Remembering cult movie actress Susan Tyrrell
Nervous, knock-kneed and not yet 30 years of age, this writer approached cult movie favorite Susan Tyrrell for an exclusive interview in 1989. Over lunch, Tyrrell regaled me and my friends with stories of her days in Hollywood. Remarkably outspoken, she told me that director John Huston had raped her following her Academy Award nominated performance in "Fat City" in 1972. Tyrrell's "rotten life" - her words, has ended. She was 67.
Susan Tyrrell's favorite role was as the Mad Queen Doris in "Forbidden Zone," who rules her own alternate universe with an iron fist in much the same way she lived her life. Tyrrell has passed away at the age of 67.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tyrrell had carved out a niche of bizarre and colorful roles onscreen. The mad queen of the Sixth Dimension in "Forbidden Zone" (1982); the perpetually crying single mom in "Andy Warhol's Bad" (1977); the formerly nice, now dangerously psychotic killer in "Night Warning" (1982); Johnny Depp's white trash grandma in "Cry Baby" (1990). Interestingly, she told me that these off-the-wall roles were not of her choosing. "I don't seek out these pasts!" she hissed. "I take these parts to pay the rent!"
The daughter of a talent agent, Tyrrell established herself in the theater and then transitioned to film with 1971's "Shoot Out." The following year, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in John Huston's "Fat City."
Fiercely opinionated, Tyrrell played the Hollywood game strictly on her own terms. She may have lost out on major roles in major productions, but the films she did appear in remained permanently lodged in the hearts of minds of movie fans. Other memorable roles included the feisty lesbian sculpturess in the "Angel" series, the island madam in "Islands in the Stream," "Powder" and the possessive mom with a secret in "Buddy Boy."
Life can be cruel, and Tyrrell's health began to fail in the early 2000s. Both of her legs were amputated below the knee in 2000, due to the rare blood disease Essential Thrombocythemia. In spite of this setback, she continued to take the occasional film role such as "Masked and Anonymous" (2003), "The Devil's Due at Midnight" (2004) and David Zellner's "Kid-Thing."
"Nothing was off limits with her -- she didn't mince words, she loved what she loved and she hated what she hated...She will be sorely missed," director Zellner wrote.
Truer words were never spoken. You didn't want to get on Tyrrell's bad side -- but eventually everyone did.
With the exception of "Fat City," her favorite role was as Queen Doris of the Sixth Dimension in the madcap musical "Forbidden Zone." "I run that movie every Halloween, it's so fresh." Acting onscreen with her real-life lover, Herve Villechaizse, best known as Tattoo on "Fantasy Island," Tyrrell runs her wacky alternative universe with an iron fist, much in the manner as she lived her life.
Tyrrell and this writer would have our differences, but she rallied behind me at a time when it really counted. For this, I will be eternally grateful.
Rest in peace, SuSu!
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