“I think I may not be a very successful interview for you,” writes Julie Christie in one of several exchanges that takes place in the build up to her finally appearing in Another Magazine. “I am totally uninterested in talking about my career. I feel completely divorced from it. The only reason I can see to do an interview is to voice political or philosophical ideas that are usually absent from the celebrity mania.”
From the moment she skipped in the British public’s consciousness in 1963’s Billy Liar, Julie Christie has personified stardom and simultaneously refuted it. A star since the mid-60s and still a star in her mid-60s, she is more vital than ever in our culture. In person, she is charming and warm, an icon refusing to be a product of the industry or slip into the role society wants its female stars to play. We talked about trying to leave this conversation as unedited as possible. Regarding the process as an unreliable way to get to know someone, treating it as a snapshot, a passing of time, with questions that will remain unanswered, answers that may change and thoughts that are constantly being refined.
"The only reason I can see to do an interview is to voice political or philosophical ideas that are usually absent from the celebrity mania”
AM: Do you see yourself as part of the swinging 60s?
JC: Absolutely not. I was much too insecure at that age to feel part of it or to really understand what was going on. I was much happier in the 70s. In the 60s, I was still trying everything out. It is one reason why I think the upper classes did so well in the 60s. The confidence of the aristocracy allowed them to cruise in to more dangerous areas, into all sorts of raw stuff. I always think of art school in those days as being similar to being in a band, but without any instruments. Music and art are very interchangeable.
AM: You’re quoted here as saying, “I love my freedom, that’s why I’m so scared of what Billy Liar could lead to, I mean if it’s good, and I’m good, it’s almost a trap really. I’ve never had the guts to turn down films. If I’m good and the offers get bigger and better, and the pressure is put on, what then? I’ll have to start thinking about the dark roots showing through and my nails needing another coat of varnish and all that.”
JC: That very much reflects a caution really. Because now everybody appears to want to be a celebrity and it’s a terribly dangerous world to enter into. I mean, everything is based on a lie of some sort, particularly celebrity, particularly success nowadays. There is such a level of manipulation and dissimulation that goes with the little tiny thing that is you and your work.
AM: You don’t like talking about yourself much.
JC: Yeah, I think you’re probably right. I think I’m much better at viewing the stuff outside myself, whenever I’m asked directly about myself, I go out and put the kettle on or…
AM: Does being famous get easier as you get older, as you get to work things out and become more comfortable with it?
JC: It gets easier because you don’t even know that you’re going through those processes until many years after. You realize years later that you’ve become that person, you’ve become spoilt because you’ve received so much attention, that you’re not considering other people.
AM: Who do you think are the heroes in our culture? You mentioned Nelson Mandela recently but do you think it’s probably not the people who are in the limelight…
JC: Absolutely, I’ve always though my heroes are the underground train drivers – can you imagine that blackness and the responsibility if anything goes wrong – you’re absolutely crucified. What a ghastly job. I think that probably sewage workers are kind of heroes because I know if they didn’t work we’d be in deep shit. The same goes for nurses… so it’s the people that if they didn’t do their work we’d be in real trouble, everything would fall apart. Despite all of our wonderful illusions about ourselves…those are the people who make things happen.
AM: Are there any things that you wanted to talk about that we haven’t touched on?
JC: Well there is a rather awkward question that I wanted to ask you, which is, did I see a fur in your magazine?
AM: Yes, in very small doses.
JC: But how can you justify that to yourself?
AM: We are a magazine that covers fashion, and it’s the language designers are using now. If I think someone like Alexander McQueen is an interesting creative designer and his new collection features fur and I don’t feature it when I cover his work, then I’m editing his work. Our audience is older and aware enough to not be so influenced. They will have already made the choice about where they stand on the issue.
JC: But when I’m talking about art and responsibility, I’m asking the question, has it caused pain and suffering? And we all know that all fur causes pain and suffering. I think it should be questioned, or people are going to keep getting away with the image rather than the reality. And the image can drown out and obliterate so much stuff. Is anything beautiful in the end, that comes out of pain and suffering and death? I find it really bewildering that your magazine is not trying to deal with this?
AM: There are a lot of issues fashion must tackle in its imagery and its production. Issues such as child labour, sweat shop labour, human cruelty and suffering. I think it’s important to address issues of human suffering and not overshadow that by putting the spotlight on fur. Are you a vegetarian?
JC: No, I’m not. I used to be until free range meat and farmers who cared about the welfare of their animals. I was absolutely, totally vegetarian before that.
For the full article, and for all 25 issues in the AnOther Magazine archive, visit Exact Editions.
Text by Jefferson Hack