I was finished with winter about three weeks ago,” says Trudie Styler emphatically. “I’m only going to wear cotton now. No more layers of woolens.”
Spring may be coming along slowly outside, but in Styler’s Central Park West apartment, the season’s in full bloom. Dressed in a diaphanous white gauze dress and ecru jacket, she settles into an overstuffed sofa in her living room. Faint melodies tinkle down from the piano upstairs where her husband, Sting, is working on compositions.
It’s an apt setting for her to talk about the fifth annual Rainforest Foundation benefit concert, slated for Saturday at Carnegie Hall. She’s a founder of the foundation.
“The benefit has really evolved,” says Styler. “It started out as sort of a low-key concert. As Bruce Springsteen says of the first one, ‘I was invited to sing in someone’s backyard.”‘
That backyard belonged to Ted and Susie Field, and Springsteen — along with Sting, Branford Marsalis, Paul Simon and a handful of others — raised nearly $1 million. The benefits since then have always been big draws, with names like Elton John, Tina Turner and James Taylor — and this year, Luciano Pavarotti, Aaron Neville and Tammy Wynette.
“We really sort of got roped into doing it,” Styler says with a laugh before explaining how Chief Raoni of the Kayapo tribe in Brazil asked her and Sting for help while they were visiting the rainforest in 1987.
Since its inception, the foundation has set up educational and health programs for the Brazilian Indians and has helped preserve some 16,000 square miles of Indian territory.
“Now we need to decide where to go from here,” she says.
At the same time, Styler isn’t neglecting her professional goals. When she and Sting got together, the media began portraying her — a veteran actress with the Royal Shakespeare Company — as “the jet-set leggy blonde.”
“It’s the kind of image that doesn’t sit well with directors for serious parts,” she says. “Offers began to dry up — no thanks to the press — and 1989 was not a great year. That’s when I began thinking about producing some films.”
Styler originally wanted to do what she calls “my China story,” a documentary about the students who escaped from China after the Tiananmen Square uprising. That project, “Moving the Mountain,” has finally been completed and will open the Human Rights Festival this month and be featured on ABC’s “Turning Point.”
Her first film was a documentary called “Boys From Brazil,” about Brazilian transvestite prostitutes working in Europe and the desperate circumstances that led them to such a life. While Styler will do more documentaries, she wants to branch into feature films.
Styler is thinking of doing a film called “The Grotesque,” based on the book by Patrick McGrath. “It’s an English black comedy and would feature Sting in the role of an enigmatic butler named Fledge,” she says with a mischievous smile.
And, she adds, she won’t abandon acting.
“I love it. I love it too much to ever give it up.”