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Andie MacDowell Remembers How ‘Sex, Lies & Videotape’ Changed Her Career

Andie MacDowell missed the Cannes debut of “Sex, Lies & Videotape” 30 years ago but has made up for it since, walking the festival’s fabled red carpet more times than she can remember. The “Four Weddings and a Funeral” actress, who recently shot “Lovestruck” for Fox and will appear at the fest on behalf of L’Oréal, talked with Variety about her breakthrough role as Ann, the repressed married woman drawn to James Spader’s videotaping Graham, and its outsized impact on her career.

When “Sex, Lies & Videotape” won the Palme d’Or three decades ago, it jump-started your acting career and sent writer-director Steven Soderbergh’s into orbit. How do you think the movie holds up?
I like the intimacy of the film. I think everybody thought they were watching something that was real, that was really happening, because of the way it was done, the rawness of it. When it came out it was very taboo. It wouldn’t be so salacious now, but it was salacious then.

You grew up in the South. Did any part of you relate to Ann’s sexual reserve?
I wasn’t like her at all, but I knew her. I knew so many people that were like that, and I understood why they were so afraid of sex, because in the South, women who are sexual are very, very bad people. When you’re taught that from a very young age, it’s no wonder you can’t have an orgasm. You can’t open up. It’s unavailable to you.
What I thought was going to happen was I would have something to show casting directors. I remember Steven [Soderbergh] calling me from Cannes to tell me that it had won, and it hadn’t even registered when it won at Sundance, it hadn’t hit me that, yeah, something great’s happening. I even said to him, “I guess it’s going to have a distributor. People are going to see it.” And he was like, “Yeah, people are going to see it. It’s going to play in a theater.” It was really just dawning on me.

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Do you regret not being there?
I hated missing Cannes, not getting to be there. If I had been there, I would have realized what a big deal it was. I had never been to Cannes, so I didn’t understand what was happening. I’m really sad now, in hindsight, that I didn’t go, but I put so much pressure on myself to be what I felt what people wanted me to be and I was huge, I was nursing. I looked like a woman who had just had a baby and was nursing. I lived in fear of criticism, and I’m sad about that, but I’m much better now.

Was the impact on your career immediate or did it take a while to change?
I went from being worthless to very valuable overnight. Right away people wanted me to play the same character, but I didn’t really want to do that.

What are your expectations for Cannes this year?
I will probably end up working a lot, doing interviews and going up the red carpet. But it’s fun to have someone do your hair and makeup and wear a beautiful dress.

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