Talking to . . . Amy Irving

Original Publication: Vogue, March 1988

At thirty-four, Amy Irving is a genuine Tinseltown royal: wife of the world’s most powerful director, the emperor of Hollywood, Steven Spielberg; mother of their much adored three-year-old son, Max; chatelaine of five residences across the country; and the sort of anything-for-art actress whose prominence on the movie marquee means unlimited opportunities to play classical theater. “If there’s a classical role I’m right for, I usually am one of the first people to be asked to do it,” says Irving. “I can create anything I want. If I go to a city and say, ‘I’d like to play this role,’ I think they’ll do it for me.”

Moreover, it is a mark of her serene self-confidence that Irving, who will star in Joan Micklin Silver’s film Crossing Delancey this summer, has been able to arrange things so that when she’s working, the much sought-after Spielberg stays home playing house husband. When he’s working – on location in Spain forEmpire of the Sun, for example – her gift to him is that their tightly knit family unit stays intact. “Last year for Steven’s birthday, I told him I would turn down the work that would have kept us apart five months and said, ‘I’ll go on location with you.’ I never thought I’d see the day I would stop working for eight months because I preferred to be with my family.” Alas, she found the experience trying. “There were no friends around for Max. We were isolated and miserable, but we were together as a family, and that was important.”

Irving and Spielberg married when Max was five months old after a decade of courtship that included a three-year split. “We are very private, very normal, stay-at-home people,” says Irving, who hopes to have more children, the sooner the better. To date, she has shunned the Hollywood-hostess-cum-social-arbiter position that so easily could fall her way. But Irving, no longer the starlet who must impress the moguls, feels no need to ingratiate herself. “I don’t play parties. I don’t work rooms. I never have. I’ve always felt that if you’ve got the talent, that’s going to be rewarded. If it’s not, it’s their loss.

Irving herself is a backstage baby who grew up in the theater and has always been deadly serious about what she calls her “craft.”  Interestingly, her early life was shaped by another powerful director, her father, the late Jules Irving, who headed Lincoln Center’s Repertory Theater and often directed her mother, actress Priscilla Pointer. Early on, both parents insisted on a rigorous dramatic education for their daughter. Amy Irving went to New York City’s Professional Children’s School, then spent three years at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, and one year at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater. “Even though I had been acting since I was nine months old and thought I was God’s gift to the stage, when I finished high school, my parents urged me to get classical training,” Irving recounts. “I’m glad I did because it’s a time really to explore your instrument.”

Having a baby, she feels, has also brought her to another plane in her acting. “Since I had Max, my work has changed; there’s less naïveté to it. As much as we all don’t want to grow up, you have to,” Max has also sprung his mother, noted for her masses of ringlets and delicate features, from the trap of always being considered Little Miss Ingenue. “I’m not being sent the sweet young thing parts anymore. I can’t tell you how excited I was the day I received a script to play the mother of a ten-year-old boy.” Now, there is an entire roster of illustrious, if not daunting, roles she wants to conquer. “I’ve got to start thinking in terms of the Hedda Gablers.  I want to play Miss Julie. I want to play the ‘shrew,’ all the Shaw women. I want to do a Saint Joan.”

In Crossing Delancey, Irving plays a Manhattan bookstore clerk saved from becoming a literary groupie by her bubbie (grandmother) who matches her with a Lower East Side pickle man (Peter Riegert). “I’m having the time of my life on this film,” says Irving, who is shooting on New York City streets under Joan Micklin Silver’s direction. “I tease Joan: I say, ‘Well there’s Marty and Bobby [Scorsese and De Niro], and now there’s Joan and Amy.”

And what about Steven and Amy teaming up on the screen? “He’ll direct me in a movie someday. We’re going to wait a while, and when that perfect thing comes, we’ll both know it.” Currently, Irving and Spielberg are more concerned about moving to suburban Connecticut from the West Coast. “I don’t think I want to raise Max in Los Angeles. I don’t think we want to.” Once Max is in school their peripatetic life will be somewhat curtailed. Irving says, “Somebody’s career is going to get compromised,” She laughs, leaving little doubt she thinks it will be her own.

Just how much has her marriage helped or hindered her career? Obviously, being married to Steven Spielberg means that some, if not most, people will treat her differently. “I know I’ve never gotten work because of Steven. I know I have not gotten work because of Steven. Certain director’s egos are such that they don’t want somebody from Steven’s camp on their territory. I’ve known of instances when I was supposed to get a party, but they started to worry about Steven Spielberg getting more of a focus on them – that happens.  “But you know what?” Amy Irving says with a cool, steady gaze. “It’s a great tradeoff.”

This article is typed from the original material.  Please excuse any errors that have escaped final proofreading.