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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 April 2007, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Actress Christie on Alzheimer's role
Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent in Away From Her
Christie has already been tipped for an Oscar for Away From Her
British actress Julie Christie has spoken about the intense personal effect of playing a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease in new film Away From Her.

Based on The Bear Came Over the Mountain, a short story by Alice Munro, Away From Her is directed by 28-year-old actress-turned-director Sarah Polley, star of the recent remake of Dawn Of The Dead.

Christie, who co-starred with Polley in 2005's The Secret Life of Words, plays a woman who moves into a nursing home after she begins to suffer from Alzheimer's.

As her memories of her husband, played by Gordon Pinsent, begin to disappear, she begins a new relationship with another man in the nursing home.

"I've got rather too many friends whose parents have Alzheimer's - it seems to be people at my age, their parents start to get it around now. It's terribly common," she told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme.

"Of course it's a truly dreadful thing to have to be carer and watch your beloved drifting away from you, in every sense.

"I found it very interesting pursuing the phenomenon of someone taking responsibility for their own Alzheimer's illness - but that's Alice Monroe's story," said the 66-year-old Go Between star.

Mortality

Considering its difficult and potentially depressing subject matter, the actress is delighted with the reception the film - which was officially selected for festivals in Berlin, Toronto and Sundance - has received.

Julie Christie
The film world is not the greatest to be in, because there's all this financial pressure, and selling and advertising attached to it
Julie Christie
"It certainly makes you think - I think it's very good for that," said Christie.

"We tend to avoid mortality - it's not a concept that is built into the Western thought pattern. I don't think it's dealt with on any level.

"So I think it's quite a remarkable feat to have people thinking about these issues and not feeling wretched.

"Nobody I know has come out of the film thinking, 'my God, why see a film like that'."

Reflecting on her own past - which includes starring roles in films such as Billy Liar, Doctor Zhivago and Don't Look Now, as well as the best actress Oscar for Darling in 1966 - Christie said she views her history in film as "irrelevant".

"That was interesting, but I've put it away in a drawer - it's got nothing to do with anything," she said.

"I've fought hard to get over some of the bad things that happen when you get that much fame and attention."

"Some of the demanding aspects of your character are still there, but I can look at them and see them and know they're there because I've been terribly spoilt at one period in my life.

"That's the only thing that's left - but that might have been there anyway."

Celebrity interest

Christie's most recent Oscar nomination was in 1997 for Afterglow, while the actress has recently starred in films including Finding Neverland and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent in Away From Her
Christie was one of the film world's biggest stars in the 1960s
But in general Christie is happy living a "quiet life in the country".

"The film world is not the greatest to be in, because there's all this financial pressure, and selling and advertising attached to it," she explained.

And she notes that this is one aspect of life that has changed dramatically since the 1960s, with a much greater interest in celebrities.

"Now, because everybody's vying to fill their magazines fuller and fuller of rubbish, they've got to run around like rats on cocaine and pursue you everywhere, way beyond the limits of decency.

"It's horrible. I'm glad I'm not part of that world now."


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