HBO Films

Grey Gardens


Professional Opinion

Jessica Lange explains how to go crazy without losing your mind

Typically when a lauded actress holes up in the Hamptons with 20 cats and a fat suit, questions abound over her "transformation" for such a bizarre role. But Jessica Lange - who's already walked a mile in the paper slippers of Blanche DuBois and Frances Farmer - is far from typical.

"The hardest thing for me, as an actor, is to play a part that is on the straight and narrow. Just, you know - normal. I hate to say it, but it's true," says Lange, who definitely managed to avoid that problem when she added Edith "Big Edie" Bouvier Beale to her resume with Grey Gardens.

It could be the actress's extensive experience with slightly off-kilter ladies, but Lange is particularly forgiving of eccentricity. "I never thought of Francis as crazy. I never thought Blanche DuBois was crazy," she says. "They're survivors. They're trying to figure out how you get from A, to B, to C, and along the way, there are all these forces that are coming into play. With Big Edie, I always found her incredibly intelligent, deeply sensitive, with an extraordinary sense of humor."

Lange also rejects the idea that Big Edie sequestered her daughter at home, stunting the girl's growth into a well-adjusted young woman. "They were complicit in this life together," she says. "One thing I did appreciate about the film is that we were not trying to explain it in hard and fast terms. Because I don't think you can. There were such levels of complexity and this strange symbiosis. Really what you've got is a love story."