By Mike Cidoni Lennox
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Kathy Bates calls herself "an old lion."
The actress says she also plays one in the big-screen comedy "Tammy," now in theaters. Bates portrays Lenore, a successful entrepreneur who figuratively slaps sense into the film's lovable loser of a titular character (Melissa McCarthy).
The 66-year-old "Misery" Oscar winner tells us more.
QI must admit I'm surprised to find you in this movie. You've done a few light comedies, such as Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy." But we're used to seeing you in dramas.
AI'd heard they (the creative team of McCarthy and husband Ben Falcone) wanted me for a part. I didn't know what part. I told my agent, "I will play a giraffe with green spots, whatever they say." (Laughs.)
QWhat was the appeal of McCarthy?
AEven when she gets outrageous, when she gets on the most ridiculous jaunts and puts a bag on her head and all of that, you go with it, because it's real. It's grounded in reality. You almost believe, "Hey! I'd do that, too."
QAs Tammy and her grandmother (Susan Sarandon) careen out of control on their road trip, and in life, Lenore sets them both straight. She's a role model.
AI think of Lenore as an old lion. It's taken her many years to create her business, to have a life for herself and (partner) Susanne (Sandra Oh). They met in college and I think they came out when it was very difficult for lesbians to be accepted.
Q(The gay-cinema historian) Vito Russo would have loved that Lenore is incidentally gay. Her sexuality isn't the point of the character.
AWhat I love about the way we are portrayed in the film is that Susanne and Lenore are a normal, healthy couple, which says, "You can't legislate who you love."
QWhat are the ties that bind you to Lenore?
AI am an old lion, too. I'm nipping at the cubs quite a bit these days. When I get a young director who wants to do all these fancy shots and use all these wide lenses from a low angle, he'll get nipped. (Laughs.) I have spent 50 years of my life learning about this craft. And I'm about to turn it over to the kids that are coming up, which I will do, willingly.
QBut you're by no means retiring. You couldn't be much busier.
AI can't believe it. Let's face it. When (her TV series) "Harry's Law" got canceled and right after that I found out I had breast cancer and I had a double mastectomy that summer, I was pretty low. And I felt like I'd been kicked to the curb. And I didn't know if I would ever work again. And then, a year later, along came Melissa and ("American Horror Story" producer) Ryan Murphy. I'm just grateful for all that. A few months ago, I made the choice not to have (breast) reconstruction, because it occurred to me, "I don't want to go back to bed. I don't want to be on (the painkiller) Oxycodone for two months. I'm having too much fun."
QRyan cast you in "American Horror Story: Coven," and has said that you'll appear in some capacity in the upcoming "American Horror Story: Freak Show."
AI know I'm part of the "Freak Show." We live in Jupiter, Florida. And it's the 1950s. I know it's going to be out there - a good place for an old lion to be.