November 1, 2013

Steenburgen shines in ‘Last Vegas’

Posted in Between Us column, Movies, Women at 10:58 pm by dinaheng

Life and art mesh beautifully for Academy Award-winning actress Mary Steenburgen in the new CBS Film “Last Vegas.”

Steenburgen, who’s started a second act as a singer/songwriter in real life, plays Diana, a tax attorney who’s started a second career as a singer in a run-down Vegas lounge, fulfilling a lifelong dream. When four friends from Flatbush come to town for a bachelor party, Diana manages to attract two of the guys, changing the lives of all in the process.Dinah Eng

What was it like working with her iconic co-stars — Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline?

“They were all guys who were on my short wish list of people I admired and dreamt of working with one day,” says Steenburgen, sitting down to talk at the ARIA Resort and Casino, where part of the movie was filmed. “Then boom, it happened. I got to have wonderful, meaty scenes with them.

“It was fun being with grownups, talking about life, different people we had worked with, our dreams, and things we wanted to do and haven’t done yet.”

Steenburgen, who has won numerous awards for roles in films like “Melvin and Howard,” “The Help,” and “Ragtime,” says a lot of her dreams are musical. The actress now writes for the Universal Music Publishing Group, and recently co-wrote music for Grammy Award-winning country artist Tim McGraw.

“I love to write jazz and blues,” she says. “There are a lot of people I’d like to write for. I just took up the accordion this year, and would like to get better at it.”

Living life fully is a lesson her character Diana embodies. She doesn’t hesitate to tell the guys who have come to town to party that she’s divorced, was bored, and gave up a stable career to sing.

Mary Steenburgen sings a song she composed herself on "Last Vegas." Photo by Chuck Zlotnick, courtesy of CBS Films.

Mary Steenburgen sings a song she composed herself on “Last Vegas.” Photo by Chuck Zlotnick, courtesy of CBS Films.

“There’s something interesting about a woman who’s honest,” Steenburgen, 60, says. “So often, when you see attraction on the screen, it’s for young women. There’s a lot of coyness and lies told. It’s interesting to see a woman speak her truth and share who she is. It’s disingenuous and silly in a woman my age. Diana’s earned the right to say who she is, and what she wants.”

So what do Baby Boomer women know that Millennial women don’t?

Steenburgen says Millennial women are afraid of the word feminism.

“My reason for calling myself a feminist is that I want every woman and girl on the planet to be safe, educated, and the best she can be,” Steenburgen says. “Feminism doesn’t have anything to do with not loving men. I have a husband and son I adore, and I worship my father. Young women have bought the bad PR that being a feminist makes you less attractive to men.”

As the film “Last Vegas” shows, society has placed a little voice in older people’s minds that says, “You’re too old to do this.” Steenburgen, who has several business ventures,  ranging from a restaurant in Little Rock, Ark. to a candle company, says it’s important to ignore that thought.

Parents will stand on the sidelines of soccer fields and tell their children, “You can do it,” yet don’t allow themselves to try new things, she notes.

“If you’re not living, you’re dying,” she says, “so it’s vitally important to grow. Singing in the movie was terrifying for me. But I knew I had to stare that down.”

Steenburgen and Diana have another thing in common — both find the love of their lives… the second time around.

“When I met the love of my life (actor Ted Danson), it was after I’d looked at some hard truths in myself,” Steenburgen says. “I had to stop blaming others, and focus on measuring my own strengths and weaknesses. Being honest about what I’d done wrong in relationships let me be more open to finding him. If you find that person, stay in gratitude about it. It’s blessed to find your person in life.”

Spoken like a woman who knows the art of living fully.

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