Lily Tomlin’s Audacious Life

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Lily Tomlin with Julia Garner in <em>Grandma</em>
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Few performers have had careers as long or as extraordinary as Lily Tomlin has. While a lot of actresses find themselves cast in the same ingénue roles over and over — until they're old enough to be cast in the same mom roles over and over — Tomlin has inhabited and invented a vast range of characters of all different ages, occupations, obsessions, and voices.

In her new movie, Grandma, Tomlin plays a woman who is ballsy, messy, sexy, angry, and ferociously protective of her granddaughter. It's a great, nuanced character — which is no less than one expects from Lily Tomlin. 

Kurt Andersen: Do you feel as though the character in this movie is among the closest to the actual you you’ve played?

Lily Tomlin: I think it would seem so on the surface and if you dig deeper it probably is somewhat. It’s my car that I’m driving. I bought that car in ‘75 and I drove it for a long time. I drove it for about 10 years. I must have known somewhere that I was going to do this movie.

So you leased it to the movie?

No, I didn’t, I let them use it — should I have leased it? I’ll be damned. I missed an opportunity.

Your character in Grandma says, “I like being old. Young people are stupid.” How much do you agree with that?

I do think most people are stupid. Not so much that young people are stupid. Old people are stupid. I think we’re all kind of stupid.

If you could send a message back to your young stupider self, what would it be?

I’d probably say something like: “Just barrel through life with all the audacity you can and be confident. Where you can learn something, learn it, and where you can impart something, impart it. And if you want to assert yourself and bitch about everything, go ahead. You’ll pay for it probably, but go ahead and do it. Do whatever you do, and do it audaciously.”

Music Playlist

  1. Cam

    Artist: Joel P West
    Album: Grandma (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Lakeshore Records
  2. Misanthropic

    Artist: Joel P West
    Album: Grandma (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
    Label: Lakeshore Records