To Be an Iron Butterfly: In-Depth with Blythe Danner

Blythe Danner, star of the Sarasota Film Festival’s closing night film I’ll See You in My Dreams, stopped by the Ritz-Carlton Beach Club on Lido Key to discuss her latest role, Hollywood, family and everything in-between.

Danner’s distinguished portfolio includes theater, winning a Tony in 1970 for Butterflies Are Free, as well as film, starring in Meet the Parents, The Great Santini, Brighton Beach Memories and Sylvia, which she starred alongside her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow. She has also had recent success in television, winning two Emmys for her role in Huff. Here are highlights from her “Tea by the Sea” conversation moderated by producer and film critic Alison Bailes.

Danner can relate to her I’ll See You in My Dreams character, Carol, a widow slowly embracing the challenges of old age. “What I love about Carol is that she is liberated with a sort of smirkiness. She doesn’t worry about what people think. She’s independent.”

She’s critical of the social media age. “I came in kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I think one of the good things about being on this earth for so long is that there is much to call on and so much to remember. I keep thinking about how my parents would respond to this technological world that I still can’t conquer, nor do I want to. I don’t Twitter or ‘twoot’ or Instagram. It’s just such a waste of time. Columnist David Brooks in the New York Times said that we have become a tremendously self-centered, shallow society and so much of it has to do with [social media]. I think we have to reach out and try to do more good for another rather than the vitriol and the ugliness that emerges more and more, and anonymously in a lot of cases.”

She appreciates being under the radar, as someone who has come from an age when acting and celebrity weren’t so inextricably intertwined. “I don’t think everyone knows who I am, but I like it that way. One of the things’ve learned is celebrity is really an awful thing. Gwyneth is an extraordinary person and she is constantly being bombarded by the press so unfairly. It’s painful to see it. You have to have a very thick skin to be in our business, any business, especially as a female. Women have to have parity with men. Elizabeth Warren talks about her mother having gone to work and being able to feed her whole family at a minimum salary–that is impossible to do today, and something has to be done about that.

Apart from being an environmental activist, she also supports healthcare issues. This month is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. My husband [Bruce Paltrow] succumbed to oral cancer thirteen years ago. We have the  Bruce Paltrow Oral Cancer Fund under the umbrella of the Oral Cancer Foundation. It goes to disenfranchised neighborhoods to give screenings for oral cancer. It is often caught too late.

Her daughter and her mother are among her female role models. “I’m so proud of Gwyneth. But it’s taken me a long time to feel like a stronger woman. I was raised in the era where you were a good girl and you didn’t make waves. It wasn’t until I met my wonderful husband who is irreverent, outspoken and a great caring man who cares about people that I became more so of a stronger woman.

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