Living in Hollywood, I am acutely aware of the pressure women my age (and shockingly much, much younger) feel to seek the fountain of youth through fillers or a surgeon’s knife. Faces with frozen expressions, plumped up so much they look bloated, or pulled so tight they no longer resemble themselves. I’d be lying if I said I’m completely comfortable with each new wrinkle, and I’ll never say “never” to a little help, but I’m doing my best to age gracefully, to reach for that state of self-acceptance that sees beauty in every stage of life. Please hold the “but you look great for your age” comments, because this is not a fishing expedition for compliments. My goal is to wear the experience and wisdom I’ve earned with each wrinkle proudly, and that has to come from within. There is something so attractive and sexy about a woman whose comfortable in her own skin, no matter what her age.
Frances Fisher is the sheer embodiment of that philosophy. She is unquestionably one of Hollywood’s most talented actors deftly mutating from character to character in standout performances, but she’s also managed to break through the age barrier – that Hollywood ideal that an actress is “past her sell by date” by forty. Having said that, natural beauty like Frances possesses does not come effortlessly. As Coco Chanel said, “Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty, you get the face you deserve.” We do have to take care of ourselves, so I asked Frances to illuminate us on how she navigates aging with such aplomb.
J: Frances, you recently said in an interview that you will never have your face “done.” Have you ever been tempted, and why do you choose not to go that route?
F: I am an actress, and I want to be able to play all types of characters in all periods of time. If I had my face done, I would only be able to play a woman “who had her face done” – from, what, the 1960’s onward? Very limiting.
J: If beauty comes from within, do you feel your spiritual practice has played a role in that, and how?
F: Having a spiritual practice relieves the stress of living, it gives me perspective on what is truly important to me, I’ve learned the importance of forgiveness and I can easily tap into gratitude.
J: “We are what we eat.” I know you are vegan, and that you were toying with a raw diet when we last spoke. What prompted you to make those dietary changes, and how do you feel it has effected both your health and appearance?
F: I did Kathy Freston‘s 21-Day Vegan Cleanse (cutting caffeine, sugar, alcohol, animal products and gluten) with my daughter and a friend a few years ago, and felt so good after 21 days that I decided to make it a way of life. During that summer I went raw, and lost lots of weight. Almost too much, looking back. I realized food is fuel. Instead of coffee to keep me going, I would either eat something that gave me energy, or take a nap. Mind you, I went off for about 6 months, and gained weight and felt sluggish, so now I am back to total vegan. And, if I am working, and the second meal is pizza, I bless it and eat it, and get right back on the horse!
J: How often do you exercise, and what are some of the things you like to do to stay in shape?
F: I am now committed to doing something every day, whether it be yoga, spinning, weights, hiking or dancing. For a while I wasn’t committed, and my body showed it.
J: I’ll never forget Jerry Hall’s number one beauty tip was always drink as much water as you possibly can every day , do you?
F: I drink water all day long.
J: My mother told me years ago that after forty a women should never leave the house without her face fully made-up. I hate wearing make-up, and rarely do. When I do, it feels like I’m making up a stranger’s face these days – my features are not the same shape as they used to be. Most of us see these changes in our own mirrors long before anyone else will notice, but as an actor, the camera will announce any flaw ruthlessly. First, do you wear make-up all of the time, and have you learned any great age defying tips from the professional make-up artists you work with on your films?
F: I hate to wear makeup as I have to wear it when I work. I did a few films recently, and was so happy not to wear makeup as I was playing a woman who didn’t wear it. I did FRANNY where I played an alcoholic, chain-smoking shut-in (it’s a dark comedy), and THE HOST where I played “a 60 year old wrinkled white-haired woman.” I had a ball getting in an out of the makeup trailer as fast as the guys! I did the same thing on UNFORGIVEN….no makeup because I believe that if the character wouldn’t wear makeup, neither should the actress. Conversely, I have played women who are definitely the type to pack it on, and do the same for those roles. I played that kind of woman on TOUCH, and was kinda horrified at how harsh I looked.
With the advent of digital cameras, there are few creatives who use film anymore, which is a shame. Digital makes everyone look bad, even on the 20 year olds the camera picks up every chicken pox mark. Even the men look bad! The excuse is that it is cheaper, but I’ve learned from reliable sources that this isn’t the case. Productions are just lazy. There is an energy to film that isn’t captured in digital, where everything looks like a soap opera or a football game. The romance of film is gone.
The best friend to an actress is a good DP (Director of Photography) and the Gaffer (who sets the lights). It’s all about the light and the angle.
J: You’re frequently away on location. Airline air is so dry, and then there is jet lag effecting sleep, differing climates that can take their toll on your skin, and sometimes it can force dietary changes too – do you have any travel beauty tips for us?
F: I drink a bottle of water on the way to the airport, and have my moisturizer in my bag. I lather up on the plane, put a sleep mask on, and meditate or rest. I take Melatonin at the hotel before I go to sleep which regulates my sleep cycle. I always wear big sunglasses, and maybe a little lipstick, but no makeup.
J: I believe if we start thinking older, we’ll look older faster too. Having said that, I don’t think being stuck in a time warp is attractive either. I feel like it’s about learning to feel comfortable in my own skin whatever my age happens to be. What would you say is the single most important thing a person should (or shouldn’t) do in order to mentally age gracefully?
F: What’s the alternative? We have to make peace with this process call Life. I have flowers all over my home. I see them go naturally through their process, and dried flowers have a certain beauty too. On the Internet you can Google “90 year old woman doing yoga” and you will be amazed at the women who pop up, who are living their lives fully. They exercise, they are interested in learning new things, and their wrinkles are beautiful. I think a zest for life is what the secret is. The beauty comes from within.
J: Your latest role in the film The Host (in theaters now), required you to age twenty years – what thoughts went through your head when you first saw your older self in the mirror?
F: No it didn’t have to age 20 years! I was supposed to be a 60 year old, which I am right now. I loved wearing the white wig and no makeup. I had bad lighting which enhanced all my angles. The more interesting thing was how I was subtly treated by some people, because I was an “old woman”. A lot of my scenes got cut out……go figure.
J: Busted, I forget you are sixty (or that I’m 54 for that matter), and I’m still thinking sixty equals stereotypical granny, not smoking hot woman! What drew you to this current role, and what’s next? Is there a genre or character you haven’t tackled yet that you long to inhabit?
F: I wanted to do THE HOST because I liked the idea of voices in the head of the protagonist, Saiorse Ronan. We all have the voice of the Ego and the Conscience. They battle each other. That’s what I thought the movie was about. Haha. Next? I am going to do Sam Shepard’s new play, HEARTLESS, where I will play an aged paralyzed matriarch. Again, no makeup, and I think I will just wash my hair and let it frizz up. I don’t think this woman would care about her appearance. But we’ll see what Sam says. I’d like to do a remake of HAROLD & MAUDE.
J: Just like happiness, beauty really is an inside job. You are a woman whose walked her talk, and it shows! You absolutely can be a smoldering beauty at any age when you approach it physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Thank you Frances, for leading by example.
I came up with this vegan recipe for Frances’ birthday party. I used a specific brand of grain blend, Trader Joes Harvest Grain Blend, but you should be able to find something similar close to where you live, or mix your own – it consists of Israeli couscous, red quinoa, and split pea garbanzo beans with some dried red peppers and spinach. The same goes for the vegan sausage – if you can’t find Hot or Sweet Italian, use any vegan sausage and add fennel seed, and a little extra garlic and red chili flakes.