The archaeology of Sally Kirkland

Irrepressible, New York born Sally Kirkland has amassed a startling career, leaping from theater to Hollywood films to indies, while always going to extremes with the intent of “not doing things halfway.” Kirkland’s latest venture has her filming Sharon Greytak’s Archaeology of a Woman, in which she’s going for broke as a mystery lady shrouded in crime, lust, and madness—a role that could be her most intriguing since 1987’s Anna got her an Oscar nomination as a Czech actress who mentors an attractive immigrant.

Kirkland called me from the Archaeology set for an expectedly intense chat:

Me: Hi, Sally! This movie sounds fascinating.

Kirkland: It’s a really juicy role for me—a modern day Lady Macbeth with a little Trip to Bountiful. I definitely have a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? type anger in it. My character, Margaret, was involved in a crime years ago and she’s angry at her daughter (played by Tony winner Victoria Clark). Margaret is ferocious. I have some amazing emotional scenes. I’m tearing the scenery apart! And there’s a three-page single-spaced monologue. I’m releasing all kind of demons. I have a nude scene too.

Me: That’s nothing new for you.

Kirkland: I feel fine after all these years. It’s a celebration of the body.

Me: Do you like independent films the best?

Kirkland: Ed TV was a studio film and that was an exception to the rule. We rehearsed a lot—it was like theater. But for the most part, independent films are my life. And it’s my lot in life.

Me: But whatever you do, you strike me as eternally fresh about your work. Do you feel brand new every day?

Kirkland: I think that I’m 12. I have a tough time acting my age. Luckily, part of the time this character acts demented and part of the time she is demented. She’s 70, but she looks 60. I’ve never played 70 before.

Me: Are you philosophical when you do good work, but then the movie doesn’t always get released?

Kirkland: I get upset. But I’m a big believer in festivals and the magic that can happen there. The roles you believe in, you really want people to see.

Me: Do you still live on a commune with Nick Nolte?

Kirkland: I lived communally with Nolte for four years, then there was a fire. I live by myself and my dog in West Hollywood.

Me: Going much farther back, your mother was an important fashion journalist who helped break pop artist Andy Warhol in the press in the ‘60s. Did she introduce you to him?

Kirkland: Yes! He was wonderful to Anna on his MTV show in the ‘80s. But it was dangerous to be around that Warhol Factory crowd (in the ‘60s). I was afraid I’d OD. A lot of people were dying in the ‘60s. I had a near-death experience in ’66. I knew that I could get swallowed up by the Factory, so I did my off Broadway thing.

Me: And that led to Hollywood movies?

Kirkland: The Way We Were, The Sting, A Star is Born

Me: So many credits! And all this for a 12 year old!