Caroline Ullyart got in touch with me about portraying Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard a 1950 American film noir directed and co-written by Billy Wilder, and produced and co-written by Charles Brackett. It was named after the boulevard that runs through Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, California.
The film stars William Holden as Joe Gillis, an unsuccessful screenwriter, and Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, a faded silent film star who draws him into her fantasy world where she dreams of making a triumphant return to the screen.
We did the shoot on the newly carpeted stair case at City Hall a red carpet entrance suitable for Hullywood Icons and Hollywood stars if ever there was one.
‘My grandma lived with us in the early sixties and had the only TV in the house. There were five of us children, and she used to make us feel special by allowing us individual time to sit in her room and watch it with her..
This film Sunset Boulevard..appeared magical to me. I watched it with her one evening and felt out of this world, It affected me so much so that I couldn’t stop crying. It had enormous imagination, and it yearned for something I didn’t understand… then. It was luminous, glittering and tragic. Years after I saw it again at art school and realised it still made me feel the same. I then understood it’s yearning . It’s still relevant and depicts the industry with searing truth.. probably still. The screenplay is brilliant, all the roles are fantastically strong and have real depth.. there are no black and white goodies and baddies , these characters are all ‘grey area’ real human beings. Gloria Swanson (‘Norma Desmond’), was only supposed to be 50.. yet made to feel washed up…..and here we are over fifty years later, and little has changed on screen for female actors.. Sometimes I do that silly activity of ‘gender swapping’, on my tv /film screen at any time of day or night and it’s very telling. More women on our screens please. I also love her understated look…!….A right and proper Hollywood Icon. Wish there was a channel dedicated to these films missed by a generation or two… they are losing out on great stories and filmmaking. I loved becoming Norma for five minutes -in her honour.’