Douglas was a teenager when she visited the set of the
1979 film classic "Being There," starring
Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine and her beloved
grandfather Melvyn Douglas, who would win his second
supporting actor Oscar for the satire.
aspiring actress, Douglas was thrilled when her
grandfather told her he wanted to give her advice.
"I thought, here it is — words of wisdom,"
Douglas recalled with a laugh.
were words of wisdom but not what Douglas expected.
you are, whatever country you are in, if you don’t
know what to order from room service, always go with the
club sandwich," he told her. "It will always
followed in her grandfather’s thespian footsteps, and
even to this day Douglas always orders the room service
club sandwich. "It’s the best advice I ever
to visit her grandparents in New York was always magical
for her. "The idea that people could live that
way," she said. "The thing that I remember
from ‘Being There’ is that people would say, ‘We
just love Mel. Everyone just loves Mel.’ He was just
like an ambassador."
in working with Turner Classic Movies — she recently
hosted its "Trailblazing Women" programming
and participates in the TCM Classic Film Festival and
TCM Cruise — people are telling her stories about her
a recent sunny afternoon, Douglas was enjoying lunch at
Hugo’s in West Hollywood where 20 years ago she met
one of her mentors, actor-photographer Roddy McDowall.
had just auditioned for Gus Van Sant’s 1995 dark
comedy, "To Die For," in which Douglas earned
strong reviews as Nicole Kidman’s ice-skating
sister-in-law, when she joined McDowall ("How Green
Was My Valley," "Planet of the Apes") at
a table by the window.
the shutterbug, he shot her photo that afternoon.
Roddy," she said, "was such a gentleman, of
course. That is one of those amazing things that happen
in Hollywood where people become aware of you and you
don’t even know how. We met and just instantly kind of
hit it off."
being a classic film buff of the first order, Douglas
relished dinners at McDowall’s house with his inner
circle of friends, including Elizabeth Taylor, Gregory
Peck and Tuesday Weld.
were all on a one-name basis," said Douglas, 50.
"He took me out to the Motion Picture Home and got
me involved with them. He started me journal writing. I’m
in the academy because of Roddy McDowall."
relationship with "Uncle Roddy" is just one of
the many fun, colorful and often poignant stories in
Douglas’ episodic autobiography "I Blame Dennis
Hopper: And Other Stories From a Life Lived In and Out
of the Movies."
years, people told the naturally funny Douglas that she
should write a book. "Any time on a film set,
people would say tell the story about this," said
Douglas, who played Robert De Niro’s character’s
ill-fated pickup in her ex-boyfriend Martin Scorsese’s
1991 thriller "Cape Fear" and starred as an
aspiring singer in Allison Anders’ 1996 "Grace of
never knew what the through-line would be other than
they were a great bunch of stories," noted Douglas.
she met director Mike Nichols. "It would never dawn
on me that he would know who I am," said Douglas.
"He made this comment to me that ‘what I like
about you is that you are both in and outside the
movies.’ When he said that I started to find a way
into the book."
title stems from what happened after her parents saw the
1969 counterculture classic "Easy Rider"
starring Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson: Her
father quit his job, became a hippie and started a
commune. And just as quickly, the family became poor.
Years later, she told Hopper about what had happened
because of "Easy Rider."
he told her with a grin.
said if she had been wealthier she may not have become
an actress. "I think growing up poor gave me a lot
of empathy for people, for outsiders always having to
work and understanding the life of people who
relates in her book meeting her idol Marlon Brando in
1996 in Scorsese’s suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel
when he came for lunch to talk about a movie project.
told her not to be a phony and definitely "don’t
talk about acting! He hates that."
entered the room wearing a blue velour sweat suit.
the door opened I literally [almost] passed out,"
said Douglas. "He had a larger-than-life presence
that almost took the oxygen out of the room."
said Brando looked at her feet and remarked that she was
inverting them like a little girl. "I felt him
gazing at me and he said, ‘That means you’re
insecure. What do you have to be insecure about?’"
decided to throw caution to the wind. She said she
couldn’t just be "Marty’s sophisticated
European-looking girlfriend who sits in the corner and
smiles. I just have to be myself and somehow being
myself at least I won’t be phony. I started crying,
and words began to tumble out."
told him everything he meant to her. And then Brando got
emotional. "My God, you’re a tuning fork,"
he told her. "Now I’m crying."