A Minute With: The ‘Queen Bees’ cast on age and role of older women

FILE PHOTO: Cast member Burstyn poses at the premiere of
FILE PHOTO: Cast member Ellen Burstyn poses at the premiere of "Draft Day" in Los Angeles, California April 7, 2014. The movie opens in the U.S. on April 11. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

June 10, 2021

By Alicia Powell

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn plays a reluctant new arrival at a retirement home in comedy “Queen Bees”, where she comes face to face with a gang of “mean girls”.

Despite insisting on a temporary stay while her home is renovated, Burstyn’s character Helen soon makes friends with the women and finds romance as well.

The 88-year-old, known for her work in Hollywood, television and Broadway, spoke to Reuters about the role alongside co-stars Ann-Margret and Loretta Devine.

Below are excerpts edited for clarity and length.

Q: What made you want to do this film?

Burstyn: “It was a different image of a retirement home that I was carrying in my head … We were in a real retirement home and it was beautiful. I was surprised at how many activities there were and the swimming pool and the beautiful dining room and good food and then a lot of love affairs were going on there.”

Q: Did you have any hesitation in doing the film?

Ann-Margret: “No hesitation at all, no. And it was so much fun having (actor) Christopher Lloyd as my boyfriend. He was so dear and full of life and so endearing.”

Burstyn: “Writers don’t write very often films for four women in their 70s and I’m in my 80s … it’s a rare thing and it’s a relief for me to see people that I recognise as somebody that I might actually know … and not older people just pictured as doddering old folks on their way out. I like that about it, it’s fun.”

Q: Why are films like this important?

Devine: “Someone very rich and famous told me to never tell my age … Now everything’s on the internet so, you go, what the hell? This is what it is. And so, what’s the point of hiding, you know?”

Q: What are the joys of getting older?

Burstyn: “It depends on your mindset … if you think about it as the end of the road and all the fun is gone, it’s not very fun. But if you keep on learning, like I try to keep on learning all the time, it just goes on being better and better. You feel more secure, you feel more confident, and you feel like you know what’s going on.”

Devine: “You get to say things you never would have had the courage to say when you were younger.”

Ann-Margret: “I notice people take my arm (and ask) ‘Are you OK?’ It’s very sweet.”

(Reporting by Alicia Powell; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)