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Ellen Burstyn

PARTING SHOT

SHE HAS REMAINED A SUBSTANTIAL FILM DRAW FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS after winning an Oscar for Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Among 85-year-old Ellen Burstyn’s 21st-century roles: playing the late Barbara Bush in Oliver Stone’s W. But her latest part, in The House of Tomorrow, seems almost fated. When Burstyn was a rising star in the 1970s, she struck up an unlikely friendship with the eccentric architect and visionary Buckminster Fuller, then in his 70s. She had attended one of his lectures while filming The Exorcist. “He could speak at the highest level to experts in philosophy, architecture, inventions,” says Burstyn. “He was fascinating—I had the feeling I was running as fast as I could mentally—but also so, so kind.” She was thus well prepared to play Tomorrow’s Fuller-worshipping, geodesic dome-living grandma, who is raising her grandson on a strict diet of the late thinker’s futurist teachings. When Burstyn met the director, Peter Livolsi, she gave him a videotape she had made of Fuller, including footage of her young self, which Livolsi used in the film. “I don’t know what you’d call an event like that,” says Burstyn. “Serendipity, maybe?”

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