When actress Estelle Parsons arrived on the set of "Dick Tracy" last May, she informed producer-director-star Warren Beatty of a small oversight: "I said, 'Warren, I've never even seen a script. I haven't a clue what you mean when you say I'm gonna do the scene now.' "
Beatty's not usually so absent-minded, says Parsons, who has a small role in "Tracy" as Tess Trueheart's muffin-baking mom. "With Warren, the project is really more important than life itself. You know that it's going to be perfectly, exactly what he wants. . . . It's like working for some of the old theater greats."
"Tracy" opens June 15. And Parsons will be seen again later this year as Elliott Gould's tyrannical housekeeper in Miramax's "The Lemon Sisters." But the actress hasn't been all that visible on the big screen since winning an Oscar for her first film role more than two decades ago as the giddy wife of a gangster (played by Gene Hackman) in "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), which had Beatty as star and producer.
(The chameleon-like actress can also be seen in her recurring guest spot as Roseanne Barr's mom on ABC's "Roseanne.")
The three-time Tony nominee and two-time Obie winner tells us that she turns down several movie offers each year--theater is her "real" work. On the agenda for fall is a starring role as a Kentucky hills woman in an Off-Broadway production.
"Theater is the actor's medium," says Parsons from her Manhattan apartment, which she shares with attorney-husband Peter Zimroth and their 6-year-old adopted son, Abraham. "Film belongs to directors. The actor has a great sense of power in the theater. I just love it."
Even after Broadway roles ranging from a singing nursemaid "The Pirates of Penzance" (1981) to a dictatorial teacher in her one-woman show "Miss Margarida's Way" (originally mounted in 1977, revived briefly last winter), and scores of Off-Broadway and regional theater productions, Parsons says one goal is elusive.
"I've never been in a really big Broadway hit. . . . But, who knows, maybe someday I will be."