Whether you loved her as the pixie-haired elevator operator in Billy Wilder's The Apartment or the feisty Aurora Greenway bellowing the iconic line “Give my daughter the shot!” in Terms of Endearment, Shirley MacLaine has gotten to you somewhere, somehow, at some time. In her new book, I'm Over All That, and her touring one-woman retrospective, MacLaine talks a lot about the things that continue to thrill her (curiosity, life) and the things she's completely over (people who repeat themselves and sex).
OC Weekly: I'm not having sex either, by the way.
Shirley MacLaine: [Laughs] What a relief!
I'm too lazy and too busy these days.
[Laughs] Well, I just got back from Europe and France, and I have this new puppy, and he's all over the place–that's what I'm busy with these days.
So, unlike some people, I'm not going to attack you for your beliefs today.
Oh, are you kidding? That doesn't bother me at all! I look at it from the point of view, especially with the cynics, that I like talking to them. Of course, it's more about them than me, but we can explore how they could be happier if they weren't so cynical. Now that doesn't mean that when you're spiritually involved, you're not cynical about what's going on. It's pretty bad right now. And that makes me think you should explore the techniques of not necessarily being more optimistic but more realistic about the fact that we've created all of this, and if we did it, we can undo it and do it again better.
You write in your book that few prominent people will talk to you, even privately, about their beliefs because they're afraid of being labeled as nuts. Why are people so obsessed with appearing normal?
Well, first of all, they should re-define normal. Do you know anyone who's normal?
No. I know people who are boring, but not normal.
Well, that really is a horrible thing that's happened—people who are so afraid to be themselves are getting sooo borrring . . . and they don't have anything to say. The wonderful thing about this journey is how much fun you end up being to yourself.
Some journeys are more exciting than others. In your life, for example, you've met Mother Teresa and slept with Robert Mitchum. I'm not sure if you're aware most people don't get to do that.
[Laughs] —with Robert Mitchum I'm not so sure!
But do you think you'd have reached your spiritual awareness if you hadn't moved to Hollywood and started this journey that has piggybacked on your celebrity?
I don't know. I don't think I would have had the money to travel around the world—because I could get on a plane and just get off whenever the spirit hit me. I do think that being famous was my passport to being invited into other people's lives, no question about it. If I hadn't been famous, I think I would have saved up my money to travel.
Over the past 20 years, Hollywood has been obsessed with churning out “amusement-park ride” films instead of thought-provoking films. Why?
Well, this is important. The corporations have taken over the studios, and when you have corporate thinkers, this is what you get: branded films, sequels to prequels to prequels to sequels. Now, everything is engineered, and they're only in it for the money.
Being There and Defending Your Life were thought-provoking. Were you aware that they were message films?
Not at all. I've never been interested in sending messages through films. I just want to entertain the people. Now, that's different than my real life.
But Albert Brooks was trying to teach us in Defending Your Life, don't you think?
I think he was. He was delving into do we live again and do we come back? And he was basically saying, “Give up guilt and be happy.” And what was the worst crime you could commit?
Yep. Fear and non-trust.
And then you have to reincarnate. Speaking of which, in your book, you write that Stephen Hawking told you he thinks he's the reincarnation of Sir Isaac Newton. Don't you think it's unfair to be famous twice?
[Laughs] I don't know! Maybe he was wrong once!
Shouldn't he have to be a baker next time?
[Laughs] No, I don't think so. Well, maybe. You have to have all of the diversification of experience, but he was so serious when he told me that! That's what I've learned in this whole journey—we all choose incarnations as evil, lust, anger, whatever. We're so many things, and we can't seem to get that clear in our relationships with other people. I'm as guilty of that as anyone. Like you, I can't stand boring people!
Do you think you're coming back?
If I choose to. But the question is where would I come back—Earth? The Pleiades? I don't know if I'd come back to this planet.
You've half-joked that there are aliens among us. What planet did Lady Gaga come from?
[Laughs] Oh! I think she has to figure out what planet she's from first, and then I can try to pick one!
Oh, my lord . . . I like it when she called herself President O'Bachmann. She's from a planet where she doesn't even know her name.
Hmmm . . . hmmm . . . you know what? Just write, “Hmmm . . .”
And George Burns, a.k.a. “the best God ever”?
Yes. Clearly, he came from Planet Heaven.
This article appeared in print as “Still Out On a Limb: Shirley MacLaine acts, meditates, takes out-of-body jaunts–and is totally over what you think about it.”