It is interesting to read these interviews with beautiful up-and-coming actresses, their careers are just taking off and they are full of hopes and dreams. Now over thirty years later, we are able to look back and see what actually happened, and it is usually kind of sad to realize that these early beginnings, were often the apex of their careers. While Tanya Roberts would go on to star in Sheena and the James Bond film, A View To A Kill, she would be nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for both roles.
By BRUCE WILLIAMSON
PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD FEGLEY
PRODUCED BY MARILYN GRABOWSKI
All hail Mrs. Roberts, a bronx-bred fallen angel unveiling her wilder side in "The Beastmaster"
She played Julie, the last and one of the most glorious o£ Charlie's Angels, replacing Shelley Hack, who had, in turn, filled the gap after the defection of Farrah. She's now Kiri the slave girl, a medieval warrior woman sharing captivity with a number of unpredictable cats, in The Beastmaster. Although their eyes may hint at ancient mysteries, not a cat in a carload can compete with tawny Tanya Roberts when her stunning peepers suddenly beam onto you like a pair of sky-blue spots. Sipping vodka, I wait for her in a dim little hotel bar. It's been raining outside, gray and sloshy, with a string of puddles between here and nearby Gramercy Park. New York weather is rotten until the moment Tanya appears. She's got on blue-and-yellow-striped minishorts, with a matching top. Those eyes. Those legs. Sunshine after the rain.
She says hi. She says they've traipsed all over Lower Manhattan, from Greenwich Village to TriBeCa, looking at lofts: "We want to be bicoastal." That voice. A throaty purr tinged (text continued on page I96)
The swan song of Charlie's Angels marked a big beginning for scrumptious Tanya (above left) opposite superchicks Jaclyn Smith (center) and Cheryl Ladd. "I loved working on it," recalls Tanya, originally passed over as "too young."
Photo: Lions and tigers don't scare her as much as nude scenes used to, but, Tanya notes philosophically, "If you're young and attractive in films today, you're going to do nudity. We can thank Bo Derek for that; also Nastassia Kinski, who's always running around naked." Still, you'll see less of Tanya in The Beastmasler (left) than you do in playboy. You saw more of Bo here, too.
Photo: "I'd say I'm more involved with my body than with my face. . . . I've got what photographers call a 'wet' face, which kind of moves and expresses a lot." Photographer Richard Fegley found Tanya's body English especially eloquent, and we concur. Even the kingly lion, you'll note, looks impressed.
Photos: Creating an elegant erotic fantasy in the company of two giant cats can be a hairy experience, but Tanya wanted the pictures to be "absolutely ethereal, like a dream—jungle magic." Although the cats look friendly, two lucky trainers were always on hand during the shooting to soothe the savage beasts and safeguard the proud beauty. Maybe it's significant that Tanya's astrological sign is Libra rising in Leo.
Photo: Tanya's inimitably seductive feline glare is apparently all it takes to make a pet purr. "Good looks are great," she allows, "but I don't want to be a flash in the pan ... I intend ta have a long career." Every scrap of available evidence suggests that this Roberts is perfectly capable of writing her own rules.
(continued from page 151)
"Barry and Tanya recap their personal/professional histories in a kind of ‘Pat and Mike' routine. . . "
with urban spunk and strappiness. A phrase or two late, I remember to flip on my tape recorder.
The "we" of Tanya's opening monologue is a reference to her husband. Harry Roberts, a psychologist turned screenwriter. He pops in for a hello-goodbye handshake, then exits to make some urgent phone calls (if he were a movie hero, Richard Dreyfuss or Dustin Hoffman might fit the part). Married nine and a half years, they're both from the Bronx, and that's one reason they're back East: to attend a neighborhood reunion of about 4000 people. "My old neighborhood is Pelham Parkway," Tanya says. "Robert Klein's from around there, and Rob Reiner, Penny Marshall. The idea of a reunion started a year or so ago. when a guy came out to L.A. to interview Barry and me and all these other performers for an article in New York magazine about famous people from the Bronx."
By now, a quartet of men at the bar with their backs to us are nudging one another and swiveling to stare. Tanya seems oblivious; being ogled in public is nothing new. When Barry comes back to our table, he and Tanya recap their personal/professional histories in a kind of speeded-up Pat and Mike routine, so neatly synchronized they can finish each other's sentences.
She starts: "I was in TV commercials when I was I5. playing high school girls. doing things for soda pop--"
"I met her when she was I7. and she looked 2I to me-"
"No. I looked I7. I just didn't act it-"
"When she told me her age. I flipped out."
"I was already thinking about being an actress. Barry was an actor when I met him. Then he became a shrink. He was working on his Ph.D. but decided the hell with it. He also drove a truck-"
"From eight in the morning till II. The bread was ridiculous, and it gave me time to go to all the auditions. I was very educated-'*
"He majored in psych."
"The New School. Liberal arts, with a major in psych."
"Then he worked in a clinic, where they paid him to go to graduate school."
"The Albert Einstein school."
"We lived together for a few months. Then I proposed to him. I said, ‘Listen, you better decide what you want to do with your life.' He hadn't enjoyed acting very much. We never had any money problems. He was making good money, and I made a lot of money in commercials while working in a million showcases off-off-Broadway. He had an apartment. So I said, Tom decide if we're going to get married,' so-"
'So I said, ‘Well, OK.' "
Some five years passed before Barry definitely decided to become a screenwriter. While Tanya decided to take Hollywood by storm. "I didn't know a soul, but I had a list of agents, and the first one I went to said. 'Great!' Within a month. I had signed to do a movie with Laurence Olivier." The movie was The Betsy, but Tanya's role was eliminated even before the filming started. "They decided the Olivier character had too many girlfriends already."
After that, Tanya did series pilots, plus sun-and-surf epics with titles like California Dreaming and Zuma Beach. While the future Charlie's Angel was earning her wings, people started paying attention to Barry's scripts. His breakthrough may be a New York-based hanging-out comedy called Hi-Jinx, with Leif Garrett. Scott Baio and James Coco featured under the direction of TV's James Komack.
Today, the displaced Bronxites are skeptical residents of the Hollywood hills, perched above Sunset Boulevard in a fine old house with a swimming pool, plus "a big, scary Doberman." Still, they drive a Volkswagen rather than the usual Mercedes, having barely survived an accident that totaled their jeep. Talking about it. Tanya shrugs fatalistically and grins a gamin grin. "You know, you can take the kid out of the Bronx, but. ... I think it's really true: We're New Yorkers, and New Yorkers are just not the kind of people who transplant easily. That's why we want a loft in Manhattan. They say you begin to love the Coast after about five years, and we've been there four and a half. I mean, it's truly Plastic City. People drive Rolls-Royces and go home to their shacks. You've got to be this year's blonde; that's the action in L.A. Hot one-year, cold the next. I thought Charlie's Angels would change my whole life, and, in a way, it did. The money was phenomenal the first year, but I'd have loved to do a second year, 'cause it would have been even more phenomenal."
Being exposed relatively briefly, she reasons, may have saved her from the stigma of typecasting. "Most of the Angels were typecast. After you work on a show for three years, you can be identified too closely with one character. I was lucky."
A couple of days later, we were back at the same scruffy bar, with Tanya brightening up the premises in a snug turquoise jump suit and high heels. Again, passers-by went into slow motion at the sight of her. Again, Tanya appeared not to notice as she waxed rueful about the mixed blessings of being young, gloriously beautiful and between major career moves. "My new movie, The Beastmaster, is a sort of combo—a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Star Wars—except it's a pure medieval fantasy. Phenomenal special effects, and Marc Singer, my leading man, and I had to work with this animal every day. It was actually a tiger in the film. They wanted a huge bizarre creature, but because they're supposed to be easier to work with, they got a tiger and dyed it black to look like a panther. Even so, you've got to be really careful. Tigers are very vicious. You never turn your back, because they attack their prey from the rear and come in running." Tanya laughs. "Of course, in the movie, there's practically no nudity. It's PG."
Tanya considers herself a natural actress, though she once stalked out of an au naturel acting class conducted by a disciple of the late Lee Strasberg. "You had to do tasks, you know? Like getting up in the morning, brushing your teeth, getting ready for work. You had to do something personal, he claimed, to get in touch with your body. It was humiliating. I couldn't believe it the day I walked in and saw this male actor standing there—naked. Brushing his teeth. I said, ‘To hell with that, give me my money back, I'm quitting the class.' And I did."
While other methods of technique and training worked better for her, the roles she has had up to now are a far cry from the ones she wants. Tanya's book of lists is a golden horde of female stars in triumphs she's much too young to remember. She dreams of making the kinds of movies Joan Crawford and Bette Davis made back in the Forties or of doing comedies with director Billy Wilder, like Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot (or, as husband Barry puts it succinctly, "She wishes Preston Sturges were alive"). Meanwhile, she's occasionally told that she resembles Margot Kidder and has received requests for autographs from fans who've enclosed pictures of Jane Fonda. A younger Jane Fonda, Tanya reminds me. "And I'm not knocking Margot Kidder, who waited years to get Superman, Before that, she couldn't get arrested.
"Unfortunately, when you're young and pretty, good parts are rare. Producers see you as either a tits-and-ass type or just a girlfriend to drape over the arm of Burt Reynolds or Nick Nolte. Most of the movie stars nowadays are men, except for comediennes and a handful of people, like Meryl Streep and Jill Clay-burgh and maybe Sally Field, who are basically very average-looking. But parts like Sybil and Norma Rae don't come along very often, do they?"
Ambition is one of the ties that bind them; thus, any question about career-marriage conflicts prompts the sizzling missus of Mr. Roberts to issue her personal marital manifesto: "If you mean kids, I'm just not ready in any way. I've got a lot of things to do first, a lot of miles to cover. My husband and I get along in every way; we really do. We're a phenomenally well-matched couple. We fight a lot. We're both loud, crazy, hysterical people, but we have the same taste; we see the world very similarly. We were great friends before we were ever lovers, and that makes a big difference, I think. I wouldn't say we have an old-fashioned marriage, but we don't have an open marriage. What we have is a marriage. When I'm on location for three months, I don't know what he's doing ... if he wants to sleep with another girl and sneak home by morning in case I phone, fine with me. I just don't want to know about it. He doesn't know what I'm doing, either. He's never said to me, 'Look, I've had another lover,* and I've never said I had one. But we're together a hell of a lot . . . God, it would have to be a real quickie. Who would talk about such things? It's boring. I don't see the point. All I know is, I was incredibly lucky: I found the right guy and found him early, and I'm going to stay with him for the rest of my life." She continues, with a curious, vibrant intensity that's as good as money in the bank for bicoastal dream girls: "I'm a more driven person than Barry, more restless. I'm a perfectionist who wants it all. A perfect career. I have to have a beautiful house out on the Coast, have to have a fabulous place here. I want to be considered one of the best actresses, and I want the life that goes with it. Not a Hollywood life but the freedom to do what you want, then do it again, only better."
[Source: Playboy, October 1982. P.1, 150-159, 196-197. Copyright © 1982 Playboy. All rights reserved.]