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Estelle Parsons On 'Nice Work If You Can Get It,' And The Unlikely Success Of 'Bonnie And Clyde'

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The delightful Broadway musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It" features a late second act surprise that almost brings the house down -- Estelle Parsons. The 84-year-old actress, who won a Best Supporting Oscar for "Bonnie and Clyde," is probably best known as Roseanne’s mom Beverly in "Roseanne." Parsons, who says she was never interested in the movies or making money, plays Matthew Broderick’s mother in the play. She spoke to The Huffington Post about how she retains her stamina, "Bonnie and Clyde" and studying acting with Marilyn Monroe.

Are you annoyed that you weren’t nominated for a Tony?
Oh no, the part is so tiny you know and it’s just for fun, so I’m not surprised at all. We’re having such a fantastic time. The music is so great and of course I know every one of those songs. In rehearsals when people would forget the lyrics I would know them all.

You’re 84. How do you do it eight times a week?
I’ve always had a lot of energy. For me it’s just a tiny part. I don’t go in until about 90 minutes after the show has begun. I just have these two little scenes, it’s like a vacation to me. I really love it. I haven’t done a musical for ages.

Do you work out?
I work out every day at the gym. I have a trainer, I do weights. I swim, I run. I go to the gym every morning. I sit in the sauna every day. I don’t eat much meat at all, mostly chicken and fish and vegetables and salad. The important thing is to keep working because all this goes right down the drain. If you’re not working, [you're] sitting around thinking, "Oh I guess I’ll have a chocolate." The work is the important thing.

You’ve had an amazing career. Who has been your favorite person to work with?
Gene Hackman because when we were both kind of getting going in New York we seemed to have the same sort of rhythms and the same sense of truth or whatever you call it. And then whenever Arthur [Penn, director of "Bonnie and Clyde"] was starting to work on "Bonnie and Clyde," I said you really ought to look at Gene Hackman and Gene wanted to be a movie star. I would scream and holler at him because I didn’t see why we wanted to leave the theater.

Did you have any idea ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ would become a classic?
No, it was mostly people who were down on their luck. It was very low budget. It was Warren’s [Beatty] first time producing and everybody thought he wouldn’t be able to do it. Nobody really had much hope for it. You couldn’t ever dream it would become so big all over the world. We really had no idea.

You studied at the Actor’s Studio. Did you study with Marilyn?
She was always nervous when she worked. It was interesting because she didn’t seem to be that way in real life. I was thinking about that the other day, what was that all about? It seemed to be the thing that sort of attracted people to her, this kind of vulnerability that showed up when she was working. She was sort of an ordinary hard-boiled person like the rest of us. We were friends when she was married to Joe DiMaggio, my first husband was a part of that whole set. But this strange kind of nervousness came over her when she worked and it was very appealing to everybody. Well, to men anyway.

You know she’s on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair?
No really? I don’t know what that says about the current crop of young women around.

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