Oscar winner Sally Field, for instance, is famously driven. As a little girl, she would stand on the coffee table and scream at her stepfather, TV stuntman Jock Mahoney, who demanded obedience.
“I was so frightened of him that the only way to get to myself at all was to be louder than he was, bigger than he was,” Field told Playboy. “If I hadn’t fought back, I might have been [TV teen character] Gidget forever.”
It is, in fact, Field’s transformation from Gidget to her Oscar-winning role as Norma Rae that defines her force of will.
When a young director wasn’t seeing the performance he wanted from a child actor, Field “grabbed [the director] by the throat and said: ‘Whatever you have to do to get a good performance out of the kid, do it. It doesn’t matter if he ever wants to act again.’”
Such tenacity propels her toward challenging roles, including a recent stint onstage in The Glass Menagerie and onscreen as a bipolar mother in NBC’s ER.
It’s not that she’s averse to change.
“Change is never easy,” she says. “You lose your habitual behavior, which allowed you to sort of zone out. You have to be here, you have to be now, you have to be present.”
But it’s not clear whether Field, nearly age 60, is really ready to be different.
“When you’re old, you are more certain of who you are,” she says, “and that may be a good thing or a bad thing.”
—Adapted from “Small Wonder,” Margaret Guroff, AARP Magazine.