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Life is for living. Let's partner for all of it. Learn more at EdwardJones.com. Hi, I'm Jane Pauley, and this is our Sunday Morning Extra, a podcast featuring a memorable story from our latest show. This week, Tracey Smith sits down with Tatum O'Neill, actress, author, and mother.
It's a revealing conversation about the struggles of a woman who has grown up in Hollywood's spotlight. So first, how are you? I'm good today, right now. Today? Thank you for asking.
Yeah, of course. And why do you say good today? Well, I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I didn't have a flare, I guess that's what they call them, since 2012 when I was diagnosed. And five months ago, all I have done is have one flare over another. What does that mean for your daily life?
That means that my hands stopped working, it means that I can't really tie my shoes, it means I have to relearn to write, I will probably need surgeries on both my wrists, my ankles, and I definitely need surgery on my left knee and my neck coming up in the next week. So for you, you came into the Oscars from a childhood that wasn't exactly idyllic. I wouldn't have won had it been though.
Really? Because I wouldn't have been able to do that performance. I want my money, you took my $200. Will you quiet down here?
I want my $200. If I hadn't had all of those kind of crazy traumas prior to the age of eight years old, that normal children don't kind of have that kind of, I would say just the word depth, just a kind of understanding of bigger things, the pain that most adults have. That's the way I look at it. And you're right, when you look at that performance, you can see, and I mean you were eight when you started shooting the film, but your eyes, you can see so much in that little girl's eyes. Thank you. So much pain. Bright and joy. And the thing is that when my dad did take custody of me, I've never known a joy like that.
And I don't know that I ever will. What was that like? It was like Christmas every day. Hang out with your dad? Well, my dad is the funniest person you'll ever meet in your life.
I mean, the most charming, the most funny, the most smart. So for me to get to spend all my time with him and then to do this movie and not have to go to school and be mercilessly teased was a real joy. And I wouldn't have been able to do that performance had it not been for Peter Bogdanovich and my dad because they gave me that confidence and freedom to tell me that I could do anything. Now, all I kept thinking was when am I really going to have to go back to school? Because I had been so traumatized. But I was able to really homeschool myself and learn a lot myself. How many years of school did you end up completing? I did not finish high school. So are you all self-taught?
Totally self-taught because I've made a lot of really stupid mistakes in terms of money stuff, in terms of that I wish that I had more schooling. But again, I'm not a big regretter. Let me say that word again. I'm not a big regretter. And so it is what it is.
Everything happens for a reason. But it seems like, to be honest with you, had I not read that, I might not have known that about you. Just from reading what you've written and listening to you speak, it sounds like you are very well educated. Do you just read tons and tons of books? I'm a mimic, first of all.
That's the first thing. A mimic. And I'm a really good listener. And I really ask a lot of questions. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be smart.
I wanted to be the smartest person that I could. And the only way that I knew how to do that was to read and to listen and to ask. And that meant that I was annoying a lot of the time. Because you're always asking questions?
Correct. Like, really annoying. It's like, oh my God, what is she asking now? My dad, he'd say, let's run some lines. And I'd say, what?
And I think I said, no, I don't want to run lines, because I'm going to get stale. And he goes, oh yeah? Who taught you that word?
And I go, I don't know. Maybe you. But, you know, he read a lot of books. So you read a lot of books.
So I read a lot of books. Did you have any idea what a big deal it was, winning that Oscar at age 10? No. No.
No idea. To you, it was? I mean, it had been kind of a crazy year. The biggest thing that happened to me is that I was at a boarding school prior to the movie coming out. And everybody hated me. And then I went back, and the movie came out, and everybody loved me. So there was the big, the big, oh, I see.
This is what the world is like. OK. When you look back and see that 10-year-old girl on stage at the Oscars, what do you think? I have a lot of love and empathy for her. And it's taken me a long time.
What do you mean? It's hard to explain exactly what self-loathing feels like or why you get it or lacking in self-esteem. I suppose being public since you're eight is hard.
I mean, it's had more pluses than minuses. But it's taken me a long time to learn that it's OK, that I'm good with myself, and to really forgive little Tatum and to know that I was just trying. I was just trying to survive, and I was just trying to do the best that I could.
And I have a lot of empathy for her. It was hard. I was alone a lot, you know, trying to kind of manage the whole thing. I was in boarding schools a lot still after, you know, so. In a way, that night is kind of symbolic because neither of your parents were there that night.
Correct. You were alone that night, essentially. I mean, your grandparents were there, but. Well, they had been raising me, too. So, you know, it wasn't like they were just, you know, they were, I think it's pretty funny that my grandfather came running on stage and was immediately cut off.
And we just want to say thank you from the O'Neill family. Look, my father was a very good mom. Look, my father was doing a movie with Stanley Kubrick. It was two years of his life. So I'm sure Stanley said he couldn't come back.
My mother was really dealing with her addiction. So I forgive both of them 100 percent. And you're saying you, I would have had more fun, though, if my dad had been there. If your dad had been there.
Because we could have joked. Peter wasn't there. That was what was so weird, too. I couldn't quite get that. Then I thought they must have all been mad that I was the only one nominated or something. But Madeline was nominated.
And she was up against me. So at least, you know, Peter, come on. Like, show up for us. Do you think, what does it do if you start your career, first movie you're in, boom? I think it really screws you up.
Yes. Case in point. I think I would work consistently. But because of that, I started auditioning. And probably because I won an Academy Award right outside of the gate.
And I'm so about never letting, I'm going to overcome that. Because I'm a really good actress. So the fact that, like, I can't get myself a job because I can't do it. The fact that I can't get a job because I can't, like, audition properly is funny to me. And I'm going, so my biggest thing before I was sort of struck with rheumatoid arthritis was, oh, you will be the best auditioner that ever lived. Like, you will get every job you go in on.
And it's gotten better and better. So you've worked on this auditioning thing because you didn't have to audition coming out of the gate. Correct.
Yes. You had to overcome your success. And I think that going through puberty and then my dad and I sort of starting to separate had a lot to do with my confidence at a time when we really need our confidence. And I didn't have, like, a two parent.
I had my dad. And since we were sort of separating, I think that you really need confidence as an actor. And, you know, I put that pressure on myself that I need to be as good as I am in every audition. And I think it's just too much pressure. And it probably has something to do with the Oscar, I imagine. I don't know, 100 percent. It makes sense.
If you start at the top, where else is there to go? Right. But you try not to think like that. It's a little negative. Okay.
You might as well go into anything else. But I wouldn't change anything. No?
No. Going back to your teenage years, I'm just when we see the pictures of those years, it's unbelievable. The bad hair. The really bad hair. There was no straight hairs. Everybody had bad hair back then. That's okay.
Yes. But there's like, you know, you dated Michael Jackson. You're partying at Studio 54. You're hanging out with Cher. Yeah, I was an adult.
I didn't see a problem with it. It was just when they had to get a crane to get me out of Cher's house. Because she had, like, a really amazing family. Like, she had her mom and her sisters and all these amazing women. And I'm like, wait, there's no women at my house. Well, there are. But they come and they go. Every day.
Dad's girlfriends kind of coming and going? If you want to call them that. Girls. Women. Pretty women.
The best of the women in the world, I suppose. But Cher was like, stability for you? Totally.
Yeah. Like, well, and I think I also had big dreams. Like, I didn't want to just be around any normal woman. I wanted to be around, like, Cher.
Like, I wanted to be around women with nails like that. Because I'm like, come from this ranch in San Fernando Valley. Actually, it's not San Fernando Valley.
It's actually Northridge. And, you know, there was all these boys, I had three brothers, I'm the only girl. I just thought that whole girly thing was just the coolest thing I could have ever. I was just, but finally, you know, my dad forced me to come home and I screamed and cried for four weeks, if not months.
If not months. Because you wanted... I just, I loved her family. Like, I loved that she had a close relationship with her mom and her sister.
And she was smart and funny and irreverent and bold in a time when women were still quite, they weren't able to show their power, if you will. So you identify with that, somebody who could show a little bit of power? I don't know that, but maybe.
That makes sense. Did you, were your friends mainly adults when you were a kid? I had a couple of kid friends growing up. But as I've grown up, we've all sort of, I mean, I'm still friendly with a lot of the girls that I grew up with. But I have a wonderful group of friends that I rely on and that are around me and that some are men, some are women, mostly are men who are married to men. And because maybe I feel that I identify in a way with a sort of blues that people who have had to struggle. I don't really identify with what looks like a picket fence, even though that kind of in my dreams, I think, gosh, wouldn't life be cool if I lived in a cul-de-sac and no one knew who I was and I had a perfect, not a perfect husband, but a husband or, and things were less magnified in a bad way if they're bad or magnified in a good way if they're good. Maybe I wasn't famous. I don't know, but it is what it is. So I sort of don't spend much time thinking about it. Dreaming of the white picket fence and the cul-de-sac. Correct.
So, I mean, the truth is we could fill our entire show talking about your life and I'd still have a hundred unanswered questions, but if you could boil it down, what do you think people should know about your life or take away from your story? Well, certainly with regards to the rheumatoid that I had never in my whole life been faced with something that scared me as much in such a quick period of time. As rheumatoid arthritis. Correct.
And you've dealt with addiction, divorce, but rheumatoid arthritis tops them all. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Because you're locked in your own body and you can't see it. So you can't, unless you kind of really look at my hands and really look at them, you can't really see what's going on. So yeah, because you see and you feel something happening and it feels like you are being hit by it with like a hammer all night long, all night long.
And you know what's happening is that you're being crippled and it needs to stop or you're going to be crippled. And I started to really, really panic and go a bit mad. I didn't know what was happening. And I'm surprised at myself because I usually do a lot of research about a lot of things. And I didn't do any research about rheumatoid because I hadn't had a flare. I hadn't had, I'd been on the cover of RA magazine now.
I sort of thought that I could be a bit helpful in that area. But until I really started hearing from women who had also dealt with it, it's primarily a woman's disease. Hence why we have no cure, I think. It is, I think drugs like Humira and Enrel are lifesavers.
But I do think that it is more lucrative for pharmaceutical companies to not find a cure than they are to actually get out there and get a cure for this disease. And I mean, when I tell you that it, the notes that I'm getting from women since I put it out there and I only put it out there three weeks ago and I've gotten thousands and thousands of messages. I mean from saying I lost my legs rheumatoid arthritis and thank you, thank you, thank you for talking about it. No one knows how lonely it is. No one knows how we feel. No one knows how much pain we're in because you can't see it in my face, you know, unless I cry and I do a lot about it.
And I'm not that big of a crier. So you know when I'm crying like things are bad. If I can't get the best health care, I can't even imagine what it's like for women in this country. And that really gets to me. If I cannot get the best health care in America, then it makes me want to fight. It makes me want to fight. It makes me want to fight for other women. It makes me want to fight for the, for a cure for the disease.
And it makes me want to fight for myself. How do you see your future? Well, I'd like to do a lot of, I'd like to, I think the best years are still ahead of me.
How about that? Even if I am crippled, like it is what it is, right? Like if you have it, you have it and they don't have a cure yet. I haven't done my best work yet because I'm only now just starting to like figure out who I am. When you're a child star, everyone tells you who you are. If you're not in a peer group, you don't know who you are. You don't figure out who you are. It took me until like my late 40s to even realize like, am I a good person? Am I, you know, who am I like?
And so I think that I now know I'm a good person. It took a long time. And I would like to be a warrior for the disease to find a cure. I would like to fight for the opportunity to do my best work, which has not been done. Because I want to be, I want to be the one that, that decides that I should be an actress. Like, I want that choice. Like it wasn't, it was made for me.
So I want, I want it to be, to be for me. And, and I know I will get it. And that's the beautiful thing about acting is you can kind of keep doing it till you're dead. Basically, Jessica Tandy and all the great actors of our time. What do you love about acting? There's a kind of familial bond on a set that I'm sure even as you know what you do with your crews and stuff that you don't find anywhere else.
It's a teamwork that, that is from another planet really. And it's so creative. I love actors. I love movies. I love, I just love it. I don't know why. I just do.
I think that we're the most sort of wacky bunch of carnival clowns left, really. Do you dream of winning another Oscar? No. No?
No, because that's not why I'm in it. Would I like that, I guess? Do, to me, does that mean like you've achieved?
To me, for me, the biggest achievement would be that I, that I did the best audition that I could do, that I got the role that I really wanted, and that I'm self-supporting through my own contributions. And then maybe an Oscar would just be gravy. How about that? Or an Emmy would be okay too. I haven't won an Emmy. That'd be okay too. Or a Tony. But I want to go to the world and a couple of others. It'd be nice to kind of fill out that shell, right? I wouldn't mind, yeah. Maggie Hess. For more from this week's conversation, follow The Takeout with Major Garrett on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-28 08:21:08 / 2023-01-28 08:29:05 / 8