The inimitable Jerry Hall reprises the role that first cemented the world's 'cougar' fascination. Hall has performed the role in London's West End, New York's Broadway, and now it comes to Melbourne. The darkly humorous production has a swinging sixties soundtrack and it's set to hit the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre this September for a strictly limited season. Time Out enjoys a flirtathon with Ms Hall herself...
Many people have seen the movie The Graduate. How does the stage play differ?
Well the film is a wonderful piece of work. Mike Nichols directed it so beautifully, Ann Bancroft was amazing. But the play was actually originally written and directed by Terry Johnson, who is a great comic playwright from London and really clever. He made it into a completely separate entity, in that, the lines are different, the whole plot. Everything is different. The story’s different. It’s a separate thing.
I’ve done it for over a year on stage and travelled with it, toured America, did it a couple of years ago in Perth. They’re going to bring back some of them. The guy who played my husband, Mr Robinson. He is lovely, Luke. We’re going to have the same director from the American productions, Peter Lawrence. He’s a fantastic director and I think he has the final say on who Benjamin is going to be. There’s so many. I think it’s between two now. Really good actors, I looked at their tapes and I couldn’t decide which one. He’s gotta decide.
Do you get to have a little bit of a say there, a bit of influence?
Well, I did say, can I have a little casting couch? See what they look like with their shirts off? Yeah, but I wasn’t allowed, I have to wait.
Despite being cast as the older woman, Ann Bancroft was only 36 when she made the film.
I know, and Dustin Hoffman was 33. He looked younger. She had to make herself look older, like she gave herself that little grey streak and did this frosty tip thing, but she was just such a wonderful actress that she was able to play that part. I read an interview where she said that the secret to unlocking her character was that she had a lot of anger. Mrs Robinson is very creatively frustrated. She got pregnant, she was at the age just before the pill where she got pregnant, had to give up her career.
God bless the pill.
I know, I know! So we’ve gotten to do what we like, have a lot of fun and choose our time. Which is very different. We’ve been able to be creative longer.
Many people focus on the relationship between Benjamin and Mrs Robinson, but then there’s the fascinating relationship between Elaine and her mother.
Yes, yes and also between Benjamin and Elaine, because it’s a love story, it’s a love story against terrible obstacles and they still manage to fall in love and get together. But the relationship between Mrs Robinson and her daughter… a lot of the lines, she’s just sooo bitchy. It’s quite funny, but it’s because she’s trying to push her daughter into doing what she wants and not trying to please. She wants her daughter to be able to do the things that she feels she didn’t get to do, that she feels frustrated, , which is why she’s so angry and why she’s an alcoholic.
You’re a beautiful woman, who is the mother of beautiful daughters.
Oh noo, aren’t you sweet.
How do you manage that relationship?
Well, I’m so proud of them, they’re amazing. All of my children. My daughters have been so successful modelling. I’m really proud of them. They work really hard and they’ve handled fame and their career beautifully. I’ve never been bothered about aging, where some people are. I’m just not bothered about it.
How did your kids feel about you taking on this role with its infamous nude scene?
They were horrified, in the beginning. But once they saw it, they were really relieved and said they were proud of me and were they pleased. The nude scene is an integral part of the story, the whole ideal that she is shocking him, she’s so outrageous. And the audience laugh so much and I do have on high heels, I’m not completely nude. But it’s very tastefully done, it’s a short part of the play, but it needs the shock value. The audience needs to feel as shocked as Benjamin.
As a model your body has been your tool of your trade, so I guess it’s just skin huh?
Well yeah, but I never did nudity ever. The first time I was ever nude was on stage. Which was terrifying. At first I hated it, it was like walking though fire. I was mortified about it. But after a while, because the audience enjoys it so much, they laugh so much. I got to a point where I really enjoyed it and it was one of my favourite parts of the play. I started really looking forward to it. I must be an exhibitionist.
There seems be this pressure on Benjamin to develop his career, with pressure from everybody. What do your think your parents expected from your career?
Well, I skipped a year in high school and won a scholarship to go to university and study chemistry and so my mother and father really wanted me to do that. But the modelling took off and I was supposed to go back to university and I just didn’t go. I was meeting all of these amazing people and travelling and making money and never went back. Later on, after I had my children I took some university degree courses, which my mum was really pleased about. But yeah, they just wanted me to be happy and were very proud of my success. Really pleased, that I’d been successful, made money and done something I loved.