Lily Tomlin originally wanted to be a mime artist as she thought acting was "too narcissistic".
The 77-year-old star has had a varied career over the last four decades, appearing in everything from TV series The West Wing to movies including The Walker and Grandma. Before meeting director Robert Altman, who gave the actress her first ever feature role in 1975’s Nashville which earned her an Oscar nod, Lily had a different career path in mind after moving to New York in the ‘60s.
“It was too narcissistic to be an actress,” she explained to Backstage magazine. “(Miming was) more organic. You just have your body - you don’t have words, and it’s more artful. The hip used to make fun of actors: ‘You have to be a writer or a composer. You have to be a creator of the art, not an interpreter.’ I lasted about three weeks at the American Mime Theatre - it was so arduous, and there were no words.”
Lily went on to work with Robert several times following her film debut and starred in his last ever movie, 2006’s A Prairie Home Companion, released in the same year he passed away. Lily still gets emotional thinking about his death, especially since the passing of his wife last March (16).
“They meant so much to me in terms of a movie career. Nobody would’ve given me a part in a movie,” she sighed. "Altman, in spite of the fact that most people thought I was Ernestine (character from comedy sketch show Laugh-In), he gave me a straight part in Nashville. It was a wonderful part for me.”
Lily is as busy as ever, with two movies due for release this year (17). One is comedy The Road Home about a young man escaping the reality of losing his girlfriend, job and apartment, while the other is drama The Madness Within about a businessman who struggles with addiction, relationship problems and secrets.