By no means thoughts that Sarah Bernhardt — the towering actress of her day — was scarcely greater than 5 toes tall. Janet McTeer stands almost 6-feet-1, however that hasn’t stopped her from enjoying Bernhardt on Broadway.
“We’re so ridiculously totally different, bodily, that you could’t let it trouble you,” says McTeer, the star of Theresa Rebeck’s “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” which opened Tuesday. “It in all probability would have bothered me extra if I used to be small — I’d have thought to attempt to appear to be her. However there’s actually nothing I can do about it moderately than embody her spirit!”
Stretched out throughout the day mattress in her theater dressing room, the 57-year-old McTeer manages to look tall even whereas horizontal. Throughout her are photographs of “the divine Sarah,” the 19th-century Frenchwoman (1844-1923) whose life, onstage and off, by no means lacked for drama. A wit, she held her personal with Oscar Wilde: When he requested if he might smoke, Bernhardt reportedly replied, “I don’t care in case you burn.” A real patriot, she entertained French troopers even after gangrene stole considered one of her legs.
And an adoring public ate it up — her affairs, her pet tiger, even her penchant for sleeping in a coffin.
“Bernhardt/Hamlet” focuses on her resolution to deal with a person’s position, probably the best one ever, and the hoopla, actual and imagined, that ensued.
No such outcry adopted McTeer’s efficiency as Petruchio a number of summers in the past, in an all-female “Taming of the Shrew” in Central Park. If her swaggering scoundrel reminded you of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, properly, that’s what she’d hoped.
“All of these rockers, I wished all of them to be onstage,” she says.
Petruchio apart, McTeer, who lives in Maine together with her poet husband, Joe Coleman, makes a speciality of strong-willed girls. She gained a Tony for her door-slamming Nora in 1996’s “A Doll’s Home” and was nominated for an Oscar because the trash-talking mother of 1999’s “Tumbleweeds.” Currently, she’s popped up on TV, in “Jessica Jones” (as that Marvel heroine’s mom), “Ozark” (a drug cartel’s lawyer) and “Sorry For Your Loss” (a younger widow’s protector). The Royal Academy of Dramatic Artwork graduate insists that the small display isn’t a step down from the massive one, or from the stage.
“God, no!” she cries. “There’s a lot superb writing occurring in TV! And the entire [“Jessica Jones”] factor is spearheaded by girls. If this have been written by males, the sturdy man would have been her father, not her mom.”
She suspects her personal power — and size — could also be why her profession has been devoid of #MeToo moments.
“I’ve all the time thought of myself fairly lucky, but additionally fairly reckless,” she says. “Should you’re my top and persona, truthfully, no person’s gonna . . .” She trails off and shrugs. “I’d snicker in your face, or I’d punch you!”
Powerful as she appears, she says she’s been ready to join with Bernhardt — a seemingly fragile flower who was additionally “a power to be reckoned with,” and who persevered regardless of horrible stage fright.
“No one who’s good doesn’t get nervous,” McTeer says. “The extra you care, the extra nervous you get.”
For now, she’s mustering up her nerve to embody the actress she says has no equal at the moment.
“I believe she’d be thrilled that folks nonetheless imagine in her,” McTeer says. “How cool!”