THE WOMAN WHO LOVED THE ALIEN
Davidbowieblackstar.it interviews Candy Clark.
After her debut in John Huston’s Fat City (1972) she obtained an Academy nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Debbie in the George Lucas hit American Graffiti (1973). Candy Clark has starred in over 60 projects such as Blue Thunder (1983), At Close Range (1986) Zodiac (2007), The Informant! (2009) and also appearing in famous TV-series (Insight, Magnum P.I., Criminal Minds, …). She is mainly remembered for her role as Mary-Lou in the sci-fi cult classic The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), directed by Nicolas Roeg. Filmed in New Mexico by an all British crew, the movie was gorgeously shot by the much acclaimed cinematographer Tony Richmond and now re-released in its new 4K restoration. Candy talks to us about that period, about Lazarus and obviously about David.
: Candy, your role in The Man Who Fell to Earth is as important as David’s, because Mary-Lou deeply defines and influences the character of Thomas Jerome Newton. I think your interpretation is brilliant because at the beginning of the story you perfectly incarnates a young and fragile girl but later you are also convincing as a frustrated companion, a scared earthling and also as an old drunken woman.
CC: When I did the movie, I was not as complicated an actor as you are giving me credit for. My kind of acting is way more simple than what you are reading into the character. Mary-Lou is just a small town girl, young and looking for love. She meets a man who seems fragile and is need of care taking. This is right up Mary-Lou’s capabilities, something she finds easy: taking care of people, watching TV… She irons, she cooks, she takes care of Newton. She inadvertently turns him on to alcohol. Mary-Lou has no idea that Newton has a weakness for it. She loves him and only wants him to be happy. They have a pretty good relationship in isolation out in a house by a lake, far in the country. She and he are close, but it turns out, only so close. She wonders why he seems so quiet on so many subjects. One day he lets her know who he really is, and ultimately Mary-Lou cannot accept this. The revelation that Newton is an alien, is the unraveling of their relationship. Love does not win out.
: Why don’t they stay with each other?
CC: There has been too much life experience for both and they cannot ever gain their love again. Too much history and betrayals interfere with them coming together again.
: I know you loved the project so much that you did not only play Mary-Lou, but also Newton’s wife on the other planet. And if that was not enough, you doubled for David Bowie in a scene shot in NYC.
CC: Yes, because at that time David was afraid to fly. Outfitted in his suit, with a red wig and Bowie’s hat, it is me you can see exiting from the World Enterprises building and getting into a blue limo. I remember to hear people behind the security lines saying “There’s David Bowie, there’s David Bowie” Well, a convincing role!
: They say David was really professional and concentrated during the shooting. This was his first important role so I was wondering if you remember what his approach to his character was? How was he with the other actors? Was there a good rapport between you and Bowie?
CC: When I worked with David Bowie, I knew he was a famous rock star, bus since I had never seen him on stage, I was not a starstruck. To me he was my acting partner and he was a good one. David was a very hard worker, though he made it look easy. He enjoyed running lines and rehearsing the dialog over and over, which was important to me. I love running lines! This is the only way I can make the dialog my own, to feel comfortable with what I am saying and the only way I can learn them is by saying them outloud, over and over again. David was great at doing this. Being a musician, he was used to do a lot of rehearsals. I really owe a lot to David for my performance. He was great to work with, a very down to earth man and approachable. A great actor and a great guy!
: There is a lovely photo taken behind the scenes with you and Martin Samuel, the hairdresser on the film. He has worked in many movies and was responsible for David’s famous haircut and color. I know he was asked by Bowie to follow him on tour. He accepted and stayed with him for over a year…
CC: Martin is very talented. He created so many different hairstyles also for Mary Lou, with wigs and with my own hair. I owe him a lot of thanks for helping me to create my character. He did a brilliant job.
: A while back you posted on Facebook some really beautiful Polaroid photos of you and David from your personal collection. I love the one of you wearing the cowboy hat…
CC: In the room there were also Nic Roeg and Paul Meyersberg (the screenwriter of TMWFTE, later he will also co-write Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, Ed.). We were having fun with my Polaroid camera, which I took with me everywhere. I have more pictures, but have not posted them!
: After the shooting of TMWFTE you met David again, is it true? What were the circumstances?
CC: After we finished the film, David went back to NYC, I think, and we really never saw much of each other again. He did come by one Christmas to my apartment in Hollywood and brought me a rhinestone pin, which I still have. He came out of the blue, and I really don’t know how he found my address! Another couple of times I ran into him in the Soho area of NYC and we had a cup of coffee together. He was always happy to see me. And I was always very happy to see him.
: Have you seen the musical written by David with Enda Walsh?
CC: No, I did not get to see the play Lazarus. I knew it was being rehearsed, and I kept thinking I should be there on the opening night. I should buy a plane ticket and go to surprise David for the premiere, but unfortunately I never got around to making the plans. I thought maybe I would see him when he came to the Los Angeles premiere, because I felt for sure that this would happen, but sadly it didn’t. After the opening and only a few days later David Bowie shocked us all, with his death. I was taken completly by surprise and wailed, and cried my eyes out. It took me a long time to recover and I am still sad and remorseful today. I really wish I had seen the play and seen David for the last time.
: Some scenes in TMWFTE are really powerful and magnetic, I think for example when you and David look each other – and then in the camera – on a black background. Was there a good feeling and understanding between you and him?
CC: David and I had a very magical working relationship that is forever captured on film. The Man Who Fell To Earth is a film I am proud, so proud to be in. I am very lucky to have worked with this magnificent and talented man, so missed by all his fans. Never to be replaced. Unique and one of a kind. I was touched by greatness. So, so lucky…
Candy’s had a great life, but sometimes it’s unfair. This year she will be in the new version of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. It was rumored that David Bowie, the star who fell to our earth, would be reprising his character from the original prequel of the series back in 1991. Maybe the two friends would have met once again on the set. We can only imagine that David would have turned to her and simply said with his unmistakable voice: “Hello Mary-Lou!”.
Interview conceived and conducted by Matteo Tonolli