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Before Oscar nominations: What did Mom, Dad say?

When acting bug bit, some stars' parents howled

CNN's Sherri Sylvester got memories from the Oscar nominees

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March 22, 2001
Web posted at: 11:48 a.m. EST (1648 GMT)

HOLLYWOOD, California (CNN) -- The glory comes later. First there is the rejection, the self-doubt, the depression -- things no parents want their child to experience.

So just imagine those conversation that began, "Mom, Dad, I want to be an actor..."

CNN did, and got these memories from the following Oscar nominees:

Russell Crowe  

Russell Crowe (best lead actor, "Gladiator"): I wanted to go to university and study history, but my dad had been unemployed for quite a while at that stage and he really didn't have the money for me to go to university, even though it had been a big plan all my life. And the one key, serious conversation we had, I said to him, "Look, I really feel I've got to pursue this desire to be an entertainer." My dad said, "I'd really like you to do something at a technical college or do some kind of apprenticeship to fall back on." And I said, "Mate, I'm really certain in my life that I'm gonna fall on my face, but it's highly unlikely I'm gonna fall back." He looked at me and went, "OK, do what you want to do."

Julia Roberts  

Julia Roberts (best lead actress, "Erin Brockovich"): I was the third of her (mother's) four children to say "I want to be an actor," so it was fine, but when she really was incredibly helpful to me was when I called her and said, "I changed my mind, I want to come home. I'm homesick. I'm unhappy. I work at a job that I don't really like, and I can't even begin to meet people to get acting work." And she wouldn't let me come home. That was a moment at the time that I hated her for, but I'm really grateful that she forced me to stay and prevail.

Marcia Gay Harden  

Marcia Gay Harden (best supporting actress, "Pollock"): There was a desperate period of time when I wasn't getting much work, (when) you're auditioning and auditioning ... just to get your union cards. And my father felt very strongly that I should learn a computer program and, why, he'd even "put up the $200 to pay for it, by God!"

Joan Allen  

Joan Allen (best actress, "The Contender"): They just wanted me to make sure that I knew how to take care of myself -- that I had good practical skills so that I wouldn't starve. And so I was a secretary for many years while I was doing theater in Chicago.

Del Toro
Benicio Del Toro  

Benicio Del Toro (best supporting actor, "Traffic," who says his father did not speak to him for one year after "the talk"): He was negative, negative. He's a lawyer and the reaction was, "Oh boy, it's a fling, it will pass." ... After "The Usual Suspects" (1995), he started to like film, and now he reads about films. He goes and watches films -- he tries to catch up, and we can talk a little bit about it.

Javier Bardem  

Javier Bardem (best lead actor, "Before Night Falls"): My mother is an actress, and my uncle is an actor and my grandparents were actors. My father didn't have anything to do with the business. My mother told me, "This is a business where you can work one day and the day after, you can't pay your rent, so don't believe in anything. If they tell you, 'You are good,' don't believe it. If they tell you, 'You are bad,' don't believe it."

Laura Linney  

Laura Linney (best lead actress, "You Can Count on Me"): My father was a playwright, so I grew up around theater, and I think they knew me well enough -- that I knew what was in store. I never had any sort of false illusions about how difficult it could be. They were not overly encouraging -- just wonderfully, neutrally supportive.

Ed Harris  

Ed Harris (best lead actor, "Pollock," who attended Columbia University hoping to make it to the National Football League): I was never gonna make it as a pro football player. Look at me: I'm 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, and I'm not particularly fast. My dad was a singer in the early days of television, so he was in the arts a bit, and they (parents) loved theater. So when I said I wanted to study acting, they were very supportive and always have been.

Ang Lee  

Ang Lee (best director, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," who recalls that he flunked his college entrance exams, much to his family's chagrin): I was a disgrace to the family, of course. They weren't very happy. It was a long struggle. But now they see that repression is not good: A person will do what he or she wants to do, eventually.


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