Greta Scacchi reveals her thoughts about Hollywood and how she retained her self-respect at all times.
You could be forgiven for thinking that before the Me Too movement began to get traction three years ago, men in Hollywood had behaved impeccably towards women. That of course is arrant nonsense and Greta Scacchi was one of the first to speak out about what was happening.
In 2008, when I met her as she was about to open in the West End in Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, she looked back on her time in Hollywood – making films such as Presumed Innocent and Shattered – with a sense of indignation about how she and other women were treated.
“I remember going to casting meetings in hotel rooms and there would be all these men looking at me. I went to one with Bill Murray, who asked me for my telephone number in front of everyone and I gave it to him. It was important to show the team that there was chemistry between their two putative stars. ‘Yeah, sure, come over tonight,’ I said, doing what I was expected to do.
“And, sure enough, Murray came round. I had an eclectic collection of friends in my apartment and we were cooking, playing music, dancing, all completely stoned. He just sat on a sofa, utterly out of his depth. He was wearing his stupid farmer’s boots, a lumberjack shirt and looking like the country bumpkin from the Midwest that he really always was. And he left, shaking his head, and I never had to see him again.”
Scacchi also told me about how she’d seen Paul Newman – married at the time to Joanne Woodward – in what she called “a compromising situation” and I agreed to report that only after the actor’s death rather than risk getting Scacchi embroiled in litigation with the rich and powerful actor.
It might not have been good for her career, but it was good for her soul when she decided to return to her home in Sussex. She could have had the part that made Sharon Stone a star in Basic Instinct, but she had no regrets.
“How different it would have been if I had done that film. I imagine they would be paying me 10 times as much to do this play and there would be a car to come and collect me from some grand hotel and it would have blacked-out windows. I like my life as it is though.
“Honestly, I like being able to walk down a street and be left alone. I would have missed out on half of life if I had taken that route.”
Scacchi got to see how rotten men could be early on in her life when her Italian father hit her when she told him that she wanted to be an actress, and abandoned her mother and her when she was still a child.
“It is not for nothing I guess that a lot of the most enduring friendships I have had in my life have been with men who are my father’s age – Joss Ackland, for instance, and Michael Blakemore.”
Her relationship with the Hollywood actor Vincent D’Onofrio, the father of her daughter, Leila, also proved to be problematical. She was reluctant to be drawn about it when we met, but she said “it makes me livid that we are unable to come to an accommodation for the sake of our child.”
Scacchi got to work with some of the biggest names in the acting world, including Lord Olivier, and she was struck by the fact even he felt self-doubt. They had been making a television drama called The Ebony Tower when they had to do a bedroom scene.
She was then 23 and he was 78. His head had been resting against her shoulder and suddenly it felt damp, and, when she looked at him, she realised he had been crying. “What’s wrong” she asked him. He looked back at her despairingly. “Oh, Greta, I haven’t got any more work after this for six months. Nobody wants me any more…”
As Scacchi said: “Here was this man who was acknowledged as the greatest actor of his day and yet he was riddled with insecurities. I decided there and then that I would never allow myself to get like that. There has to be a point when you can say, ‘Look, this is who I am – take me or leave me.’”
Unlike so many members of her profession, Scacchi managed to achieve a proper work-life balance and she retained at all times her self-respect.