Cloris Leachman: still zany after all these years
That pretty much sums up
Leachman is a far cry from the sometimes delusional Maw Maw she plays on
Most people fudge the truth if only to be polite. Leachman's clear blue eyes stare straight as she says levelly, "I don't lie."
If that rankles, it's not her problem. She makes jokes about
Say what you will about Leachman, but no one could accuse her of being boring.
Leachman is also a rarity in that she has acted -- without breaks -- since 1947.
"I have to make money," she says. "I have a lot of kids."
Leachman, though, didn't always know she would become an actress. She decided on that path in college after considering careers in radio, social work, architecture and as a concert pianist.
"Before that, I didn't want to do anything that would take me away from my family," she says.
Over the years she's turned in iconic performances. Say the words "Frau Blucher" to fans of 1974's "Young Frankenstein" and they will whinny. She won a supporting actress Oscar as Ruth Popper in "The Last Picture Show" (1971).
She was so funny as overbearing neighbor Phyllis Lindstrom on
She's been in 11 Broadway productions and was the understudy for
When Leachman did go on for her, she recalls, with some pride, that Dorothy Hammerstein, wife of lyricist Oscar, visited her backstage. "She didn't say anything and lifted her lapel to show me where the tears had fallen, then said, 'Magnificent!' "
Leachman doesn't miss a beat when she says with conviction, "I would go back to Broadway."
In an industry where youth rules and plastic surgery is the norm for many over 40, Leachman has had no work done. She looks precisely like what she is -- an 84-year-old grandmother who takes excellent care of herself.
By her own accounting, she's recognized most for her turn on "Dancing With the Stars." Yet she remains miffed at how she had to convince executives that she should be on the show.
For "Raising Hope," no one needed convincing. Though Leachman is clearly acting as she slips into the demented side of her character, when it comes to the actress who plays her granddaughter,
"Why is your hair up?" Leachman asks, touching Plimpton's hair. "It looks like crap."
Plimpton laughs. "I am doing an interview," she tells the unfazed Leachman.
"She's fearless," Plimpton says of Leachman. "She is absolutely exciting to be around."
Fearless is the perfect description of someone who will run around on camera in a bra and -- shot from the back -- topless.
"You don't care," Leachman says. "You can't. If it's funny, I'll do anything."