Sally Field: “Underdog is the Understatement of My Career”
“You find a way to do the work you want to do, whether it’s on the big screen, the small screen, the stage, you just find a way.” – Sally Field
“I can’t remember when I didn’t feel like the underdog. Actually, underdog is the understatement of my career. Maybe that’s something I put in my own head… but I don’t think it is something I put in my head. Everything I’ve ever had that mattered to me, I had to be such a scrappy fighter to get.” It’s a surprising statement from Oscar-winning actress Sally Field whom, one would assume, could have her pick of roles.
Of course, the ageism in Hollywood means that there might not be the wealth of roles that there once was for Field, but it’s still surprising to hear that parts aren’t almost handed to her on a plate, after turns in massive hit moves such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Steel Magnolias and Forrest Gump. Field is currently tackling Hollywood’s obsession with leading ladies ages head on, starring in Hello, My Name is Doris. An independent film, the movie centers on Doris (Field) who reinvents herself to become the perfect girlfriend for the new office worker, John, even though he is decades younger. As Field points out, if the roles were reversed no one would be surprised but because it’s an older woman chasing a younger man, there are raised eyebrows.
Now 70, Field has pushed to work consistently and to keep her integrity, too. Though she admits she’s not always been happy with the roles out there available to women of her age, she has pushed through, her desire to create driving her forward without thinking of taking a break.
“There’s a relentless forest fire inside of me [and] I wish my fires would begin to dim,” she jokes. “You find a way to do the work you want to do, whether it’s on the big screen, the small screen, the stage, you just find a way.”
Despite her renowned talent, Field knows she is lucky to land any role, and certainly doesn’t take it for granted. “Even when I was supposedly at the top of my game or in my prime, or whatever they call it, even then it was very hard to find projects,” she says. “I would be lucky if one came to me a year and I would think, Oh thank god! I found one!”
Field has also learned to focus on the need for creativity, rather than the need for her work to be recognized. “I taught myself not to care about what is the prestigious move and what is not. I’ve taught myself to take the part of me that feels like, Oh, I want to be starring in films, and put it in a nice little box with a ribbon on it, pack it away, and say, ‘That’s dandy, honey.’ Because there’s a bigger, more important part of me that just wants to act.”
As for which parts she is willing to try, Field doesn’t appear too fussy. “Let me in there, boss!” she says. “Let me off the bench! Let me do it! Let me do it! I can be big, I can be bad, I can be short, I could be blonde, I could be old, I could be young, just let me loose!”