Jennifer Beals: “I didn’t think of having a career in Hollywood”
This is the translation of an interview that appeared today on various Latin American websites.
An original article in Spanish can be found here El Salvador
Thirty years after the 80’s hit Flashdance, the star reveals why she decided to leave Hollywood and give up fame.
Someone younger than thirty might never had heard of the name Jennifer Beals, but those who passed 40, will not be able to forget so easily the star of the movie ‘Flashdance’ that started the beginning of videos, breakdance and a ‘feeling’ for music and dancing that marked the 80’s, forever. Thanks to that movie, Jennifer Beals become famous playing an adolescent who was a welder by day and danced in a bar, at night, with the only intention of fulfilling her only dream: to enrol in a professional dance school.
And reality became fiction, because Jennifer opted to walk away from Hollywood and all the fame to fulfil her real passion of studying American Literature at Yale University. We never knew about this… till now. She graduated with honors but the fashion has changed and an elegant black blouse with transparent sleeves today replaces the ripped sweaters that she made fashionable in the 80’s. Thirty years after the premiere of ‘Flashdance’, we interview her at the stylist Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills to travel together through the tunnel of time, as if the hands of the clock had never moved for her.
How is it possible to stay exactly the same as 30 years ago?
God bless you!
No, it is not a compliment, it’s true. You have the same cherubic face, the same curls, the same figure and not even one wrinkle. What’s your secret?
I believe that sleep has much to do with it. I love to sleep, love to dream, I like to sleep.
This is probably the first Coca Cola that I had in a year and I don’t eat just anything, but I’m not immune to McDonald´s fries. I guess it’s genetic.
I imagine that you would have answered the following question, hundreds of times in the last three decades, but it’s logical that everyone wants to know the truth: How was it that in the midst of so much success of ‘Flashdance’, after having made the most famous musical film of the 80’s, left everything to go to University? It’s something that no one would do, and however ..
It’s funny … because everyone thinks it’s something very particular but to me it seems quite normal. My idea was to continue my education. I didn’t think to turn my back on my studies. The way I was thinking was ‘I love university, I love learning, I love the experience of being in a classroom and that’s what I decided to do. I chose something that was positive for me, a positive experience, because I didn’t expect to have a career in Hollywood, or to make the correct chess moves. I never thought about it. I filmed ‘Flashdance’ when I graduated from high school and later continuing my education in University seemed the next logical step. Didn’t even hesitate a second. On the contrary, I was excited because I wanted to go back to study.
But when you auditioned for ‘Flashdance’ didn’t you dream of fame in Hollywood? It is difficult to understand after such success you abandoned everything!
Actually I never imagined that I was going to be selected. Neither did I think that I was going to be famous. The fame was never a motivation for me. The character of ‘Flashdance’ was really incredible, and the story sounded interesting, but I never ‘want to be famous’. Also, I believe that culture is a little different. Today, we have so many magazines, so many television programs dedicated to fame, which perhaps, make people think a little differently. But I never thought this way, no way. I wasn’t even reading magazines when I was a teenager.
Don’t you think that your career as an actress would have changed completely if you’d stayed in Hollywood, making the most of your success at the time?
What I think is that for sure I would have ended in a mental institute. Really
Yes. I was not prepared for Hollywood and the whole repercussion that ‘Flashdance’ had. Definitely.
And how did the other students at University react when you arrived?
First of all, it was Yale University and this may surprise you, Jodie Foster was studying there and David Duchovny. At University, people were reacting completely differently, they were not interested in famous people. On the contrary, I believe that it was the opposite and people were not speaking to me, for being well known. I had to approach them otherwise I wouldn’t have had friends at all.
Didn’t your agent convince you to return to films?
No. She was very respectful. I knew what I wanted to do and she sent me scripts or told me when she considered that it was important to have a meeting. When there was any proposal, it was very respectful, and I had to refuse because I had too many exams and could not work.
No one can be prepared for such furor. The song ‘What a Feeling” performed by Irene Cara in the movie ‘Flashdance’ still continues to play on some radio stations. And even today still remains intact among so many dancers or gymnasts, the fashion that Jennifer Beals imposed with leg warmers and ripped sweatshirts and cropped sleeves. Not to mention the style of video clips that inspired the creation of the MTV music channel. And even the culminating dance scene had a rigorous jury that American television recreated with the program ‘American Idol’ or Jennifer López. And it’s just because of those dance scenes which gave the movie ‘Flashdance’so much recognition and so much controversy… when after the release and success, it was known that indeed, Jennifer had not danced in the film.
Now that’s the 30th anniversary of ‘Flashdance’ and the film today can be seen frame by frame, to detail in high definition… Do you think that people will watch it to find out if it really was you that danced or a body double?
The truth is that I didn’t have a body double in ‘Flashdance’. I had four!
Would the truth have been known if it wasn’t for the scandal that happened after the premiere of the movie?
Yes, I’m sure they would have known. What’s more, before giving interviews to promote the film, one of the producers asked me not to speak about the body double. And I told her that having worked so hard, they were fantastic and deserved it. I would have never ignored the body double, because for me they are part of the crew. And a good movie needs them all, from the sound man, up to the writer. They all make the film. And I had this incredible woman who did a dance sequence if I could not do it… and if she couldn’t, there was another woman, and if she couldn’t, there was a sixteen-year-old boy. That’s how we filmed the most famous scenes of ‘Flashdance’.
Have you ever tried the scenes where body doubles appear?
Of course I did , I tried very much so. But I wasn’t as good as my body double.
Do you remember the first time you went out dancing ?
No! It was hell for me, when I was younger ,no one invited me ever to go out. Honestly, it was sad, depressing. I’m not kidding. I tell you: I had to make a film where there was this false romantic moment, so it occurred to me to go to a Latin dance club, to dance with some people to be prepared. I wore a short skirt, makeup and high heels. When I arrived, the place was full of Hispanic men, but no one took me to dance. No one. And we all know how we praise Latino men. Already I was feeling a total loser, when finally a 72-year-old man approached me and asked me to dance. Despite the age, I thanked God. In addition, he was a great dancer, so I felt very flattered. We danced for a while and then he gave me his card. He turned out to be a dance instructor, who was looking for new students!
How long ago since you danced?
Now I am married, so it’s probably … 17 Years ago, when I met my husband.
Having chosen University instead of Hollywood, did you change your way of thinking about cinema?
Yes, but my way of thinking changed more when I was married to my first husband, Alexander Rockwell. He was an excellent independent film director and I learned very much. With him we got the Sundance Award for ‘In The Soup’ (1992). Alex loved the movies and he introduced me to directors that I would never have come to known myself. In fact he introduced me to Carl Franklin and with him I filmed ‘Devil in to Blue Dress’ (1995) with Denzel Washington. But I don’t know… I never had big admiration for the money. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like the money, because I love it. But as they say, when I’m not in this world, I won’t be able to take it with me.
What’s the meaning of your name appearing at the end of the credits on the movie ‘Pulp Fiction’?
You must know Quentin Tarantino very well in order to understand it. We are very good friends. For my birthday, after that I did ‘Devil In A Blue Dress’, he got me the roll of the original film, because he said it’s not enough to have a copy of the video, ‘You worked so hard that a copy of the video does not make justice to your work. The film truly represents your work’ he said. It was very sweet.
And you never worked together?
Yes, a little, in the film ‘Four Rooms’. But I would love to work again with him. It is so much fun … And he really has a tremendous heart, much more than what the entire world knows, because they are used to relate him to the violence of his movies, but they do not realize that he’s very sweet.
Is it true in the first film that you did, My Bodyguard, you were uncredited?
I don’t know. The truth is that I don’t look at the credits, I tell the truth. But yes. This was my first role with Matt Dillon, Adam Baldwin and Joan Cusack. I had an excellent time in ‘My Bodyguard’, but scarcely spoke a few words.
And it is true that David Duchovny wanted you, for the television series ‘The Secret X-Files’?
Yes, Who told you? David suggested me to do ‘Secret Files X’ with him and to be honest, I could not understand the script he gave to me. I must not be very good in scientific terms and I said to him: ‘ David I believe it’s fantastic that you’ve thought about me, but I didn’t understand a thing.’ And I could not be employed at something that I didn’t understand. But later, I did another TV series in the style of ‘Sex in the City’, on cable channel Showtime, ‘The L word’, and this was very entertaining.
Your character was a lesbian?
(Laughing) Yes! I had comic parts and others more dramatic. I played a woman who had a seven-year relationship as a couple with another woman and together we decided to have children, looking for a sperm donor so she could become pregnant. And right now, I’m doing another series with Sony Television, ‘The Mob Doctor’, it’s very good.
Are you going to leave Hollywood again?
No, no, no. I can always leave and return. But this time, if you want me to leave Hollywood, you’re going to have to throw me out.