THE ACCIDENTAL CLOTHESHORSE
SHE MAY NOT HAVE A PERSONAL STYLIST ON SPEED DIAL, BUT NOMINEE ELLEN BURSTYN’S NO STRANGER TO A FASHION MAKEOVER.
Byline: Marcy Medina
Over lunch at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, Oscar nominee for Best Actress Ellen Burstyn pondered how much has changed since she won her first Oscar in 1975 for “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.”
“I used to think it was sort of vain to deck yourself out,” said the New York-based actress, whose complete lack of vanity enabled her to give herself over to the gritty role of a drug-addled mother in th film “Requiem for a Dream,” an intensely graphic account of the physically and emotionally damaging effects of addiction.
“When I was nominated in the Seventies, this fashion hoopla wasn’t part of the Oscar scene. We all went out and bought our own dresses and wore what we wanted to wear. Of course, we all tried to look our best. But now there is a fashion ‘overlay’ on awards.”
Burstyn admits she was never a clotheshorse — but her attitude changed about 15 years ago, when an artist friend commented on her clothes.
“I told him I put all my energy into my work,” she recalled, “and he said, ‘That’s too bad. I have friends who are artists and everything they do expresses who they are.’ That was like a light bulb going off over my head.”
Burstyn, who once studied art, began to experiment with color, which is still a hallmark of her style today.
“I love monochromatic things and many tones of the same color.” Borrowing from her love of nature and gardening, she favors blues and greens. One of her favorite designers is Nadya, an American who lives in Bali, where she dyes and paints fabrics using ancient techniques. Burstyn bought one of her early Nadya designs in Seattle, and unwittingly befriended the designer at a Broadway play opening before realizing she’d been buying her clothes for years.
Another one of her favorite designers is San Francisco-based Catherine Bacon, who sells her clothes in Robertson Boulevard’s Harrari boutique. Burstyn bought one dress, then decided to call the designer herself to strike up a friendship. “I spend a lot of money in that store,” she laughed.
As for adhering to Hollywood’s ever-changing beauty ideals, Burstyn has other concerns. “It never interested me very much. I’m not even sure I ever had the size or the shape or inclination to conform. I think in terms of being true to myself.”
And while so many actors seem to go through bad hair phases on an alarmingly regular basis, Burstyn has managed to stay above it all. Lana Shark, her colorist on the CBS series “That’s Life,” created the platinum blond color that she sports today.
“I am so happy with it that I am taking her with me on my next two projects,” said Burstyn, referring to the Lifetime movie “Their Last Chance,” which begins filming in Canada next month, and “Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood,” which she’ll film in North Carolina with Sandra Bullock and Ashley Judd.
In “Their Last Chance,” Burstyn will play a prison inmate, a role that will require something significantly less glamorous than platinum.
“I’ve been brown, red, blond, strawberry blond. I tend to not change for myself, but as I play different characters, different ideas occur to me,” she said. “I’ll be in a jumpsuit for about a month. But after all this Oscars and clothes stuff, I can’t wait to get into that jumpsuit.”