Down Memory Lane With Sissy Spacek

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

About to be honored on the Walk of Fame, she recalls playing Carrie and Loretta.

From her longtime home in Virginia, which she shares with her husband, production designer/art director Jack Fisk, and an assortment of horses and dogs, Oscar-winning actress Sissy Spacek, 61, reflected on her career with THR just before her star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Early in your career, you wanted to be a singer and auditioned for the Decca label. Ironically, they said you were too much like country singer Loretta Lynn, whom you later played in Coal Miner's Daughter.

I remember thinking: "Loretta Lynn? I'm not like her." I would have described my style more as that of a folk/rock singer.

What was it that changed your focus to acting?

In New York, where I had been performing, I met theatrical manager Bill Tresh, who suggested I study acting. Those doors opened more quickly than the music, so I went with it.

Why did Carrie resonate with the Academy, resulting in Oscar nominations for you and Piper Laurie? The Academy doesn't usually recognize horror movies.

Carrie wasn't a typical horror film or slasher movie. It had humor and pathos. People related to the characters.

I understand you worked with director Brian De Palma once before you got the role of Carrie.

I first worked with Brian as a fill-in set decorator. My husband was working with him on Phantom of the Paradise (1974). Brian had an emergency and needed a set decorator really quick. Later, I had to work particularly hard to win the role of Carrie because Brian thought of me as a very bad set decorator -- not as an actor.

What was it like working with producer-director Robert Altman in Welcome to L.A. and 3 Women?

He was a great collaborator. A lot of times we'd get just an outline in the morning and shoot the scene from that. By the end of the day, we'd get a script of the complete scene that we had shot -- and by the end of the film, we'd have a complete script.

Which of your roles was most challenging for you in terms of preparation and execution?

Coal Miner's Daughter, because of the music and because I had to capture Loretta's rhythm. But I wasn't as afraid to show the film to Loretta as I was to Loretta's fan club.

What is your hope for your daughters, Schuyler and Madison, as they embark on careers in entertainment?

If they want to work in the business, I want them to do it for the love of it, not because they want to be stars. They grew up exposed to the work that their dad and I did, and they were shielded from the glamour side of Hollywood. As a result, they have a healthy perspective of what the film industry is.

Do you spend time with your husband when he is on location?

We always visit each other, but I try to stay off the sets. Whenever I'm on somebody else's set, I feel like the elephant in the room. Once I walked through a shot on my way to the craft service table. Guests are excess baggage on a set -- and that includes me!

You've said you didn't become an actor for the money or stardom. Have you reconciled the fact that with success comes adulation?

I make movies because it's my passion. Awards and adulation are just icing on the cake. Film is a powerful medium. It reaches millions of people around the world and actually makes the world seem very small when people recognize you. It's wonderful and odd.            

Hollywood Walk of Fame
11:30 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 1
6834 Hollywood Blvd.
Guest speakers: David Lynch and Bill Paxton

OSCAR-WORTHY ROLES: Nominated six times, Spacek won the lead actress prize for Coal Miner's Daughter

  • Carrie (1976); Director: Brian De Palma
  • Coal Miner's Daughter (1980); Director: Michael Apted
  • Missing (1982); Director: Costa-Gavras
  • The River (1984); Director: Mark Rydell
  • Crimes of the Heart (1986); Director: Bruce Beresford
  • In the Bedroom (2001); Director: Todd Field