At age 61, she has lived through a lot to get where she is today.
She wishes she could go back and give herself advice when she was 18.
But she can't, so she'll settle for telling her story, and hoping that you learn a lesson or two from it.
"I MADE a big mistake at 18. I appeared in my father’s movie, A Walk With Love And Death. It was a personal disaster for both of us.
I don’t think we said more than ten words to each other during the making of the film. I was reluctant and he was parental.
The whole experience turned me off acting for about the next ten years. I didn’t go near another film set.
My father really gave me the part as a present and I didn’t identify with it. I didn’t know what I was doing and wish I had been better prepared. I was at a low point at 18. My mother (Enrica) had been killed in a car crash the year before while travelling in France. She was very lovely, witty and sensitive. She was also my best friend.
So I was not at my happiest in my late teens. I went from confident and secure to shy and insecure and back again.
I wish I could have been more accepting of myself. I had once overheard my father saying, when I was about 15 or 16, that I might turn out to be plain. That was a particularly unattractive moment for me.
My nose was growing and my chin was receding, by comparison, and no one knew more than me how plain I felt.
Confidence is really so fragile, in acting. Even when I was 28 — I had been modelling in New York — and told my dad that I wanted to act, he replied: “Don’t you think you are a little old, honey?”
It had not occurred to me that I might be too old. I had resisted taking parts in movies alongside my then boyfriend, Jack Nicholson, because I saw them as handouts. I let opportunities pass.
My advice to my 18-year-old self would have been: “Stop wasting time pondering about things. Just go out and do them.” It took a car crash to shake me out of my lethargy.
I was driving along Coldwater Canyon in Los Angeles at dusk when a BMW came up very fast ahead of me and clipped the bumper of the car in front. I saw the headlights and felt a tremendous impact. These were the days before we all wore seat belts, so I smashed my face against the steering wheel.
I went to hospital for a long operation to remove the bone shards from my forehead and skull and to reconstruct my nose. When I opened my eyes, Jack was there with flowers.
What I do remember is the incredible surge of positive energy. I thought: “You’ve made it through this. It is a new beginning.” It gave me confidence and power I had never felt before.
I felt more capable, sought out an acting teacher and started getting employment. I even moved out of Jack’s house. I needed to make some decisive moves on my own behalf.
It was like I had woken up. I thought: “Oh, my goodness, I had better get myself in gear, because this life is not going to last for ever.”
No one can tell you how quickly time passes, either. At 18, life seems to stretch ahead. It is what you do with that time that matters. I lost my husband, Robert, to an intense illness. (He died in 2008). We had lived in Venice, California, in a house which he had designed.
On our honeymoon, over a few tequilas, I suggested that as we had so much trouble finding a house we both liked, he rebuild a place on the site of his old studio. He built me a house which was like a fortress on the outside and a convent on the inside. It was very beautiful and the area around it extremely lively.
I never commented on his sculpture — and he never commented on my scripts.
One thing that I wish I had known, long ago — and it would have saved me so much trouble — is that when you are being rejected for an acting role, it is nothing personal.
When I directed films (she has made three) you realise that the hideous process called auditioning is about who is right for the part.
It is not about whether you are not good looking enough or young enough, or whatever.
I have had so much rejection along the way, it would have been great to have known.
The worst was the day after I won my Oscar (as best actress for Prizzi’s Honour) when I went for an audition. I had never been worse — and didn’t get the part. One lesson for life: Sooner or later, you will have to eat humble pie."