Celebrity Interviews: The Cast of The Last Word Talk on The Movie, Ageism, Music, and The Future

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Bleecker Street Media recently released The Last Word, a timeless story of finding the missing pieces that, through discordant beginnings, are fine tuned into melodies, that somehow finding the right blends, the harmonies, that becomes treasured memories. 

Directed by Mark Pellington, The Last Word stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Ann'Jewel Lee, Thomas Sadoski, Philip Baker Hall, Anne Hache, Tom Everett Scott, Gedde Wantanabe, Yevette Freeman and Sam Culp.

Select members of the Los Angeles media were invited to attend the recent press conference for The Last Word, held at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, with the film's director, Mark Pellington, along with the stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, Ann'Jewel Lee, and Thomas Sadoski participating.

A Few Housekeeping Items

With the press conference happening one week after the OSCARS and the infamous Best Picture envelope disaster still a top entertainment story, Ms. MacLaine was asked several questions on the subject. Her brother, Warren Beatty, had the unfortunate experience of receiving the wrong envelope from the accountants. To those questions, she explained "it was awful" and refused to elaborate.

Shirley MacLaine is passionate about remaining active; working; being a voice for the "ageism" that plagues not only Hollywood but society in general. She was very much the "dame" of the press conference centerstage, generous, offering insight in a variety of subjects.

She is incredibly interesting. Her "lives" and evolution in Hollywood, the Femme Fatale of the Rat Pack, she remains unique and considers herself "old fashioned" in musical taste as Frank and Dean are still on her playlist.

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One other big news item at the time of the press conference was Amanda Seyfried's pregnancy, which has become even bigger news as she and co-star Thomas Sadoski were recently married. The two eloped, as the story goes, heading off with an officiant and exchanging vows, before the arrival of their child that is due imminently.

Although nearly every tabloid has stated she has called the baby "him" during a press conference, she didn't mention any gender, or baby nursery colors, or hints, and only referred to the child as "my child," "baby," and "this fetus."

She did, however, speak honestly of her concerns over parenting, "I want to make it very clear to my child, that they are safe and loved and I don't want to ever lie to them. There is a huge responsibility being a mother, I think this movie and especially Shirley it's all about honesty in your life, acting relationship."

Ageism in Hollywood

Ms. MacLaine, known of her New Age and reincarnation beliefs, is probably one of the most interesting, dedicated and respected talents in the business. Not shying away from her age, "I do want to be the Queen of AARP," she said. 

Ms. MacLaine also described one of the reasons she did this "great movie Stu and Jeff brought to me" and spoke on ageism in Hollywood and how "aging is underserved in this culture. I do want to stay healthy and serve that community. How awful it is to be made to be invisible. I didn't want an older person to be invisible any longer."

With the forum open and Ms. MacLaine essentially playing a character, a trailblazer, not unlike herself, with a career behind her and the opportunity to impart some of the wisdom to others she was willing to answer nearly every question.

When asked about risks and career risks as her character, Harriet Lauler, is very much a risk taker she replied, "the biggest risk I've taken is going in front of a live audience. It is risky to open yourself to your own authenticity. I went to Broadway at 16 and didn't think it was a risk. I thought it was what I was supposed to do. I think that's way I didn't think it was risky as I thought is the right thing to do."  

A question was asked about a Hollywood rumor in which Marlon Brando seduced Ms. MacLaine into politics over an egg.

She answered, saying, "Someone asked me last night," (at the premiere) who I wanted to work with and that's who Marlon Brando. I want Marlon to appear and work with him to see what that type of improvisation is about."

The Last Word focuses on the mentor relationship between Shirley MacLaine's character, Harriet, Amanda Seyfried's character, Anne Sherman which develops into more fulfilling relationship as the Director Mark Pellington said, "They were each missing a vital family part."

Ms. MacLaine was asked about any mentor in her life when she first arrived in Hollywood, without hesitation she said, "Joan Crawford, the first person that comes to mind is Joan Crawford, and I didn't listen to anything she had to say."

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Music: A Lead Character

As one of the last media to be called, I asked a group question that fortunately spoke to both the core of the film and the core of humanity: The question of music.

The Last Word brings together an ensemble of classics: from the music to the talent. The music is, really, as much a lead character as any of the cast. The Kinks, part of the early 1960's British Invasion, are heavily featured in the film with a running dialogue between Harriet and Robin Sands, played by Thomas Sadoski.

The music takes over the third act of the film, as Harriet who has one last gig, rebrands herself yet again as the morning voice of independent radio. These scenes are as exceptional as the talent and the tunes.

"One good thing about asking a question this late in the press conference is there is so much information and I think I'll stick with my prepared question: The music is a character in and of itself, it is represented well in the film and represented well in the marketing, and I wanted to know if you describe some of your musical influences and what's on your playlist or what do you listen to when you want to escape?"

Each of the talent spoke to their personal music choices and with Thomas and Amanda expecting their first child soon, we were given some insider information on the delivery room musical choices.

Thomas Sadowski: What's on my playlist? I have pretty eclectic musical tastes, but I think that when it comes down to it, when I get into the car, when I really need something that speaks to who I am that really needs to the voice that needs to come out of me it's usually Social Distortion or Lyle Lovett.

Ann'Jewel Lee: I personally don't have one, and I listen to all types of music, so I don't know.

Shirley MacLaine: Me, I've never heard of the Kinks. Just want you know. What really moves me is the Floreadores in the Nutcracker Suite, I love classical music. And I love the times of Dean and Frank with the lyrics and wonderful rhythms and how they blend the music into the heart. She shrugged her shoulders, and finished by saying, "I'm old fashioned."

Amanda Seyfried: There is a time and place for every genre for me. I'd like to be listening to Bruce Springsteen when I'm giving birth.

Mark Pellington: Which song? I know Bruce, I've done a couple of videos maybe . . .

Amanda Seyfried: Tougher than the Rest. It's the best.

Mark Pellington: Nine minutes drive all night, one guitar, we'll get the baby out . .  trust me.

Amanda Seyfried: He's got a great collection and like he said Lyle Lovett, Patti Griffin.

Mark Pellington finished the question explaining the background behind the diverse and free flowing sound that has the last word in this unforgettable film.

Mark Pellington: For six months before we made the movie, the song I kept listening to was Year of the Cat and that was the song we actually played when she died. It was prohibitively expensive to get. But also, it was like a non-song, so we went into the movie and I have all these songs some were known and some you try.

Part of our fiscal limitation, it happens on a tiny movie sometimes, you save money during the shooting so in post you can get "x" amount of songs. We needed like 25 songs and our music supervisor said we had very little money so she said you can only use the independent labels. The amount of music I had never heard before that she gave us was phenomenal.

So in a way, you're listening to the music, and the way you guys heard it is the way we heard it, completely fresh from old jazz to blues, to soul, to Mexican punk to whatever it is, it just shows the power of music as opposed to a program, a Coldplay song or a hits on a different button of nostalgia, oh were going to get that or we're going to play a Fleetwood Mac song, so I think the people love the music because they have never heard it before.

Yet it works. And it works in the context of the characters and that's song that Shirley is playing, "Mr. President" is like the most obscure, no one heard of the band ever, on some shitty, cut rate $1.99 album, and the editor put it in there followed by the seduction of Tommy and Amanda is a band called "Witch" from Zambia from 1975 who are trying to sound American. It's totally scruffy and weird because that is the aesthetic of the radio station that's that true independent music where you don't care you play whatever you want.

Amanda Seyfried: And then you play The Kinks.

Solid entertainment, The Last Word is playing everywhere. See this film.

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