Movie Interviews
7:49 am
Sat May 24, 2014

Eva Marie Saint: At 89, 'You Have More To Give'

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 2:09 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

One of the greatest American films of all times hit screens 60 years ago. "On the Waterfront," directed by Elia Kazan, written by Budd Schulberg, starring Karl Malden and Rob Steiger and a brooding guy named Brando. Joey, a good kid, has told on his corrupt union boss and falls mysteriously - well, maybe not so mysteriously - from the roof of his apartment building. A brave priest tries to comfort Joey's beautiful young sister, Edie.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ON THE WATERFRONT")

EVA MARIE SAINT: (As Edie Doyle) Who would want to Joey? Who'd want to kill Joey?

KARL MALDEN: (As Father Barry) Edie. Edie. Edie. Time and faith. Remember, time and faith are great healers, Edie.

SAINT: (As Edie Doyle) Father, my brother is dead and you talk about time and faith. My brother was the best kid i the neighborhood and everybody said so.

MALDEN: (As Father Barry) Edie, listen, I -

SAINT: (As Edie Doyle) I want to know who killed my brother.

SIMON: Karl Malden as Father Barry and in her first screen role, Eva Marie Saint. She won the Oscar for the film, which also won the Academy Award for best picture. Eva Marie Saint is still working at the age of 89, and to honor the film on its 60th anniversary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen "On the Waterfront" in Los Angeles on June 6. The great Eva Marie Saint joins us now from NPR West. Thank you so much for being with us.

SAINT: Thank you. 60 years ago - it doesn't seem that long.

SIMON: Well...

SAINT: People think - well, I can say it now, why not. People think that I was 18, 19.

SIMON: Yeah.

SAINT: I was 30.

SIMON: No, really?

SAINT: Yeah.

SIMON: Oh, my word. We mentioned this was your first screen role, but you'd done a lot of live television, hadn't you?

SAINT: Oh, yes, lot of live television. But that was the first time I actually stepped on a stage where they were making a movie.

SIMON: Did you know you were making a classic?

SAINT: You know, people ask that. Of course not. You just want to do the best you can. You take each day at a time. I don't think anyone ever knows. And it's something you shouldn't be thinking of.

SIMON: I saw scenes from the movie just last night and - all right, there's a kiss between Terry and Edie that's considered one of the greatest in screen history. And you, if I might put it this way, are pleading with Terry, leave me alone. And Brando breaks down the door. He says, I don't care what you want. He grabs Edie and kisses her. And I couldn't help but think, nowadays in 2014...

SAINT: I'd be naked.

SIMON: Oh, that's not what I was thinking, but yes, OK.

SAINT: (Laughter) Well, you take a moment, think about that.

SIMON: (Laughter) Oh, mercy.

SAINT: And he would be naked.

SIMON: OK, I guess so.

SAINT: Wow.

SIMON: Take two.

SAINT: Don't you go to the movies these days?

SIMON: Yes, I do, as a matter of fact.

SAINT: OK. OK.

SIMON: But what I was thinking of - in 2014, a guy who breaks down the door and says, I don't care what you want and sweeps the woman in his arm and forces a kiss on her, she'd get a restraining order. She'd say, I'm going to call the cops.

SAINT: No, she wouldn't. She says, I didn't say I don't love you, remember that?

SIMON: Yeah.

SAINT: So she does love him.

SIMON: Oh, all right.

SAINT: And you know, she starts hitting him and then the...

SIMON: Yeah.

SAINT: ...That slows down and you know, they're kissing. That was a difficult scene for me because I'd never been in my slip on camera and certainly not on television. And Gadg came over, his hand came over and just whispered in my ear. He said, Jeff. That was my husband's - that is my husband's name. And it just - it was the right button to push. That was it. I relaxed, and it was very quiet direction and very poignant and very pointed. I knew exactly what he wanted.

SIMON: I mean, it occurs to me - just this year you were in "A Winter's Tale" with Colin Farrell.

SAINT: Mhmm.

SIMON: What do you learn about acting as you go along?

SAINT: The longer you live, I believe, you learn so much about life that you have more to give. It's interesting, people say how, when you watch a film, how do you feel about it? What do you remember? And do you like watching the film? Well, after it's been several years, many years, it's almost another person up on the screen.

SIMON: Yeah.

SAINT: But I remember, in all the emotional scenes, what I used at that moment. It's as clear as a bell.

SIMON: Wow. I hope you don't mind me asking. I've been utterly charmed by the fact that you have seen fit to mention your husband in this interview.

SAINT: Have I?

SIMON: Yes.

SAINT: Oh.

SIMON: And I think that's wonderful. I do want to ask you if there're any tips for how you remain so besotted and in love with each other over 63 years?

SAINT: First of all, it's luck. How do you meet that person? He saw me on the subway...

SIMON: Yeah.

SAINT: ...Carrying a modeling book with my name, Eva Marie Saint, in gold in little letters at the bottom. And the name intrigued him. He didn't see me from the front. It was the back. Oh, and the way I walked. And that was the moment. Now Jeff and I did an interview, and this very prim and proper lady said, Miss Saint, how do you stay married? This was, I think we were married 40 years then. So I become serious and I say, well, I think you have interests in things that you do together. You certainly have to decide whether you're going to have family or not. So I go on and on. She turns to Jeff. She said, well, Mr. Hayden, what do you think the secret is? And he said, sex.

(LAUGHTER)

SAINT: It went right to the commercial so - so I almost, well, fainted, I mean, because this was a serious discussion. Not that sex is not serious, not that he was absolutely correct. The next time we had an interview, the lady turned to me first. This was a different kind of person. And she said, what is the secret? And I said, sex. And there's Jeff, and he's left with all the well, you have to have things in common. So I took him...

(LAUGHTER)

SAINT: He was so mad. And I said, well, I got back at you, because you embarrassed me.

SIMON: Do like movies nowadays?

SAINT: Do you hear that pause?

SIMON: I did hear the pause.

SAINT: No, there - I'm an Academy member, so I vote. And I can always find five wonderful films. I find a lot of swearing in films. And I guess that shows my age. But I also feel that where they say those words, they could just as easily have written other words. And I find that tiresome, and I just tune out. And I'm showing my age, right?

SIMON: No. No. No. I think you're showing elevated taste.

SAINT: Oh, thank you. Do you see me sit up straighter just then?

SIMON: (Laughter) I'll take your word for it, though.

SAINT: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

SIMON: The great Eva Marie Saint, joining us from NPR West. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen "On the Waterfront" in Los Angeles on June 6. Ms. Saint, thanks so much for being with us.

SAINT: Oh, that went so fast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.