Retro Heaven

The Way We Were

Sue Lyon interview for her role in Lolita…

sue-lyonHaving just watched Martin Amis’ lecture on Nabokov and the inevitable topic of his novel, Lolita I found this rare interview with the first actress to play the lead role alongside James Mason in the 1962 adaptation. Sue Lyon was fourteen years old when she was chosen to play Lolita and this interview comes from the promotional tour she took part in two years later.

What stands out from beginning to end is her level of maturity, she conducts herself wonderfully well with impeccable manners and respect for the directors, producers and fellow actors. It was a brave decision on the part of Kubrick to tackle the film and Sue Lyon’s parents to allow their daughter to play such a controversial role but it worked and ironically she shows far more maturity here aged sixteen then in more recent interviews as a woman in her sixties.

In recent years the only comparable movie to generate similar interest in terms of young female actresses was American Beauty, but even though Kubrick’s adaptation was toned down from the book (Lolita is twelve years old when the story begins) it still sent shockwaves throughout the movie world like few before or since.

The book and film aside, what is overwhelmingly apparent in the interview is what has been lost in so many ways today. Despite the role and subject matter she is articulate, polite and professional, there is no sensationalism, no sordid questions or answers and she manages to convince ‘us’ that she is mentally equipped to deal with a particularly unpleasant subject.

Interestingly, a year later, aged seventeen she was married to a fellow actor eight years her senior, Hampton Fancher which lasted for less than two years and would prove to be the first of five marriages with the last ending in 2002. So I leave you with a reminder of what has been lost in the art of the interview…

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