Move over Gwyneth, now mum's the new star of the family
Blythe Danner is stepping into the spotlight with her first leading film role. She talks to Keeley Bolger about being widowed and the relationship with her famous daughter.
Blythe Danner was married to the producer Bruce Paltrow for over 30 years before his death in 2002, and wistfully chuckles as she recalls her late husband's words of wisdom.
"Sometimes, people said to Bruce, 'You and Blythe have been married for so many years - what is the secret?'" explains the 73-year-old actress, known for her roles in Meet The Parents and Will & Grace.
"And he said, 'We never wanted to get divorced at the same time'."
Their daughter Gwyneth, who earned an Oscar for 1998's Shakespeare In Love, has often cited her parents' relationship as a shining example of marriage.
Born in Philadelphia, Danner started her career in the late Sixties, working in Broadway musicals before meeting and marrying the "very funny" Paltrow in 1969.
Theirs was one of the most stable unions in showbiz and they went on to have two children, Gwyneth, now 43, and son Jake, 40, a director.
"He did not want to clip my wings," she says of her husband. "He really wanted me to do the things that would fulfil me, but after the children were born, I pulled way back."
Paltrow died from complications arising from oral cancer and pneumonia while in Rome celebrating their daughter's 30th birthday.
One of the things Danner - who won a Tony Award back in 1970 for her performance in the play Butterflies Are Free - is certain would have met with Paltrow's approval, is her first leading film role in the widely acclaimed indie comedy I'll See You In My Dreams. "I can just hear him saying, 'Good'. He wanted me to do more for myself."
In the film, Danner's character Carol is a widow who begins to struggle with everyday life when her beloved dog dies.
With the support of her loyal friends (played by June Squibb, Rhea Perlman and Mary Kay Place), Carol embraces the world again, re-connecting with her daughter and pursuing a new love interest, played by Sam Elliott.
Both her children have raved about her performance in the film.
"I couldn't have been more happy about that. Gwyneth spoke at the luncheon they had for me in California (to mark 50 years in showbusiness) and it was just beautiful. She was just so warm and lovely. I was very proud of her, as I am of all that she does."
Despite initial nerves that she wouldn't have the "energy" to be in every scene, she accepted the role and found much common ground with Carol.
"When you get to my age and you've gone through so much, those emotions are easy to access," she adds.
In particular, she liked the way the film didn't marginalise older people, but admits she's felt "invisible" from time to time.
"I feel younger than I am, and then you look at yourself and you go, 'Good heavens, I'm not that young person anymore'. Sometimes you feel invisible on the street."
I'll See You In My Dreams is in cinemas and on digital download now, and available on DVD from Monday