HFPA in Conversation: Patti LuPone on “Hollywood” and Sex Scenes

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros May 1, 2020
Actress Patti LuPone

walter mcbride/getty images

Patti LuPone knows the ins and outs of the entertainment business. She started her career in the early 1970s with the theatre group The Acting Company. During her career, she has been performing on stage, in concerts, in films, and on TV shows. She has won two Grammy awards, two Tony awards, and two Olivier awards. She told HFPA journalist Janet Nepales that she is familiar with the darker side of the show business as well. Now Ms. LuPone is portraying Avis Amberg – an unhappy wife of a studio boss who becomes the studio head – on Ryan Murphy’s and Ian Brennan’s Netflix limited series Hollywood. The show follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post World War II as they try to make it in tinsel town no matter the cost. “Avis forges her own path. When the tide turns and she becomes the studio head she’s forced to use her wits and her own intelligence without guidance to make the right decision, and she does.”

She can relate to Avis.“I think the way I could relate to her is the way that most women can relate to Avis. How we have been denied our rights for so many years and denied the legitimacy of our voice for so many years. Women have a lot to say and I think women are the superior gender. We are the goddesses, we give birth and we have empathy. I’ve often felt trodden upon because I was a woman and called a bitch if I spoke up because I’m a woman. And forever I’ve said, they wouldn’t say that about a guy if he said the exact same thing. So in that way, I relate to Avis.”

Avis has affairs with the gentlemen that work at the rather peculiar gas station. How did LuPone feel about love scenes?When Ryan told me I was getting to have sex scenes I said, finally. Yeah. Why not?” 

She filmed intimate scenes with David Corenswet and had a sex scene with Dylan McDermott but that was cut out. “It was one of those moments that happen I’m sure quite frequently in film where you go “Hi I’m Patti, hi I’m David, ok let’s get down to it”. We don’t meet the players until the day. David and I actually connected, we bonded because we both had the same training at Julliard. And we had a shorthand right off the bat whether we were trained the same way or not we knew the experience of Julliard. And the experience of Julliard is basically: get down to it, don’t put anything in the way. We figured out certain physical things so that we could act with each other and that was it.”

Listen to the podcast and hear how she celebrated her recent birthday; how was her childhood on Long Island; when she knew she was born to be an entertainer; why her mother enrolled her in dancing classes; why she reviewed 12 weeks detention; why Lucille Ball played an important role in Patti’s life; why Evita was one of her worst experiences; how interacting with mice helped her to find her strength; who is her soulmate; why she had the best time playing Fantine in Les Misérables in London; what happened when she found out that Glenn Close took over her role in Sunset Boulevard musical; why she has a special relationship with composer Stephen Sondheim; how does she take care of her voice; why driving a car is therapeutic for her; how long she has been outspoken; why she likes living on the edge; where she got her sense of humor; how was it working with an intimacy coach on the set of Hollywood; why she started to do basement videos; what the word "diva" means to her; whether she is a party girl and she has regrets; whether she plans to retire; and why she thinks speaking up is important.