The Daily Beast: Cloris Leachman Is America’s Dirtiest Dancer – 2

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America's Dirtiest Dancer America’s Dirtiest Dancer
TheDailyBeast.com
March 2009
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Was doing Dancing difficult for you physically?

It was. I had gained about 30 pounds, and most of it was in my stomach. It made it really hard to dance. I couldn’t even imagine hopping, and to dance, you have to at least be able to hop. I’ve lost half of the weight now, but I sure didn’t lose it when I was on the show. It was wonderful, but it was hard. When you’re on the show, that’s your life. Three hours a day of rehearsals for me, and that’s half of what some of the other contestants did. It went longer than I thought I’d be on it, for sure. I surprised myself. But I was happy when it ended.

What made you want to do the show? Dancing usually doesn’t score Oscar winners.

Well, they could. They did, didn’t they?

It was great fun. We had a wonderful time. It was revitalizing in certain ways that I hadn’t been revitalized. The fans of the show are so funny—I can always tell that’s where they know me from. I guess I got a little out of hand on that show, huh? I’m going to be on again this week or next. Corky and I are both going to be on. We’re not in touch, really, but we see each other from time to time. He is a lovely young man.

Speaking of younger men, you also played a cougar on The Office in February.

Hahahahaha! Cougar? Is that what they’re calling it these days? It’s so funny. It was a fun show to do. And Jack Black couldn’t be darling-er. He’s the sweetest man alive. I played Jessica Alba’s grandmother and I stole Jack from her. Jack is a wonderful kisser. We had, ahem, “discussed” the scene for about half an hour in my dressing room. We had a good time. But I didn’t have to give him any tips, even though I have more experience than him. I enjoy working with younger actors. I love to give advice, but nobody ever asks me. Everyone has their own approach.

In your book, you say your approach is that you’re never afraid to make a fool of yourself.

That’s certainly true. Let whatever’s going to happen, happen. Don’t judge it before you do it. Sure, sometimes it will be terrible, but sometimes it will just be amazing. That’s where the gold is. My preference is to be different all the time—that’s a conscious decision. I don’t want people to think I’m who I just played. That’s why I’m always looking for something new.

You also reveal a strong devotion to raising your five children. How did you manage work and family?

It looks like I was working all the time, but I really wasn’t. In those early years, when my children were young, I wouldn’t do things that would take me away from home for more than three days. And maybe I missed out on a few things, but I decided what was important to me. Now I love spending time with my grandchildren and my great-grandson, Braden. He’s an adorable little three-year-old now and he’s so funny. He wanted to play ping-pong with me yesterday, and so he just simply put his paddle straight up and waited for the ball to hit it.

This August, you’ve got Quentin Tarantino’s new war shocker, Inglourious Basterds, with Brad Pitt.

I adore Quentin. I guess he is a fan. He’s a dear, sweet, very talented man, and the script is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s set in Paris during World War II, and all the things that happened there just shock you. I was shocked that he would write this. I play an old Jewish woman and a young man comes to my door and he asks me to do something for him, which I do. I cannot reveal more than that under penalty of death.

After Basterds, what’s next?

I’ve got an indie film movie with that guy who played Batman. What’s his name? Val Kilmer. It’s called American Cowslip. And I’m doing a children’s movie this summer, the Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure. I get to sing and dance in it, so I can’t wait. My great-grandson will like that one. We’re also talking about doing a stage version of Driving Miss Daisy, with some songs in it. I think that would be wonderful.

And I’m returning to my one-woman show, which got pushed aside a bit for Dancing With the Stars. I’m going to do it again. In fact, I just did it on a ship for 2,000 people and they loved it! They gave me a standing ovation before I even finished. It was lovely.

So is the show going national this summer?

I think it will, yes. I’m going to start in [my hometown] Des Moines. We need a new building for the high school, and I’m going to be giving them all the money I earn for that show. I’m a small-town Iowa girl myself, but I left before I even turned 20. When I go back to Iowa, people are always happy to see me. But California is home now.

You’ll be 83 this month now, any plans to leave acting behind?

Oh, no! I absolutely love acting. I would never give it up. It’s the most fun thing in the world. I get to sing and dance, I meet interesting people, I still get to play the piano. I’m very satisfied with the way things have worked out. I’m in a wonderful place in my life.

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