One of the troubles with being married to Steven Spielberg, says Amy Irving, is that interviewers who come to talk to her about her career too often wind up writing about him.
It is, of course, inevitable. Spielberg casts a long shadow, and since they have been together for 11 years--and married for one--who better to provide insight into the multimillionaire's life style than she?
But Irving has a life of her own. And, since the birth of their son Max a year ago, a reactivated career too.
In three weeks, she can be seen co-starring in NBC's four-hour "Anastasia: The Story of Anna" with Rex Harrison. December, too, sees the release of "Rumpelstiltskin," which she made for Cannon.
The first she nearly didn't do at all. The second she took, initially, only because her brother David Irving was directing.
"When I first got the script of 'Anastasia,' I wouldn't even read it," she said this week in the study of her Beverly Hills home. "I'd been so disappointed with the miniseries I did for HBO ("The Far Pavilions" in 1984) that I decided: no more TV. I'll stick to films and the theater.
"They didn't have Rex at that point, and I wasn't sure how it would be cast so I told them no. (Nastassja Kinski was then cast, only to withdraw before shooting began.)
"Then, 10 days before filming started, they called me again. Now they had Rex and Claire Bloom and Olivia de Havilland. So I let Steven read it (see, hard to keep his name out) and when he got halfway through the script (by James Goldman) he said: 'I have terrible news. I love it.' He said 'terrible' because it meant Max and I would be away from him shooting in Vienna.
"So I called back and said I'd do it. And it was terrific working with Rex again. We'd been wanting to do something else ever since we did 'Heartbreak House' in New York two years ago."
NBC's "Anastasia; The Story of Anna," which airs Dec. 7 and 8, tells the story of Anna Anderson, a woman who spent 40 years before the German courts trying to establish that she was in fact the grand duchess Anastasia--the sole surviving child of Russian czar Nicholas II who, together with his family, was massacred in 1918. Her claim was never established.
"I play her during her 20s" said Irving. "We don't go into the later years. It's a very sad story."
The saga, of course, was filmed once before. Twentieth Century Fox made "Anastasia" with Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman in 1956. Irving has not seen this version--"I understand it was romanticized; ours sticks closer to the facts."
Spielberg (there he is again) visited her on the set in Austria. He also flew out to spend time with her in Israel when she filmed "Rumpelstiltskin." Her mother, actress Priscilla Pointer, is also in the movie.
"In a way it marked full circle for me because the first time I was ever on stage I played the baby in my father's production of 'Rumpelstiltskin' in San Francisco. (Jules Irving ran the San Francisco Actor's Workshop.) In that, my mother played the role I do in the movie (Katie). There was some talk that Max should play the baby in the film, but in the end we decided no. That really would have made it full circle."
Irving says she went to Israel because she wanted to be in her brother's first movie as a director.
"But when I got there and saw the terrific sets I was so glad I'd gone. And Menahem Golan (Cannon's chairman who co-produced) was terrific. He's so pleased with David's work that he's doing more things with him. In fact, David's just about to start directing another fairy tale for them--'The Emperor's New Clothes.' "
Irving says she is delighted with both ventures. But she claims she is a lot less ambitious for herself since the birth of her son.
"Now I don't want to do anything that will take me away from him. There was a time when I'd say yes to a movie just for the adventure and the location. That's really why I did 'The Far Pavilions.' I wanted to see India. I won't do that anymore."
Presumably money was no longer an important consideration in choosing roles?
"Oh, I demand my price as a matter of principle. Though my agent tells me producers are always arguing: 'What does she need money for?' But even before Steven, money never really guided my thinking. Because I grew up in a theater family, I'd geared my life to being a starving stage actress. Of course"--she looked around the beautiful study and laughed--"things are a little different now."