Annabelle Gurwitch on the Side Effects of Turning 50 (Q&A)

Ed Krieger

Promoting her new play, 'I See You Made an Effort,' she recalls the time she was fired by Woody Allen, and wonders whether Hillary's candidacy really is a game changer.

Back in the 1990s, Annabelle Gurwitch was the smart and funny co-host of Dinner and a Movie before she expanded her repertoire with guest appearances on popular shows like Seinfeld, Dexter and Boston Legal. She was cute and clever trading political insights with Bill Maher, and still is, only now she’s 53, a fossil by Hollywood standards.

Gurwitch chronicled her semi-centennial observations in the New York Times bestseller I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities and Survival Stories From the Edge of 50, which she recently turned into a play that will run at Hollywood’s Skylight Theatre through June 8.

Gurwitch talked with The Hollywood Reporter about Hillary Clinton, "erection killers," and being called "retarded" by Woody Allen.

Is middle age tougher on women?

I think it’s an equal-opportunity offender. When I was on Charlie Rose’s show, he said to me that Mike Nichols had said to him once, "Charlie, there’s going to be a time when women are going to stop you on the street. And they’re not stopping you 'cause they find you attractive. They’re stopping you to ask directions."

You talk about "erection killers" in the book. What are the three worst erection killers in your bedroom right now?

According to my husband, he just can’t get over Spanx: "How could they take a word that I once thought was a fun thing and turn it into something that I just never want to say?" The tweezers that migrate under my pillow, I’m not allowed to do that in front of my husband. One of the horrible indignities of being this age is I might have more chin hairs than my teenage son. Wait! My husband is miles away from me, but he just lost his erection.

What are some of the other highlights that carry over from the book?

I have a Betty White fantasy. I did the satirical video about the Eileen Fisher scarves. I always say that middle aged has turned me into a plainclothes detective. I can’t get dressed anymore except in these really boring outfits.

What is it with you and Eileen Fisher?

Her company called me after they read the profile of me in the New York Times offering to dress me. Then they read the book and they rescinded the offer. And I thought, okay, Eileen Fisher, you’ve got to have a sense of humor. I actually do buy their clothes.

You talk about being invisible, but is that such a bad thing? Don’t you wish people would just back off sometimes?

When I say invisibility, I don’t just mean as a sexual object. I mean as an entity in the culture, as a voice. It happens to be set in Los Angeles, but it’s not just this industry in which there’s ageism. What’s really fun is to have audiences come and laugh the laughter of the damned.

Will Hillary’s candidacy change the way women of a certain age are perceived?

Absolutely not! In fact, a lot has been made of her age and health, even though we have plenty of older men in elected office. And they are playing up her role as a grandma, something you rarely see for men.

People say 50 is the new 40, but what does that even mean?

There’s no f—ing way. When you’re 50, no one who’s 40 thinks you’re the same age as them. You’re just not. It’s just bullshit. That’s one of the odd things about living longer, we don’t know what we’re supposed to be doing at different ages anymore, because I got a friend who’s pregnant and she’s 53.

So we have to own our age?

The most important line of the play is, ‘F— you, 50! I own you! You’re my bitch!’ I really think there’s a way we have to be the age we are. And first of all, IMDB killed it for anyone in show business. You just try to be a different age, you can’t!

You were quite famously fired by Woody Allen from his Off-Broadway play Writer’s Block. Actors always say if he ignores you, you’re doing fine.

I knew I was in trouble when he was talking to me. He’s replaced Vanessa Redgrave. He’s replaced Michael Keaton. It’s kind of a badge of honor to be fired by Woody Allen. To have him call me retarded, I was like, did I just hear that? For me, in that moment when he was saying, ‘Don’t ever do that again, not even in another play,’ I wasn’t completely destroyed because I felt this was going to be a good story. If I would ever see Woody Allen, which I doubt I will because he would never remember me because he never learned my name to begin with, I would thank him. Except he would say, ‘Who are you?’ 

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