Talia Shire – Women Who Rock
What does the incredible success of ‘Rocky’ mean to you?
It helped to lighten the whole nepotism label. It was a vindication of sorts. There was and is a lot of nastiness with that label. Being in ‘Godfather’ and being Francis Coppola’s sister was a drag for me. I took a lot of merd.
Adrian is the ultimate iconic character. Can you elaborate on the process behind bringing her to life?
I just wanted to be a working character actress and make the character artfully alive in an organic way.
I am shy and sensitive, so for me character acting is liberating. Creating a character and playing a character is an empathy-enriching experience. I think Adrian did some healing good for those who don’t have a lot of confidence. I am proud of that. I think Sylvester wrote a rare and pure piece.
I’m sure you’ve been hearing hundreds of Yo Adrian!!’s for years now…
Years and years ago — it must have been thirty-six years ago — I was walking down the sidewalk, the same sidewalk where the box-office line for Radio City Music Hall cues up. I wasn’t in line — just walking. One person in that line recognized me and shouted “Yo Adrian!” and then another and then another. And on it went. It was a long block. An amazing block. And to be honest, a cherished memory.
Let’s talk about Adrian’s anti-glam albeit charming wardrobe in the first ‘Rocky’ before her womanly trophy wife transformation.
John Avildsen, our director, wanted Adrian to be stuck in her shyness. I love John for urging me to pick through every used clothing store. There were many sad stories and many sad dreams on those hangars. But a great place for actors to touch someone else’s past. I wanted Adrian to be wearing her lack of esteem. I asked my eye doctor for “unhappy” out of style glasses. I knew that I could achieve an exciting and dramatic transformation if I used the right clothing. I had a safety pin on the zipper, rubber bands on my wrist and no makeup! I loved that character. I loved her innocence and the way she loved Rocky.
Would you say Adrian is your most cherished character you’ve ever portrayed? What about Connie?
I love Connie and her transformation in ‘The Godfather,’ but I cherish Adrian and the characters in ‘Rocky’ — and the actors who gave those characters a pulse.
What would you say was the toughest scene to film so far in your career?
The toughest scene I had to do was in ‘The Godfather: Part II’. The scene was Connie walking towards her brother, Michael, and then she kneeled at his feet to plead for her brother Fredo. It was very very cold and it was necessary for me to suck on an ice-cube for a minute so my words wouldn’t be accompanied by obvious gusts of breath. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the ice-cube out of my mouth and into my hanky while still containing Connie’s emotional life. It was a tough moment but a big professional moment for me.
How about scenes that were the most fun to film?
The zoo scene in ‘Rocky’. Rocky asks Adrian to marry him but she can’t quite hear him because of her ear muffs. Those earmuffs were very Adrian. It was an improvised fun moment — and a sweet romantic moment.
You admitted to being sensitive. So, when is the last time you’ve cried?
It was August 28th and Gene Kelly would have been 100 years old. I watched and reviewed everything he did. I watched ‘Singing in the Rain’ and I watched it several times. I cried because it was so good. I cried because I remembered the big crush I had on him. It was a golden age for the movie musical and Gene Kelly was golden! I really cried because I realized that he didn’t get fifteen more years. And we didn’t get more years to experience his creativity for film. I cried a river.
What would you name your memoir?
The title of my memoir…. hmm. I like ‘Oh for a muse to be sacrificed’. I like ‘Swift Pursuits’ too. It’s a medical term. You know when your eye doctor makes you follow his index finger? Well, that is a test and it is called “swift pursuits”.
If a biopic was to be made, who do you think would be a great fit to portray you?
I don’t know. But it’s an interesting question.
Photography – Zoey Grossman