I had a nice 20-minute chat this morning with actress Valerie Perrine, who’s best known for her Oscar-nominated performance as Honey Bruce in Bob Fosse‘s Lenny (’74). (And for which she won Best Actress at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival and Best Supporting Actress from the New York Film Critics Circle.) As I mentioned yesterday, Perrine will be doing a q & a with Larry Karaszewski between screenings of Lenny and George Roy Hill‘s Slaughterhouse Five on Thursday, 10.7, at Santa Monica’s Aero.
Perrine started in show business as a Las Vegas topless revue dancer, which she did for several years. She didn’t land her first screen role in Diamonds Are Forever, she says — that’s an IMDB error. She was around 28 when she lucked into the supporting role of Montana Wildhack in Slaughterhouse Five (which came out in June 1972). She then made history as the first actress to do a boob-baring scene on American televison during a May 1973 PBS airing of Bruce Jay Friedman‘s Steambath. And then came Lenny — her career peak.
She costarred in the first two Chris Reeve Superman films, of course, playing Lex Luthor’s (i.e., Gene Hackman‘s) girlfriend, Eve Teschmacher. She reached the end of her lucky streak at age 36 or thereabouts after costarring in Nancy Walker‘s Can’t Stop the Music (’80), which Perrine believes pretty much killed her career or at least kept her from being cast in first-rate films.
Perrine costarred in Tony Richardson‘s The Border (’82), although, she says, she had signed for that film before Can’t Stop the Music. And from then on acted in whatever came along — TV, indie movies. Never say die, keep on plugging, tomorrow’s another day. Perrine’s last mainstream score was a costarring role in Nancy Meyers‘ What Women Want (’00).
Perrine isn’t given to expansive answers but that’s cool. She’s a bit like Jennifer Lawrence in that she’s not into arduous preparation for a part — she just likes to walk on set and keep things as spontaneous as possible. She didn’t have a huge amount to say about working with with Fosse on Lenny or about Lamont Johnson‘s Last American Hero (’75), an excelllent film in which she also co-starred. But she told a pretty good tale about getting the attention of Slaughterhouse Five casting agent Marion Dougherty.
She mentioned that her health isn’t in the greatest condition these days but that it might be just a temporary setback (let’s hope). Really nice lady, good to touch base.