Talented Best Supporting Actress, Entrepreneur and Psychotherapist Returns To Venice Film Festival
The 72nd Annual Venice Film Festival runs through Sept. 12th and in attendance is actress/psychotherapist, Julie Carmen. Still gorgeous, fit, and immensely talented, she won the Venice Film Festival’s Best Supporting Actress award in 1980 for her role in John Cassavetes epic mob-thriller, “Gloria.” A role to this day Julie is ever grateful for. “Gloria was the film that got the ball rolling,” she recalled. “It’s a thrill to be back at the Festival.”
Julie Carmen returns to Italy having completed another dramatic thriller “Dawn Patrol.” She calls “Dawn Patrol” a personal film about the consequences of racism. “My character, Laura Rivera, contemplates revenge for her son’s murder. The moral of the story is that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
A role model for Latinas everywhere, Julie Carmen is impressive for having survived the rigors of Hollywood while managing to sustain both her integrity and peace of mind. She is no shrinking violet.
A Humanitarian Calling
Following in a long-standing family tradition of working in the field of Human Services and Health Care, Julie returned to graduate school where she received her Masters in Clinical Psychology. She has been a Board Certified, Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor for a decade, a goal that took her ten years to complete. She is also a Yoga Therapist/Yoga Instructor who happens to be the Associate Director of Mental Health at Loyola Marymount University’s Yoga Therapy Rx.
All of this, while she has managed the demands of a busy family that include—as Julie likes to emphasize—a brilliant husband that she has loved since she was 23. (He also works in the Arts.) When her children were small, she traveled with her son and daughter on location shoots. During her son’s first six years, she played the female lead in twenty-one movies, miniseries, and TV shows. After her daughter was born, she worked on another twenty-one roles but soon noticed the strain the children were under.
That prompted Julie to seek a more family-friendly profession. And she did. She decided to enroll in graduate school and become a Healing Professional. Able to combine all that she loves, helping people overcome their fears and anxieties, sharing inner peace through the discipline and practice of Yoga, and channeling her creative energy through acting. It’s a balanced and happy life.
Acting and dancing professionally since she was in high school, Julie has over 70 Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) roles to her name and is a consummate professional in every sense of the word. She is fiercely disciplined and proud to have survived nearly four decades of Hollywood politics on her own terms.
Julie Carmen remains a fascinating case study in women of a certain age who dare to dream and successfully pursue an alternate career. Truth is, this is the reality that Baby Boomers face: what do you do when it is time to change careers? Not every woman can realize her dream or next level of achievement. That being said, Julie comes from a long line of independent Latina’s who do what needs to be done. She has the best combination of heart and courage.
Here is a candid interview with a Hollywood star that has pushed her limits physically and mentally. She is at peace with her role as wife, mother, actor, psychotherapist, Yoga Instructor, and Academician. It was a pleasure to interview her.
BQ: Tell us about your latest movie, “Dawn Patrol.”
JC: Filming ‘Dawn Patrol’ opposite Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) was like being a Short-Order Gourmet Cook. We had just a few days to shoot our scenes. At my gravesite scene, I just wanted to do it justice and I treated it like it was the best job in the whole world. In the script, my character transcended into the archetype of ‘everywoman’—it was important to me that women of all cultures could see themselves in that gravesite scene, contemplating what her revenge would be for the loss of a child. I know people can relate because the world today is going through such escalated violence and fear. I just poured my grief and love into that role.
BQ: Any plans for studio collaborations, web series, foreign work or specials?
JC: Right now, I am deep at work on my own film but I know that if I talk about it, that it will dilute the process. Time on earth is short. I finally clarified what it is that I need to say in a film. Stay tuned for more later….
BQ: How has your acting/performances influenced fans over the years?
JC: The “Milagro Beanfield War,” directed by Robert Redford, touched a generation of U.S. Latino filmgoers, who up until then had not seen themselves reflected in a major studio film. The plot of the John Nichols novel exposes the vicious water rights issues that New Mexico farmers still deal with. The families living in the towns where we filmed have been there for 12-15 generations, since the Penitentes were expelled from Spain during the Diaspora. To this day, people still mention that “Milagro Beanfield War” was groundbreaking.
Also, John Carpenter’s “In The Mouth of Madness” is probably the film that fans love the most. Based on the book by H.P. Lovecraft—who has an extraordinarily smart following. John Carpenter is a true master at tapping into profound existential fear. The film was just re-released on BluRay, probably because its articulate perspective on the human condition is so relevant today.
Lastly, I’d have to add, “Fright Night Part Two,” opened theatrically in 1988, but was never released on DVD. Both Herb Jaffe, the producer from New Century Vista, and José Menendez, CEO of Corolco, the distribution company, died right after we opened. And it felt like the companies went into a tailspin and our gem got lost. Then, millions of fans unearthed it on YouTube and created homemade clips like this that went totally viral.
Now a documentary team from the United Kingdom, where they love classic 1980’s horror films, raised the money to interview Tom Holland, the creator of “Fright Night” and the casts of both “Fright Night” and “Fright Night Part Two.” The British documentary will weave our film clips in as they relate to our interviews. A modernized remake of “Fright Night Two” came out but I didn’t see it. It’s really fun to see “Fright Night Part Two” being raised from the dead as it were. Truthfully, I never spend much time reminiscing. The future is too full.
BQ: Have you noticed any trends in roles for Latinas since you first began?
JC: The sweet Maria’s segued quickly into the radical activist roles. Those should last me ‘till I’m a gray-haired woman because the world needs more radical activists.
BQ: Speaking of being Latina in Hollywood, what does that mean to you?
JC: The field has become more crowded. When I came from New York, there were very few Latinas who had Group Theater training, Broadway or Off-Broadway experience. When I came to L.A. from New York, there were very few Latina roles available but I’m the kind that sees the glass as half full, I’m not one who complains or is bitter. The independent film era let actors build careers because relatively unknown actors got to play leads, which is prohibitive in the huge 100 million dollar studio films.
It was also an era when actors freely moved between feature films and television. Director/Producer Michael Mann showed up at a fundraiser for Medical Aid for El Salvador, where I was the Mistress of Ceremonies. The next day he sent me a script for the NBC miniseries “Drug Wars Part Two: The Cocaine Cartel.” The female lead was the judge who investigated and prosecuted Pablo Escobar and survived twelve attempts on her life. Working for Michael Mann after his ‘Miami Vice’ success meant that we had access to all the bells and whistles related to the drug world. The Drug Enforcement Administration gave me a full week of training at their Miami office, and our premiere was at Langley.
Working in European films also gave me chances to stretch. Eric Burden and I made a gritty rock film called “Comeback,” shot in Berlin and German director Reinhardt Hauff brought me back to Berlin to shoot, “Man on the Wall” also for German company Filmverlaug.
There is controversy about actors speaking publicly about politics but if an actor understands the complexities of an issue and has access to the media, it can draw attention to a cause. I’m concerned about girls’ access to education and I’m passionate about the organic food movement. More people need to read about genetically modified foods. Modifying seeds with pesticides may keep the bugs away from the crops but what are the health consequences for us ingesting that food. I support the right to know whether a food item has been genetically modified.
The Early Years
BQ: What was your upbringing like?
JC: I was born in New York and grew up in New Jersey—a quick train ride to Greenwich Village. It was the sixties and I wanted to be dancer Isadora Duncan. My teen years were that of a dancing, Vegetarian, Flower Child during the Vietnam War era.
At age eleven, my mom and I took a slow freighter to Spain. It only had ten passengers. It was called the Covadonga. We landed in La Coruna, Santander and Bilbao. We stayed all summer with family friends and they invited me back for two months every summer. I lived in Madrid, Navas del Marquis, Ciudad Ducal and also had an actress godmother from Hollywood named Lily Valenty, who hosted me summers in Mijas where she retired. She introduced me to my first agent, Walter Kohner.
My Cuban great grandfather, Lico Jimenez, was a famous pianist. (Latin jazz pianist, Chucho Valdez, wrote “Homenaje a Lico” in his honor) Lico’s daughter, Manuela, was very close to us during my childhood. She had me sit by her side as she played Beethoven by heart on her grand piano that was stuffed into a storage room in the Bronx where she lived. Having a musician and an actress in our lineage apparently sparked my flame to perform.
BQ: As a result of your upbringing, what lesson(s) did you learn as a child?
JC: Travel helps us identify with the whole human race. Traveling one gets to see the effects of climate change on populations. Water, food and energy are scarce in developing countries and those limited resources put great strain on growing populations. The world feels much tenser now than even a decade ago, everyone’s nervous system is jacked-up, also because we have more access to news.
Professional Acting, Take One
BQ: How did you get interested in acting?
JC: My father came from Washington Heights and taught Rhumba there before he married my mom. He used to take me to see Off-Off Broadway shows as a child. He particularly loved Harold Pinter and Samuel Beckett.
My grandmother and great aunt were twins. They lived in our house with us until I was twelve. The stories our elders share tend to settle into the subconscious and inform our life choices. My Auntie Grete played ‘Titania” in Max Reinhardt’s Berlin production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” That’s where she met my godmother, Lily Valenty, who was playing Oberon, in Shakespearean Drag. Lily got height fright on the rehearsal balcony, forgot her lines and my Auntie Grete quickly covered for her by speaking both parts.
It must have been in the family template, in our genogram, that performers transition into healing professionals. My path from actor to psychotherapist / yoga therapist makes sense in retrospect.
Before World War II, the twins both became Red Cross nurses and my grandmother became a postnatal baby nurse. My Grandmother and my mom were Spaniards so they left Germany for Spain, where she worked as a baby nurse before immigrating to New York City. Their brother was the Obstetrician who delivered all of us. He left Berlin to practice medicine in Shanghai before moving to New York. We were a tiny family so we were very close. I think children find heroes to emulate. It felt like there were heroes in the family. My Grandpa was a diplomat from Spain living in Hamburg and that always had a certain mystique to me as a kid.
BQ: Life-lessons from your childhood that you’d like to share? An incident or a person(s) who helped guide you?
JC: In my family nobody knew anything about the movie business, so I stumbled through and figured it out by myself. I learned to go in the back door if the front door slams shut, and to wish upon a shooting star. In our family, education was the highest goal. My mom finished graduate school at New York University while I was in high school. And later became the Supervisor of the Language Department in high schools. My brother, who is eighteen months older than me, has always been a great guide. He’s now a Physician, a Congero (musician) and mountain biker. Strong roots.
BQ: Who or what influenced your performance style?
JC: My biggest influence was John Cassavetes because I was so young and his directing style made such a deep imprint. To this day, when acting, I still consider, ‘what would John say?’. It was very much about what Ram Dass calls, ‘Be Here Now’. I’d already studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner, whose message was the same, but his delivery harsh. Not so with John Cassavetes, who had a huge heart and directed with profound compassion and empathy. I’ve been asked to contribute to a book about working with him and with Gena [Rowlands], which I am more than happy to do.
BQ: Who were the major players/leaders at that time?
JC: We got to see many performances by Raul Julia doing Shakespeare in the Park for Joseph Papp that started my love of Shakespeare. Jill Clayburgh used the reformer next to mine at Joseph Pilate’s studio that Romana [Kryzanowska] ran in New York. The Balanchine ballerinas also did Pilates with us there. And Miles Davis, Ike and Tina Turner, Weather Report, Pharaoh Sanders, Cannonball Adderley all played at the Beacon Theater where I worked for a jazz promoter, and all that was happening while I was still in high school. My high school boyfriend played flute on Jimi Hendrix’s last recording at Electric Lady Land, so I met Jimi the summer before he died. I also got to stay at his crazy, empty, haunted house at the Ashokan Reservoir outside of Woodstock for some weeks.
BQ: What was your goal as an Actress?
JC: My goal was to feel and to make the audience feel and to be present with that sense of community and connection. It was the only thing I adored and I was convinced that I couldn’t do anything else well.
BQ: Your first big break, Theater or Film? And your preference and why?
JC: My first big break was when Alixe Gordon, the casting director brought me to audition for Director Sidney Furie. This is right after he directed “Lady Sings the Blues” with Diana Ross. Universal Pictures wanted Tuesday Weld to play the Puerto Rican character in brown face. Once we met, Sidney told Alixe that if I weren’t cast as female lead in “Night of the Juggler” that he’d quit his job as Director. I was about 22 or 23 at the time. Those angels stick in one’s memory.
Another angel is Cuban born Max Ferra, who created the original INTAR Theater when it was still between Avenues 10-11. They got the building for $1 from the City of New York. Max accepted me into his acting workshop, five nights per week. His directing and teaching style were greatly influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky. Max Ferra made me the Resident Choreographer at INTAR when I was eighteen years old because I had trained in ballet, modern dance and Afro-Caribbean with Syvilla Fort. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syvilla_Fort. Awards can help a young performer build confidence and, as a choreographer I won awards for Espetaculo Valle Inclan, Yoruba” (in which I danced Ochun) and “The Visit,” for which I got my first review in the New York Times.
DISAPPOINTMENTS HELP: I got dumped when the play “Cold Storage” starring Martin Balsam, was moved from American Place Theater to Broadway but reviewer John Simon said I was better than the new actress. When you don’t have much to hang your hopes on, things like that add up.
BQ: Biggest triumph?
JC: Sam Shaw produced John Cassavetes’ “Gloria.” One day during the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) strike, I was sitting at home, (actually we were subletting one of those carriage houses on Washington Mews in Greenwich Village) and the phone rang. It was Producer Sam Shaw and he said, “Have you ever heard of the Venice Film Festival?” I was provincial enough to admit I had not. “Well you just won the Best Supporting Actress Award for your work on “Gloria.”
“Gloria,” directed by John Cassavetes and his wife Gena Rowlands, won for Best Actress, and Basilio Franchina won for Best Supporting Actor. “Gloria” also won the Golden Lion. A near sweep! I just remember screaming in his ear. That changed my life because, from then on, it opened many doors to working with filmmakers who loved and admired John and Gena.
BQ: How did fame and fortune affect you?
JC: Although I’ve felt fortunate to have been born in a time and place where women can thrive, I have never felt famous or sought fame. It’s always been clear that by wanting fame, one leaves themselves at the mercy of a very fickle public. It’s good to be known enough to be called for the great roles but not so much that you can’t lead a private life. Fortune is still to come. Actually in my view, fortune is health and wellness.
BQ: Did social media change your acting career?
JC: No, I don’t believe so. To me, social media gives us the illusion of more agency over the news. It’s interactive so we don’t feel as impotent as we do after reading horrible world news in the paper. Now we can tweet about it, which just gives a false sense of action. Who knows what it will all lead up to or, if social media will implode. For an actor, social media creates dialogue between actor and audience. I’m very much on the periphery of that. I like a taste of social media but don’t trust it as nourishment. I’m astonished to hear that movie companies actually care about an actor’s cloud score when everyone knows they’ve just bought Twitter followers.
BQ: What would you like the public to know about you that isn’t widely known?
JC: I’m really a homebody.
BQ: Best thing about being you?
JC: I am a loyal friend.
BQ: How would you like to be remembered?
JC: As a good listener.
Links to Julie Carmen
interview with Latinopia
Julie's Dawn Patrol interview re racism with Latinopia: