Ever since she pleasantly barfed her way onto the screen and won an Oscar for her role as a heavily pregnant state trooper Marge Gunderson in Fargo, Frances McDormand has played outside the accepted margins of Hollywood expectations.
And by “Hollywood expectations”, we mean expectations about the way a woman should present herself.
“I have not mutated myself in any way,” McDormand told The New York Times’ Frank Bruni in a lovely interview in which the unvarnished McDormand discusses her latest HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge.
The question of ageing is pertinent to Olive Kitteridge – McDormand and co-star Richard Jenkins play a married couple over a number of decades – and the issue gives the actress an excuse to talk about something she feels strongly about: ageing gracefully and respecting the process vs cosmetic surgery and trying to appear younger than we really are.
In discussing the availability of roles for actresses her age, Bruni reports that McDormand “won’t emulate other actresses in her age range — she’s 57 — and cast herself in the most flattering light possible.”
“It’s a subversive act,” McDormand said.
“We are on red alert when it comes to how we are perceiving ourselves as a species,” she told Bruni. “There’s no desire to be an adult. Adulthood is not a goal. It’s not seen as a gift. Something happened culturally: No one is supposed to age past 45 — sartorially, cosmetically, attitudinally. Everybody dresses like a teenager. Everybody dyes their hair. Everybody is concerned about a smooth face.”
Having been with her husband Joel Coen (of the famed Hollywood writer-director duo known as The Coen Brothers) for 35 years, McDormand says she is with a man who “looks at her and loves what he sees”.
“Joel and I have this conversation a lot. He literally has to stop me physically from saying something to people — to friends who’ve had work. I’m so full of fear and rage about what they’ve done.”
Looking old, she said, should be a boast about experiences accrued and insights acquired, a triumphant signal “that you are someone who, beneath that white hair, has a card catalog of valuable information.”