March 16, 2002
The new Woronov
By LIZ BRAUN
Mary Woronov is one of the great broads of our time, or any other time, for that matter.

The actress, author and painter made a rare visit to Toronto to talk about The New Women, a post-apocalyptic comedy in which women try to figure out what to do next after a mysterious rainfall puts all the men on Earth to sleep. Forever.

The New Women is directed by Todd Hughes and written by Hughes and David Ebersole, who describe themselves as a "Husband and husband" creative team. Last week, Woronov, Hughes and Ebersole were meeting the press at a local bed & breakfast called the Immaculate Reception; perfect spot, we must say.

A self-described rabid fan of Woronov's, Hughes says that he and Ebersole often saw the actress in their neighbourhood L.A. dog park, but pretended they didn't know who she was.

"But I was stalking her," Hughes jokes.

Friendship and filmship followed, and the trio will soon be making Swimming Underground, based on Woronov's bestselling memoir of the whole Warhol/'60s thing. She also wrote the screenplay.

"Swimming Underground is a fictional autobiography," Woronov says. "I was so high at that time, I can't remember anything. I'm just making it up as I go along." Laughing, she adds that Lou Reed and others who shared the era have read it and approved. "They say it works as the one book that gets the whole attitude of the times across."

Woronov was at Cornell in the '60s when she fell in with Andy Warhol's crowd and wound up in Chelsea Girls. A Warhol "superstar" for the factory work and her gig as one of the Velvet Underground dancers, Woronov went on to be in more than 70 movies -- including Rock 'n' Roll High School, Eating Raoul, Silent Night, Bloody Night, Death Race 2000 and like that -- managing to remain a cult icon. She has what might be described as the perfect B-movie level of fame; you just know her fans have keen senses of humour and irony.

She says, "I've always been either ahead of or behind my fame." What about Eating Raoul? That was huge.

"But Eating Raoul was, initially, a dud. Not until a year later did anything happen," she says. "Paul (Bartel) made sure we had a screening in L.A., and I was there handing out bat-shaped cookies to the audience. They hated the movie."

Asked how it was that she jumped into the '60s "counterculture" without hesitation, Woronov says, "It was impossible for me not to. I was at Cornell. I was already into drugs."

She was a student of art. Woronov's interest in what Warhol was doing was all about the art.

Was she from an artistic family?

"Of course! My mother always told me to shut up and draw."

Woronov says, "Everybody else around Warhol wanted to be a movie star. That was never my intention.

"Of course," she says, almost in an aside, "when I went on to do plays -- and what plays! -- I thought, 'If I had an agent I could do this all the time and never have to really work.' "

Hughes, Woronov and Ebersole are part of a different kind of movie culture, one that is independent and cooperative.

Friendly, even. Hughes mentions that the cast and crew all went bowling together after finishing The New Women.

"Yes -- we went bowling, and that doesn't happen," Woronov says.

"I've made 73 films. No matter what they say, you don't remain friends with anybody afterward. You might f--- them on-set," she says cheerfully, "but you are not friends after."

The New Women is playing at the Bloor Cinema.