STACK caught up with the distinguished female cast of the new comedy, Book Club.
Four life-long friends have their sexuality reawakened when their book club decides to tackle Fifty Shades of Grey. Such is the premise of rom-com Book Club. Not such a shocking premise in itself but, when you consider the ages of its four female stars, this is groundbreaking stuff.
“A film with four women is rare enough – but a film with four old women is even more rare; like lightning in a bottle,” laughs Mary Steenburgen who, at 65, is the youngster of the quartet.
“Equally rare was the fact that we all had our own unique story arc. Women our age are used to playing somebody’s dotty old aunt or the annoying mother-in-law, but to have four leads of our age with four different compelling stories, that never happens to us,” adds Steenburgen, who co-stars with living legends Jane Fonda, 80, Candice Bergen, 72, and Diane Keaton, 72.
“There’s this cult of youth and, as you get older, the idea that you’re still sexually active is disgusting to people,” scoffs Fonda, so luminous she is single-handedly redefining what it is to be 80.
“One of the things I love about Book Club is that you see these older women who are still willing to get it on.”
Book Club was filmed before the #MeToo and #TimesUp, movements, which all the cast are excited about, although Steenburgen points to the other silent “ism” which draws a line beneath even the most glittering careers.
“Ageism is sadly pervasive among both men and women. Its not confined to Hollywood or to women. It’s a sad thing we do in our culture where we assume a diminishment,” she adds.
“In many ways, that was the biggest thrill for me about this movie – that all these women were still searching and thinking about sex and romance and friendship. It’s really sad that we are assumed to only have a certain shelf-life for our humanity.”
“We work because we all enjoy working,” argues Bergen. “Because life doesn’t end, it deepens and you accommodate it.”
Even more unusual is the fact that Book Club offers a chance for its female leads to be romanced by younger men; Fonda paired with Don Johnson and Keaton with Andy Garcia.
Having once announced her retirement from acting, Fonda is amazed to find herself with such a rewarding career, also starring in award-winning TV series, Grace and Frankie.
“I cannot believe that, at my age, this is even happening with me. And I left the business for 15 years!”
Now that she’s back, she has no plans to retire again. “It would be a little weird if I came back at 95. I left, not because of Ted Turner, but because I wasn’t enjoying it anymore. So now I’m enjoying it a lot and I like that I’m an old woman who looks good for her age and can give a different perspective to people on age, and Book Club is a perfect movie for that.”
Bergen, whose Book Club character dips her toe into online dating, shudders at the notion of trying it in real life. “I’ve been married almost 20 years and it’s not on my horizon. I don’t even know how I feel about friends of mine doing it, but I guess it’s a necessary evil. I feel like face-to-face contact is undervalued.”
Presently single after ending her eight-year romance with music producer Richard Perry last year, Fonda is open to possibilities.
“I should do it just to see what would come up. But I would be afraid that some people who hate me would pretend to be some nice guy who would come and murder me! So I can’t! But I know people who’ve met their soulmates. It’s a very real thing. And when you get older, with life today, you can’t go to bars; you don’t have time and its not safe, so it’s a great way to meet new people,” she says.
The secret to lasting love is simple, according to Steenburgen. “For me it was marrying Ted Danson! What’s not to like?” she asks.
“I think a sense of humour is vital in a man,” adds Bergen, who was 17 when she first met Fonda. “I think we’re all so in awe of Jane and who she is.”
“Jane is in a league of her own and a total utter inspiration to be around,” says Steenburgen, who hopes that the four will remain
Book Club is in cinemas August 23.