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huffingtonpost - 22 days ago

Steel Magnolias Olympia Dukakis Reminisces About The Much-Loved Film

The 1989 film Steel Magnolias, about a group of small-town Louisiana women and how they cope with a tragedy within their clan, is a time capsule of the eighties: the hair is big, the shoulder pads are wide, the crackly titles are slightly out of focus.But while some of the film s more nostalgic aesthetics could do with a trip to the town s beauty parlour for a touch-up, the universal themes of friendship, sisterhood and humour are truly timeless.Based on writer Robert Harling s real-life experience of losing his sister, as the title suggests, the six formidable women at the heart of the film are both delicate as a magnolia flower but tough as steel, and are played by an all-star ensemble cast, including four Oscar winners - Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLaine.Equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking, the film is laced with hilarious one-liners, which, combined with the stellar cast completed by Splash star Daryl Hannah and showbiz royalty Dolly Parton is the reason it continues to win over new generations of fans three decades after its cinematic release.As the film celebrates its 30th anniversary, the legendary Olympia Dukakis, who played quick-witted widow Clairee Belcher, reminisced with HuffPost UK about her time making the much-loved film...When I first read the script I thought it wasn t going to be easy.... Well, all those women! And the fact that it was located in the South and everybody doing accents.They got this wonderful guy to help me with the accent...What happened with me was I said I don t really know how to do this , especially this woman (her character, Clairee), because she was a really traditional, upper, upper class lady so I said you gotta give me somebody to help me [laughs]. And I had a great time, I loved the accent. It was musical!I worked the hardest...[Laughs] I thought I couldn t do this one, but I loved doing it. It really was a lot of fun and I was appreciative of the opportunity.It was an easy decision to say yes to the part...I immediately wanted to do it. I mean, Shirley MacLaine? I got to know her and we got to be friends. When she came to New York we d hang out once in a while. But I haven t seen her in a million years now. It was very special to work with such a strong female cast...I was aware that it was a very special situation and we had a wonderful director. The director, Herbert Ross, was a feisty guy...But very smart and knowledgeable. He called me when he was dying. Isn t that wonderful? I grew to like him. He was a very experienced man and sometimes he was very short-tempered about things and I had to bring him around.Julia Roberts was the most inexperienced of us all...I remember going up to [Herbert Ross] and telling him he shouldn t talk to Julia [in such a way]. I remember pulling him aside and saying something to him about treating her differently and talking to her differently. He did [listen] but didn t acknowledge it in any way.I predicted big things for Julia...I don t even think of it like [in terms of her being a star]. I could tell that she had a future, absolutely. I got to really like Shirley MacLaine and Daryl Hannah...Those were the ones I connected with the most. I don t think Daryl had a strong urge to act... I don t know why she didn t continue. I mean she did some things after but you don t know how people evolve. She was wonderful.We were aware it was a special film...There were so few films that were about women and women s friendships. You see that all the time with men but you don t see it with women. So it was really special. I thought it was great for everybody. My favourite line is... If you have nothing good to say about anybody, come sit by me . That was a good one. It s the first one that comes to mind.The cemetery scene is my favourite...We did many takes. He was a good director.My fondest memory was hanging out with Shirley and Daryl...And talking to Daryl about what she might be.To be honest with you, I don t go and see films any more... There are some really good films out there but I don t have the patience or the interest [laughs].READ MORE: Dolly Parton Talks New Album And Tells Us Why She s Still Not Done Trying New Things

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