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AP: I imagine your “Queen Bees” character wasn’t a far journey since her attitude about retirement aligns with yours.
BURSTYN: : I can’t picture my retirement. (laughs) I can’t picture wanting to retire. The only thing I can picture is if some day I’m being retired because I don’t get work. But volunteering to retire? I can’t picture that.
AP: What drew you to the movie?
BURSTYN: I love it when the movie industry shows women past 60 still having interest in life and not retiring. I read so many scripts from the time I was 50 that were all about: Should we put grandma in the nursing home? And how do we tell her? It was always like putting her out to pasture. This is quite different. It happens in a retirement home but there’s lots of life going on in there, a lot of mating. So I liked it. It’s a story about, let’s say, elderly lusty people.
AP: You’ve lived through a patriarchal era in Hollywood. Do you ever wonder how your career and life might have been different without those roadblocks?
BURSTYN: I’ve done a lot of studying about the patriarchy, which has been in effect for thousands of years. Only now is it really being challenged. I think that’s what’s so scary to a lot of fellas, that they’re not going to know how to function if they’re sharing the cat-bird seat with a woman. I think it affects our politics. I think what the country is going through right now is a fear, for some people, that if the white man is not in power that that would be a bad thing. I don’t share in that opinion. I think we have been slowly in my lifetime opening up the throne to the other sex and the other color and the other religion — the other. I don’t think about how my life had been different. I’m just glad I was able to make some films like “Alice Doesn’t Live Her Anymore” that’s really about that, and affected it in some way.
AP: In your memoir, “Lessons in Becoming,” you wrote about how your third husband, after separating, broke into your home and raped you. It’s his name you have. Do you wish you didn’t?
BURSTYN: (Laughs) Well, I try not spend time on wishing for anything that I can’t change. That’s my name, however I came to it. It surprised me, but that’s what I got. But I know I was very honest as I wrote that book. Every time I came to a new chapter in my life, I’d go, “Well, I can’t write about that.” Finally, I said: Honey, if you’re going to tell the story, tell the story.
AP: You could tell in that book you view your life as an ever-ongoing spiritual journey. Where would you put yourself on that journey now?