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BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Seduction of the stage

Jerry Hall, the former Mrs. Jagger, finds personal and professional fulfillment as Mrs. Robinson.

October 12, 2003|Elaine Dutka

When former supermodel Jerry Hall divorced Mick Jagger in 1999, she vowed to get out of his shadow.

Since then, she's been studying for a university degree, interviewing psychics and astrologers for a new BBC series called "Spirit" ("Love to you and your gurus" reads the card on a hotel floral arrangement sent by her "ex"), and, after a 10-year absence from the stage, she replaced Kathleen Turner as the sultry Mrs. Robinson in the London production of "The Graduate" -- nude scene and all. In the show -- based on Mike Nichols' 1967 feature film classic -- Hall plays an alcoholic trapped in a dead-end marriage who seduces the son of friends. Now Angelenos are getting a glimpse of the frank and frisky Texan during a three-week run of "The Graduate" at the Wilshire Theatre.

Was it intimidating stepping into the shoes of Turner -- and Anne Bancroft, who played the role in the film?

Bancroft is an underrated actress who did a great job of conveying the loneliness and pain that led to the seduction. It's important that you empathize with the character rather than regarding her as a bitch. Kathleen played it big, ... strong on comic timing -- very Mae West, whom I adore. Still, I worked hard to make the part my own. Some critics reviewed me after the first preview, which was kinda mean, but a few came back and were quite nice. I'm glad to be getting another crack because I'm developing my muscles, I hope. Acting is like golf -- it's about improving on your last performance.

There are four productions of the play worldwide -- a rare opportunity for older actresses.

It's wonderful as an older actor to be a sexual predator, playing with the boy and the audience and building up to a big release. Mrs. Robinson is quite impressive, out there doing what she wants. She also manages to get her husband to change -- I could learn a few lessons from her. Though Mick and I loved each other, Mick has this Dionysian woman thing going on, which was tough on my self-esteem. Because we lived together for 27 years, divorce was a big achievement. We're great friends now -- they love you when you leave. I'm getting my power back -- a phoenix rising from the ashes. Though I'd like to find someone to love and have sex with, I'm not looking for a husband. Moving in with someone is for 20-year-olds and, in any case, no guy would have the closet space for me.

In your supermodel days, you avoided nudity. Even now, critics noted, you didn't exactly flaunt it.

I didn't expose myself when I was modeling out of respect for my mother, who was horrified when she heard I was doing this. Though Kathleen reveled in the nudity, I made friends with the lighting man

Other than the fact you've gone out with younger men, how does the play strike a chord?

At the end, Mrs. Robinson tells her daughter, Elaine, to be herself. Parents have no choice but to let go. Mick wanted our daughter to go to university. She doesn't get her trust fund until 25, so he thought he had control. At 19, Elizabeth is now a very successful model, paying her own bills. What drives him even crazier is our son dating [fellow Rolling Stone] Keith Richards' daughter. He and Keith are like a Strindberg play, a couple who loves each other even though the marriage turned nasty. They're happy about the relationship -- and not sure they're happy. Life takes weird turns, doesn't it?

-- Elaine Dutka

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