies; it was extraordinary, it was a wonderful experience. Also, I loved to see how my fellow actors – Burt Young, Carl Weather – evolved as people and how we all brought that into our roles.
Cryptic Rock – They certainly are classic films. You also come from a family of creators, which includes your sons who are both in Rock bands.
Talia Shire – Yes, I love my sons’ – Jason Schwartzman and Robert Schwartzman – music. People should check out Jason’s Phantom Planet, as well as his current project Coconut Records, and Robert’s band Rooney. They really are great!
Cryptic Rock – Yes! They are doing a lot of cool stuff with their music. Last question, as someone who has done Horror before, do you have any favorites?
Talia Shire – Yes, I did Prophecy (1979), an ecological Horror movie, and I love that. Horror movies are fascinating to people, aren’t they? They speak to your shadows, dreams, or terrors. I also did The Dunwich Horror (1970), which I loved. I enjoy Horror movies and I recently watched The Last Man On Earth (1964) with Vincent Price, because the quarantine that we are all in is asking questions about what it is to be alone, be human, and die.