Ellen Burstyn questioned if ageism in Hollywood is a myth as the actress revealed that her career is busier than “ever” at the age of 90.
During a conversation with her “Law and Order: Organized Crime” co-star Christopher Meloni for Interview magazine, Burstyn expressed her surprise over being offered so many roles in her later years.
“This is so bizarre. I turn 91 in December and I’m busier than I can ever remember being at any point in my career,” the “Requiem for a Dream” star said. “And I don’t understand it at all. I mean, what’s all this stuff about ageism in Hollywood? How did I get left out of it?”
When the 62-year-old actor asked Burstyn for her thoughts on the reason behind her continually robust career, the Michigan native offered one theory.
“I don’t know, except possibly that everybody else who could play those parts has already died, so I’m the only actress still standing who can play the great-grandmother or something,” she said.
Over her seven-decade career, Burstyn has appeared in more than 160 film and television projects. In 1975, she won the best actress Academy Award for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s 1974 film “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” That same year, she received the best actress Tony Award for her role in the Broadway play “Same Time, Next Year.”
Burstyn also received two Emmy Awards for her guest turns in the television series “Political Animals” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
In 2021, Burstyn returned to the “Law & Order” franchise to reprise her role as Bernadette Stabler, the mother of Meloni’s character Elliott Stabler. During their conversation for Interview, Meloni noted that he had “never worked with a more open actor.”
“That’s my training,” Burstyn explained. “That’s what I aspire to. If I ever feel fake, it’s like eating rotten food or something, it’s just wack. So I protect myself from ever feeling that by being as open as possible.”
“I know that being real and not faking is my guide,” she added.
Burstyn, who starred as Chris McNeil in the classic 1973 horror movie “The Exorcist,” also reflected on returning to the franchise 50 years later for the upcoming sequel “The Exorcist: Believer.”
“First of all, I don’t know if anybody in the history of filmmaking has ever recreated a character they did 50 years ago. It sounds like a first to me,” she said with a laugh.
Burstyn continued, “Because there aren’t that many people who are still working in the business after 50 years, let alone recreating a character they did that long ago. I have a real connection and feeling for the other actors in the film, because we all went through something.”
“You don’t make a movie like that without going through a lot of real, emotional stuff. So the things that happened in that film, that touched on things from the first film, grabbed me. But I don’t want to reveal what they were, because the film’s not out yet. Nobody’s seen it.”
The actress went on to say that she has “a lot of respect” for the film’s director David Gordon Green. “He’s a deep thinker, and it shows in the script,” Burstyn said. “I’m anxious to see how people respond to it, because it’s very different from the first one, but certain elements are the same.”
When Meloni asked what keeps her going and excited to work at her age, Burstyn shared that she begins every day with gratitude.
“I try to have the first words out of my mouth be, ‘Thank you,’” she said. “Thank you that I’m alive. Thank you that I’m safe. Thank you that I’m healthy. Thank you that I’m 90 and still going. Thank you for my doggies. I mean, I have a lot to live in a state of gratitude for.”