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With 'Poms,' Jacki Weaver Continues An Untraditional Hollywood Story


Hollywood has never been especially welcoming to older women, so Jacki Weaver stands out. After a long career in Australia, her Hollywood breakthrough came in her 60s. She's been nominated for Oscars twice in the last decade for the movies "Animal Kingdom" and "Silver Linings Playbook." And now she stars opposite Diane Keaton in the movie "Poms." It's a comedy about cheerleaders in a retirement community.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) The oldest category is 18-plus.

JACKI WEAVER: (As Sheryl) So what? We're 18-plus - 18 plus 50.

SHAPIRO: That's Jacki Weaver playing the role of Sheryl, and she joins us now. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

WEAVER: Thank you, Ari. Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Before we get into the content of the film, I'd love to ask you what it was like being on set with all of these actresses who've been in the business for decades - I mean, Pam Grier, Rhea Perlman, of course, Diane Keaton, you. What was the atmosphere like?

WEAVER: It was very cozy and very chummy. I mean, when you get to a certain age, there's no - none of that sort of competitive angst. We were just so happy to be together. We had a really great time at the boot camp, first of all, learning how to be cheerleaders.

SHAPIRO: You went to cheerleader boot camp?

WEAVER: We sure did for about two weeks before we even started shooting. And that was quite strenuous, you know, because none of us is a spring chicken anymore. So it was, you know, for some of us, it was exhausting.


WEAVER: But we did bond over that. And we stayed bonded for the rest of the shoot.

SHAPIRO: So your character, Sheryl, is unabashedly promiscuous. She reminds me a little bit of the character Blanche from "The Golden Girls." Let's listen to a clip of the moment she first meets Diane Keaton's character, who is moving into a new house in this retirement community.


WEAVER: (As Sheryl) Hi, moving in?

DIANE KEATON: (As Martha) Yes.

WEAVER: (As Sheryl) I was hoping you'd be a man.

KEATON: (As Martha) Excuse me?

WEAVER: (As Sheryl) Did you know single women outlive single men by almost 10 years?

Yeah, I think she's probably ready - still ready for action. She's a - she's full of life. She's gregarious. And obviously, she would love a lover. And I think everybody's sexuality is unique. And I think some people stay sexual right until the day they die, even if they die at 90. I don't know if I'm going to be like that (laughter). But I think we should keep an open mind about everybody being different in that way.

SHAPIRO: Well, if I'm not mistaken, you once told an interviewer I believe in sex on a first date. Otherwise, how do you know if a second date is worth the effort?

WEAVER: I said that when I was 21. And I'm now 71. So - and I thought it was a good line. And it must have been because people are still quoting it...

SHAPIRO: Fifty years later.

WEAVER: ...Including you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Well, I wonder whether there is a joy in portraying a character who is not ashamed to wear her libido on her sleeve.

WEAVER: Well, I think you're absolutely right. Like I was just saying, everybody's sexuality is unique to them. And if someone has a strong libido, they should go for it and not be ashamed of it. On the other hand, if you turn 50, and you've decided you're a bit bored with sex, I don't think anyone should judge you for wanting to cut back.

SHAPIRO: Your Hollywood breakthrough came at age 63, which is so rare in this industry. And you had already been acting for decades at that point. Do you think about how your career would be different if you had had that moment of Hollywood celebrity in in your 20s or your 30s?

WEAVER: Well, I was perfectly content with my career in Australia. I'd done 73 plays and many, many hours of television and about 15 or 16 films. And I had no ambition to come to America. It wasn't on my agenda. Much as I've always loved American films and American television, it was - my generation didn't, in the main, have ambitions regarding America, mostly because we thought it would be just too difficult. Not like now. Young people in Australia, as soon as they're out of drama school, they come to America for pilot season. And - but that didn't happen in my day. And it wasn't something that I intended. It just sort of was handed to me, like a wonderful gift.

And I think if it had happened to me earlier, I would have been a little bit overwhelmed. I'm fairly overwhelmed as it is. I've been here nine years now. And I still can't believe how generous the industry here has been towards me. But I don't know if it had happened to me earlier. I was - yes, I probably wouldn't have coped so well. Now I can just sort of look at it and think it could all evaporate tomorrow. And I'll be disappointed, but I can take it on the chin.

SHAPIRO: Yeah. Are there things you wish you could tell those young people who come right out of drama school to Hollywood that you know from your long experience in the industry that you think they would be better off if they understood?

WEAVER: I mean, there's one small thing. I used to worry so much about my appearance when I was young. I think you've got to let go of that and accept - make the most of yourself, but don't agonize about how you look. But the main thing I think is to keep taking every disappointment and putting it behind you and just to keep going. In the average occupation, you probably do one or two job interviews every five years. In our business, you do 20 in one year. And you can get a whole row of rejections that just make you so dejected, and you lose your confidence. And my advice to young actors is just keep your chin up and don't give up.

SHAPIRO: Jacki Weaver, thank you so much for talking with us.

WEAVER: You're welcome. Thank you, Ari.

SHAPIRO: She stars in the new movie "Poms." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 11, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous headline incorrectly suggested that Jacki Weaver's big break came with Poms and that she was 63 at the time. Poms is the latest in a string of high-profile projects for the now-71-year-old.