Hollywood’s coolest blonde has new priorities: marriage and motherhood. Those who peek into the windows of Gwyneth Kate Paltrow’s life have seen how charmed it can be — she is blessed with beauty, brains, talent, success and accolades. But into every life some rain must fall, and the fair-haired actress, frequently called “Hollywood’s Princess,” has had a rough time coping with the recent death of her beloved father, television and film director/ producer Bruce Paltrow. He was 58.
Although she admits that her grief was overwhelming, Paltrow has shown a great deal of maturity in moving on with her life. She recently eloped with her 26-year-old laid-back British rocker boyfriend, Chris Martin (lead singer of the group Coldplay), and is pregnant with their first child.
The newly married couple has been seen around New York and L.A. looking like the young lovers that they are. Close friends say that her new husband provided needed solace after her father’s death and their relationship quickly grew. Their baby is due in the summer of 2004 and from the look on Paltrow’s beaming face, it is clear that the 31-year-old actress is over the moon with this new role.
“It is very exciting; I am very happy,” Paltrow recently told talk show host Jay Leno. “I pinch my stomach for luck and now there is more to pinch.” She also told Leno that she has a bit of Jewish jitters and doesn’t want to jinx anything about her blissful state. “The Jewish part of me is superstitious about talking about it. So when people ask, ‘Are you going to find out about the sex of the baby?, ‘Do you have weird food cravings?’ Or, ‘How does your mom feel?’ I don’t want to answer those questions.”
The first two questions one would have to venture a guess, but to the third this writer can speak with some authority. Paltrow’s mother, stage and film actress Blythe Danner, spoke candidly in a recent interview about her daughter and first grandchild.
“What can I say?” Danner responded. “I am thrilled. Being a grandma is a role I am ready and eager to tackle. And Chris is wonderful for her. There is a nice easiness between them. She is happier than I’ve ever seen her.”
So what advice does Danner have when it comes to the cherished role of motherhood? “I think she has been very wise that she didn’t choose the path of motherhood right away,” her mom said. “Her career has been her child up until now, and I’ve encouraged her to do that so when she has children maybe she will do one movie every two years and be able to do both well.”
As a working actress trying to juggle home and career with various degrees of success, Danner says you can do both well, but it is not an easy road.
“I think you have to be very wise and intelligent to do it,” says the star of numerous films, including Meet the Parents and Prince of Tides. “I think it’s very difficult to do it. My daughter has a lot more pressures than I had. Now that she’s pregnant, I’m sure she has figured it out very well—the way that she does most things.”
Born in 1972 in L.A. to Blythe Danner and Bruce Paltrow, Paltrow and her brother, Jake, moved to Massachusetts when she was 11. The family’s migration took place so her father could direct summer stock in New England. It was also an opportunity for Paltrow to receive early acting training under the tutelage of her parents.
She attended the University of California for one year and then left to pursue her acting career—something her parents were initially cautious about, but quickly came to support.
Among the dozens of Paltrow’s major films are: Emma, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Possession, Bounce, A View From the Top and Shakespeare in Love.
Stardom is not something the actress is enamored with. “I will be eating at a restaurant and I wish that everybody would stop staring at me and stop eavesdropping on my conversation. So sometimes it gets heavy, but I refuse to say that I am larger than life. I am an actress and celebrity comes with it, but I’m not going to remove myself from society.”
Danner says confidence and composure came naturally to Paltrow, but she admits that her own 32-year marriage to Bruce Paltrow certainly contributed to Paltrow’s intense feelings of security.
“She came into the world as a very strong person...I think that’s somewhat helpful in that she had a strong, stable family. Even though we were working and weren’t always together all the time, she’s also gone on a personal journey which is very impressive. She’s decided to live her life in an extremely intelligent way, in a wise way. She has her yoga, her macrobiotic diet, and her spiritual path, and I’m very proud of her as a person.”
Her latest film, Sylvia, came at the right time in her life. Her father had recently died from complications of pneumonia and a recurrence of throat cancer shortly after celebrating Paltrow’s 30th birthday with her in Cetona, Tuscany. His sudden death was a terrible blow to Paltrow, who was admittedly a daddy’s girl.
She was thrilled when he directed her in the comedy-drama Duets, set in the world of karaoke. “I loved working alongside my father,” she has said. “My father died two weeks before I started working on the film Sylvia and that was without question the worst and most devastating thing that’s ever happened to me.”
She says she didn’t know if she would be able to work on the film so close after her father’s death. “But my brother, Jake, was really insistent that I do it. He said to me, ‘You know you can’t just wander around your house like a zombie.’ He said it’s better that you have something to do, and that you get up every morning and go.”
Being in that “decimated state,” and reading Sylvia Plath’s dark poems, put her in the right place. “It just required me to be open to her voice, and her words. Also, I listen to a lot of depressing Icelandic alternative music if I have to do anything sad.”
A keen researcher, Paltrow says she listened to the recordings of Plath. “When she read her poetry, it was very startling and very extreme. I thought, I’m not going to do this voice, because nobody talks like that. But I listened to a lot of the sounds and I would put colors of it in. And I think I looked enough like her, with her funny hair. One of her friends came to the set, saw me with the braids and said she couldn’t believe it. She said, ‘You look exactly like her.’”
Sylvia Plath was known for her vivid dreams, and Paltrow says she had her own strange, recurring dream while making the movie. “It’s about this California kind of Victorian beach house, and it’s got all this stained glass. Then I find while I’m in this house that it’s moving down a river. And I don’t know how to get out of the house. It’s very weird! I have that dream a lot.”
So how did the film affect her personally at the time? “I’m sure I was not a lot of laughs by any stretch of the imagination! I was so depressed about my father, and I was doing this incredibly heavy piece.”
Some film critics have said this is Paltrow’s best screen performance to date, something that thrills her. “I think it’s the most amazing compliment. And it’s also a great lesson to me, in terms of not holding back and not judging myself when I work.”
Not only did her brother Jake help with her emotional state, but also her mom came on the set at the end of the filming and took a small part in the film.
“My mom was great. We flew down to New Zealand together, which was really lovely. You know, it was just comforting to be together, to eat our meals together and to work together.”
Paltrow says one friend “did a really lovely thing” after her father died. “The friend sent me a care package of music and books, and one of them was A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I like to read, especially on vacation, because I am more relaxed and able to tune out the noises in my head.”
Along with reading, Paltrow says she loves spending time in Manhattan because it’s a more normal lifestyle than L.A. She currently has homes in Knightsbridge, London, and New York’s Greenwich Village, and prefers them to Tinseltown. “In L.A. everything is about the movie industry and you feel that everybody wants something from you. But I love the energy in New York.”
When her family is together they enjoy going to concerts, movies and the theater. A favorite family memory for Paltrow was making breakfast with her parents. “Everything got deeper after he died—work and personally,” says Paltrow. “I had lost so much, and my perspective had changed so much, that I thought I’m not going to live in this cautious way anymore. In work, or in any area of my life, I’m just going to make it count.
“I am really lucky to have so much video footage of my father. There are various interviews, so sometimes when I want to get really depressed, I sit down and watch him on TV and cry a lot! But I’m glad that someday my child will be able to see him, and hear his voice and get a sense of who he was. I want to keep him close to all of us and keep it personal.”
Nesting is something that comes very natural to Paltrow. “I have the best family in the entire world. And I have the same friends I’ve had since I was a little girl. Celebrity is not a factor in our friendship. They are real and not afraid to contradict me, which is an extremely positive thing.”
And she has learned to listen to the advice of those who love her, especially her mother. “She told me not to let all the outside stuff in the business permeate my life and to stay above the fray. None of us read anything written about us—we don’t even read the reviews. You try to stay as true to the work as you can and let the other stuff just wash over you.”
More recently, Paltrow has been shooting the film version of the play she did in London called Proof, also starring John Madden and Anthony Hopkins.
So what is going to be doing now, with this new chapter in her life? A lot of personal things she won’t talk about and a few more general ones that she will. “I’m taking some time off and I probably won’t work until next fall. It’s part of my new philosophy. You know, I worked so much in my twenties. And I really burned the candle at both ends.”
She says when she was younger she wasn’t “too picky about what I did. I was lucky that I did some really great films. But I also did some really rubbish films. I think part of the downside of being so successful and reaching sort of the pinnacle of everything when you’re 26 years old is that I kind of became insouciant about things that I chose. Like I thought, ‘Oh I’ll just try this, that’ll be fun.’ Or, ‘Oh, I’ll do that.’ You know, for the money. Things that now I would absolutely never do.”
Paltrow explains that, “the combination of losing my father, turning 30, taking a year off, and doing a play, has completely shifted everything. So now, first of all, I don’t want to work so much. Maybe do one thing a year, two at the most. I want to do more theater. I want to do things that are worth my time. And if it’s just doing small films like Sylvia, you know what I mean? Not doing something that makes me feel horrible about myself as a person. I’ll change my lifestyle, as opposed to selling out.”
She also learned a sobering lesson from the sudden death of her beloved father: to count your blessings instead of your troubles.
“I realized life is so short and precious. You should do things that make you feel inspired, that push you and teach you something. I’d rather not have a big house, a huge closet of clothes, diamonds and a private plane, but would rather have a body of work that I’m proud of and make my life as extraordinary as I can make it.”
Sources: LifeStyles Magazine