Andie MacDowell: “I say to younger actors, ‘Isn’t it wonderful? We get paid to play make-believe’”

The star of Green Card and Sex, Lies and Videotape on watching the industry change over her career

Interview by MARTHA HAYES
Photography by KURT ISWARIENKO
Fashion Direction by MARYAM MALAKPOUR


Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) changed my life. I struggled between the ages of 23 and 30. I had a hard time and was in a lot of pain trying to transform myself and convince people who I was. I would read for casting directors and they would go, “Oh, wow, I’m surprised,” but then the role would go to someone who already had a career. Sex, Lies, and Videotape was critically well received and made money, so it was everything I needed to prove what I could do.

My first memory of being on a film set is figuring out how to run on camera in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984). There really wasn’t a lot of direction on how to make running look beautiful and feminine! It was a different time back then. Shooting a scene was very precious and nobody interrupted. Now everything has changed. Directors will yell at you in the middle of a scene to give you information. I’ve had to adjust to that, and let go of that preciousness, because if you don’t adjust, you don’t move forward. I feel like I’m still learning lessons constantly.


VERSACE dress, $2,775, and shoes, price upon request. VAN CLEEF & ARPELS Bouton d’Or pendant, $40,600.


I remember Sir Ian Holm [my co-star in Greystoke] saying to me, “We’re going to play.” I’ve always kept that idea in my mind, and l say it to younger actors. We’ll be in the middle of a scene together and I’ll say, “Isn’t it wonderful? We get paid to play make-believe.” I really enjoy improvisation. I worked with Bill Murray [on Groundhog Day in 1993], who is a genius at it. The process of listening and being flexible and not stuck to the words is really important. The great thing about Groundhog Day was knowing that our director, Harold Ramis, had faith in me. He had such a joyful look on his face after every scene. It helps you perform better when you feel like someone believes in you.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape was instrumental in making people want to do independent movies, because it made money. Now it feels like people have lost hope in them, but I haven’t. I’m getting ready to work on an independent movie, and both of my daughters [Margaret Qualley and Rainey Qualley] are too. They’re really important to the business as pieces of art and for the process of making something that you really believe in.


“I would like to explore what it means to be a woman of my age in a more interesting way than how people seem to perceive us”



In future roles, I would like to explore what it means to be a woman of my age in a more interesting way than how people seem to perceive us. Quite often they don’t understand us or how valid our lives still are. I’m interested in opening that up. I think we get discarded and we’re very misunderstood.

There has been a problem with the lack of support of women for a long time, so I applaud people in this business for stepping up. I remember having conversations with Nora Ephron [on Michael in 1996] about how hard it was for her. In the 1980s, there were no females at the table, and women felt like they had to act like a man in order to make it. There’s a lot more women on set now, which is really important. I always felt uncomfortable looking around and seeing only men.


Julianne Moore wears LOEWE coat and BULGARI and CARTIER jewelry.


Stylist assistants SARAH NEARIS and ELLIOT SORIANO.
Hair for Andie MacDowell by JOHN D at FORWARD ARTISTS using ORIBE.
Makeup for MacDowell by PATI DUBROFF at FORWARD ARTISTS.
Nails for Negga and MacDowell by MARLA BOLDEN at OPUS BEAUTY using CHANEL Le VERNIS.
Hair for Édgar Ramírez by SASCHA BREUER at THE WALL GROUP using WELLA.


Feature image: CHANEL trench coat, price upon request, and boots, $2,425.


This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of C Magazine.

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