Awards Talk: Bill Cosby's Accusers, Ageism Discussed by Two of Hollywood's Trailblazing Women (Podcast)

The celebrated actress Brenda Vaccaro talks to 'The Geezer and The Kid' about Cosby's accusers ("They waited so long that it's almost a disgrace about women"), ageism in Hollywood ("It's ridiculous, and it's insulting") and much more.
AP Images
Marcia Nasatir and Brenda Vaccaro

Bill Cosby and his accusers, Hollywood ageism, third-act Woody Allen, actresses' voices of the past versus the present and the recently announced Emmy nominations are among the plethora of topics addressed on the jam-packed sixth episode of "The Geezer and The Kid," The Hollywood Reporter's monthly podcast about Hollywood and awards that is co-hosted by Marcia Nasatir ("The Geezer"), the first woman to serve as a VP of production at a Hollywood studio and a longtime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and me ("The Kid"), THR's awards analyst.

Each installment also features a guest co-host who also is a member of the Academy, and for this one Marcia and I were delighted to be joined by the legendary actress Brenda Vaccaro, an Oscar, Emmy and Tony nominee perhaps best known for her work in the films Midnight Cowboy (1969), Jacqueline Susann's Once Is Not Enough (1975) and Airport '77 (1977).

You can listen to — or read highlights of — our full chat below.

The topic of discussion that engendered the most fired-up banter was Cosby, the comedy legend — opposite whom Brenda appeared on the 1977 TV special Celebrity Challenge of the Sexes — who is now accused of sexual assault by more than 40 women. Brenda and Marcia both criticized Cosby — and, in a sense, his accusers, one of whom, Beverly Johnson, Brenda regards as a friend.

"I think [a person's] personal life is daunting sometimes and shocking and we'd rather not know about it," Brenda begins. "Look at [silent era comedian] Fatty Arbuckle — didn't he try to put a Coca-Cola bottle up [the vagina of a woman who later died from her internal injuries]? These things are horrific to hear, but it doesn't diminish the work nor the laughs nor the respect of what he did give. He [Cosby] gave his whole life to comedy and that I will respect him forever for."

Brenda and Marcia then voice their frustration with Cosby's accusers. Brenda states, "This other business? I don't know what to say. All I can say is nobody would ever give me a pill without me asking, 'What is it?!' I would never take a pill. All 45 of them took a pill? I just think it's very bizarre, and I think that they waited so long that it's almost a disgrace about women and their inability to fight for themselves. Is this just 45 people who are not willing to fight for themselves? I wouldn't have put up with it. I would have reported it to the police immediately."

Marcia concurs: "Thank you! That is what my sentence would have been and you've said it. I mean, it sounds cliche, 'Just say no.' But these young women — how could they not have any respect for themselves?" Brenda jumps back in, "All I'm saying is, if the guy had a problem, you know, hopefully it could have stayed at peace. I don't think these women should not come forward now — I am for Beverly Johnson, she's a friend of mine, I think they're brave, I think it should be done. At the same time, it saddens me that they didn't have the courage to do it at first."

We also discuss aging in Hollywood. 75-year-old Brenda, whose last feature film was the very good Boynton Beach Club (2005), says that apparent "declines" in Hollywood are sometimes less attributable to a fading of talent or desire than to ageism, of which she feels she has been a victim. "There is a prejudice — an insidious prejudice — against age in this town," she insists. "It's always under the rug — 'We're going in a different direction,' 'We're going younger.'" She says of her personal experience, "I was blind to it, as I am to anything that seems hostile, at first, because you feel young, you feel vibrant... you are present. And if you aren't respected for being present because you're old, it's ridiculous and it's insulting and it's like, 'Okay, fine, I'm not fighting this shit.' You know?"

Fortunately, Brenda is now at work on several films, one of which is an animated film called Kubo and the Two Strings — the fourth made by Laika, the animation company behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls — to which she lends her vocal talents, as does Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Ralph Fiennes and Rooney Mara. We talk a bit about that and also about Brenda's distinctive voice — which is deep and husky in the tradition of Lauren Bacall and Kathleen Turner — in contrast with the baby-talk and up-talk of many of today's younger actresses. "They're going for a different sound," postulates Marcia, who also feels they talk too fast and non-actorly.

(For the record, Brenda says her favorite current actors are Shailene Woodley, Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton, while Marcia loves Jake Gyllenhaal, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. Both adore Jennifer Lawrence.)

We also discuss the unprecedented number of this year's Emmy contenders who first made their name on the big screen. Brenda, who was among the earliest "film actors" to take on work on television while her career was at its peak, provides some context about the degree to which actors' attitudes toward the two media have shifted over the years by recounting some advice that she once received from Jack Nicholson. Both Brenda and Marcia acknowledge that the quality of writing on TV is what is drawing top talent to the small — but increasingly larger — screen, with Marcia noting that it hasn't been this good since the days of live TV (which Brenda talks about working in) and anthology series like The Twilight Zone (which Marcia and I both adore).

Marcia also vents about the shocking Emmy nomination snubs of CBS's hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory and its leading man, Jim Parsons, who won last year's Emmy for best actor in a comedy series. Brenda, meanwhile, says she rarely watches TV anymore and worries about streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, which landed a ton of major Emmy noms, because she thinks that the consumption of movies on TV rather than in theaters — which is facilitated by day-and-date releases — is a bad thing. (Playing the devil's advocate, I remind Brenda that streaming services are great for actors because they have created many more outlets for them to practice their work.)

Finally, we close the podcast the way we always do: with each participant sharing which films they have recently seen and feel they can recommend.

Marcia and Brenda both cheer the documentary Best of Enemies, which chronicles a series of 1968 debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr., with Brenda asserting, "It was wonderful! I just loved it!... It's absolutely sensational.")

Brenda also recommends Antoine Fuqua's Southpaw, a Jake Gyllenhaal boxing vehicle which she found "Breathtaking — he [Gyllenhaal] is going to get nominated big-time — I would vote for him!" And she also talked up Listen to Me Marlon, a "just brilliant" doc that features never-before-heard audio recordings of the late Marlon Brando (whom Marcia and Brenda both recall seeing in the landmark Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire). She adds, "I will not see Ant-Man!"

Marcia, meanwhile, champions Sean Baker's Tangerine, a micro-budget film about transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles that was shot exclusively on iPhones, saying, "It's a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant little movie — with the worst title in the world." She also saw Mr. Holmes, which she found "disappointing," though "Ian McKellen is very good."

And I volunteer that I loved Liz Garbus' Nina Simone doc What Happened, Miss Simone?, was troubled but engrossed by Josh Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence (a companion-piece to his The Act of Killing) and liked but did not love Tangerine and Judd Apatow's Trainwreck, which stars Amy Schumer. (I have since seen the narrative film The End of the Tour and the docs Listen to Me Marlon, Best of Enemies and Amy, all of which I found first-rate, and the action-thriller Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, which was fun.)

* * *

Thank you for checking out this episode of "The Geezer and The Kid." Completionists can listen to episode one, which dealt with the 87th Academy Awards and 50 Shades of Grey, by clicking here; episode two, about the films of 2015's first quarter, by clicking here; episode three (co-hosted by Howard Rodman), about the size of the best picture Oscar category, by clicking here; episode four (co-hosted by Geoffrey Fletcher), about racial and gender inequality in Hollywood, by clicking here; and episode five (co-hosted by Bonnie Arnold), about the Academy's efforts to diversify its membership and leadership, by clicking here. If you leave questions and/or observations in the comments section below, Marcia and I will be sure to acknowledge them. (We can also be reached via Twitter — me @ScottFeinberg and Marcia @MarciaNasatir.) Our thanks, as always, to our terrific podcast producer Jessie Katz.

comments powered by Disqus