Andie MacDowell waited until age 59 to do her first nude scene. As a grieving matriarch trying to get over her husband’s death and re-entering the dating scene in “Love After Love,” MacDowell has several sexual encounters in the indie drama that leave her emotionally and physically baring all.
“I kept making a joke to everybody that I waited until I fell apart before I took my clothes off,” the actress told Variety during an interview at the Tribeca Film Festival where “Love After Love” is debuting. The experience left her advising her actress daughters, Sarah Margaret Qualley and Rainey Qualley, not to wait as long before shedding their clothes on screen.
“I keep telling my girls, ‘you’re so beautiful, you should just do it,'” she says with a laugh. “‘Go. Do it. Don’t wait.'”
Ultimately, getting naked on screen didn’t feel as vulnerable as portraying a widow in the throes of deep depression. “I was more embarrassed by seeing myself that sad, because I’ve never seen myself look like that,” MacDowell says as she nurses a cup of tea in a Manhattan hotel room. “I’ve seen myself naked plenty. I see myself in the mirror all the time naked. ”
“Love After Love” gives the actress her meatiest part in years, allowing her to chart a wide range of emotions with minimal dialogue and long, penetrating closeups. It’s the kind of latter-career part that European actresses such as Charlotte Rampling (“45 Years”) and Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) have torn into recently, but the type of star turn that Hollywood studios don’t tend to dole out to actresses on a certain side of 40.
“It’s the concept that older women are not interesting,” said MacDowell. “They don’t want to do programming about mature women because they think people go to the movies to watch men. They’ll fill the male role before they fill the female role, even if the female role is the predominant role.”
MacDowell, with her cascading, raven hair, wide smile, and high cheekbones, has long transfixed moviegoers with her beauty and her lilting Southern accent. For a period of time in the early 1990s, she was the beau ideal of rom-coms, melting the hearts of Hugh Grant and Bill Murray in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Groundhog Day,” respectively. But she admits that some in Hollywood need a refresher on her talent, and she’s hoping that “Love After Love” will provide a jolt to her career.
“People forget easily,” said MacDowell. “I told [director Russ Harbaugh] it was like someone gave me another chance. I haven’t had an opportunity like this to do something where I could show what I’m capable of doing. I want to do these kinds of roles, but I don’t see them and they don’t come to me. Finally one came to me, and I’m really happy. I keep telling them thank you.”
Despite the hardships and the career ups and downs, MacDowell said she was happy her daughters followed her into acting. She regrets not allowing them to enter the business earlier.
“I had this notion that I wanted to raise my kids and give them a normal childhood and it didn’t pan out that way at all,” she said. “People don’t let me be normal, so it doesn’t matter. I wish I’d allowed them to do some acting when they were kids, but I was hooked on this idea that I wanted them to make that choice themselves.”
In the meantime, MacDowell thinks that “Love After Love,” which follows a fraying family unit as they engage in failed relationships, bad behavior, and job travails, has an important message about grief and loss.
“Humans are messy and broken and that’s okay,” said MacDowell. “We’re allowed to make mistakes. Part of the process of healing is being a mess.”