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AuthorTopic:   Old Article from USA Today
Registered User


New York, NY
posted: 1/23/2005 at 8:06:30 PM ET
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USA Today: Tuesday, October 25, 1988
Peters still a show biz gypsy
David Patrick Stearns

NEW YORK - Finally, Bernadette Peters is getting to play normal people.

She's been a witch in Broadway's Into the Woods, a robot in the film Heartbeeps and a child vaudeville star in a touring stage production of Gypsy.

But with David, an ABC movie that airs tonight (9 EDT DT), she plays a run-of-the-mill office worker looking after her critically injured son.

''I didn't know I could do this,'' she exclaims, sitting at the kitchen table of her sparely furnished Manhattan town house.

Granted, it's not just any mother. She plays Marie Rothenberg, whose son, David, was almost burned to death in 1983 when her psychotic ex-husband set him on fire.

The movie contains some of the most intensely emotional scenes ever played by Peters, who at 40, has never married.

''During the first days of rehearsal, I gained weight because there was a candy machine downstairs, and I was so nervous, I just kept eating candy,'' she says. ''During the first day of shooting, it was, 'What am I doing here?' ''

It was during a lunch with the Rothenbergs that Peters discovered the key to the character: Marie Rothenberg was an abused child.

''No one took care of her as a child, so (after David was burned) she was there every minute,'' Peters says. David had a one-in-a-thousand chance of living, ''and if he was going to die in two minutes or two weeks, she wanted him to know that he was loved and not alone."

Peters ends a six-year absence from the cameras with this film. The departure wasn't intentional, she says, just part of a midlife awakening that occurred when she made Pennies From Heaven (1981), an ambitious but downbeat Depression-era musical that earned critical acclaim but died at the box office.

''I just started learning more about myself,'' Peters says. ''I did a little therapy."

For the next several years, she found stage roles - Sunday in the Park With George, Song and Dance and Into the Woods - more interesting than film offers.

That changed with Slaves of New York, based on the best-selling Tama Janowitz novel. In the Tri-Star March release, she plays Eleanor, a once-trendy artist who makes it big creating hats.

''She's someone unconscious, and doesn't appreciate herself yet and can't really grasp what's going on around her,'' she says. ''Eleanor is like me seven or eight years ago."

That's when Peters did some of her best work. ''Yeah,'' she says, ''but I suppose I was still unconscious!"

Peters' next project - a comedy-adventure titled Pink Cadillac co-starring Clint Eastwood - could be risky. Playing a woman on the lam from a money counterfeiting charge (driving a pink Cadillac, of course) is uncharted territory for Peters.

''It'll be fun! She has a good, smart-aleck sense of humor. For me, just being able to be loose and free and easy and fun is another thing to explore!"

Registered User

posted: 1/23/2005 at 8:58:22 PM ET
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Love it. Very fascinating. Thanks for that.

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