|Posted at 1:07 p.m. EDT
Friday, July 13, 2001 |
The two lives of Andie
MacDowellThe Hollywood actress plays her most
cherished roles in Asheville: Raising her three children and working
By KEN GARFIELD
FLAT ROCK --
She goes by two names, which
makes sense, since she leads two lives.
Around Asheville, she's Rose Qualley - mother of three, faithful
church-goer, active in charitable circles, getting ready to build a
Tudor-style home in fashionable Biltmore Forest.
Everywhere else, she's the movie star with
long, dark, curly hair and a smile that is part sexy, part
Prepare to plunk down $7.50 for any one of the three movies she
has coming out, plus a fourth on HBO. Turn on the TV and there she
is laughing at Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day." Click, there she is
making goo-goo eyes at John Travolta in "Michael." Click again and
there she is selling L'Oreal to women drawn to the beauty of
The face behind the makeup, of course, is Andie MacDowell. But
that's only half the story. Get past the great looks, popular movies
and all that star power and what you have is a 43-year-old woman
who'd just as soon be home in Asheville, going by her given first
name, playing a different role:
Camps, kids and cookies At the Cannes Film
Festival, they ask her the same question over and over: Why does she
always play sweet, if slightly befuddled, characters? (Because
playing a horrible one would be "Yuck!" she tells us.)
At Andie's Camp for Kids, where youngsters with diabetes come to
the N.C. mountains for a week of fun and games, the kids have a
different reaction when they meet their benefactor at the climbing
wall near the woods.
"SHE HAS A FIGHT SCENE WITH MISS PIGGY!" shrieks 9-year-old
Olivia Cullipher of Mebane, giving thumbs up to MacDowell's cameo in
"Muppets from Space."
A star with a larger ego might have been hurt that no one
mentioned her breakthrough role as a repressed wife in the 1989
"sex, lies and videotape." Or her star turn as Hugh Grant's leading
lady in the lovable 1994 comedy, "Four Weddings and a Funeral." (One
writer said she made sexual allure seem wholesome.)
But about the time she starts cackling like she did in the 1999
Muppet movie, it's clear MacDowell is OK with being famous opposite
Miss Piggy. She hugs this child, poses with that one and brags to
all, "Hey, I can make some really good chocolate-chip cookies."
MacDowell has come to the camp that bears her name to visit the
children. She is also here to raise attention and money for her
cause. Working through the Ruth and Billy Graham Children's Health
Center, she sponsors separate summer camps for children with
diabetes, cancer and asthma.
Such is her life of celebrity and charity, MacDowell closed a
brief visit to the camp near Hendersonville recently by telling the
children "God bless you all," then dashed off to catch a plane to
New York for a L'Oreal shoot.
From Gaffney to Hollywood This is confusing
stuff if you're not grounded enough to handle it. But if you grew up
in Gaffney, S.C., a child of divorce who helped care for a mother
troubled by alcohol, stardom cannot blind you to what matters most.
Much of MacDowell's story is familiar to Carolinians and die-hard
She dropped out of Winthrop in Rock Hill in the late '70s to
pursue a modeling career, then made her film debut in 1984 in
"Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes." It would be
just another video on the Blockbuster shelves if not for one bizarre
footnote. Worried about MacDowell's Southern accent, the movie brain
trust dubbed in the voice of Glenn Close.
The Rev. Don Inlay, one of her pastors at Central United
Methodist in Asheville, said MacDowell jokes how, after that fiasco,
there was nowhere to go in movies but up.
In the 17 years since Tarzan, MacDowell has become a fixture in
films, usually in a supporting role as the affable leading lady to
the hottest men in Hollywood - Travolta, Hugh Grant, Andy Garcia and
others. She's appeared twice on People magazine's Most Beautiful
People list. Her L'Oreal spots, with the trademark phrase "Because
I'm worth it," are inescapable.
She's probably not going to challenge Meryl Streep for the title
of Most Brilliant Thespian. A fans' Web site - "Carolina Rose: An
Andie MacDowell Site" - includes an answer to Andie-bashers who say
she's just a pretty, often expressionless, face.
"Apparently," one Andie-backer writes on the site, "some can't
appreciate a performance unless it is presented in grand, sweeping,
While critics snipe and supporters defend, MacDowell is happy to
live far from the glare - first on a ranch near Missoula, Montana,
with her then-husband, former model Paul Qualley, and now as a
recent divorcee raising three children in Asheville. MacDowell
naturally prefers not talking about the divorce.
Let them debate her talent in Hollywood; she's finding meaningful
things to do in North Carolina.
"I don't really need more attention than what I'm getting," she
said. "I really do think God put me in the place he put me."
Her favorite role MacDowell limits her film
work to five months a year - she recently threw out 15 scripts that
had gathered dust on her nightstand. That gives her the other seven
months for her favorite role: Rose, dedicated mother and devoted
She raises money for her summer camps, organized through the
Grahams' children's health center in Asheville. That was MacDowell
in a head-turning sequin gown, cohosting an 80th birthday gala for
Ruth Graham last year at the Grove Park Inn.
She does good turns all over the Carolinas - speaking at this
year's opening of Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, accepting the
key to the city from Asheville and an honorary degree from Lander
College in Greenwood, S.C., for her good works.
"I feel like I have a guardian angel watching over me," MacDowell
told Lander graduates that day.
She spends time with her four siblings and father, all of whom
live within a couple hours of Asheville. Her mother died when she
She dotes on her children - Justin, 14, Rainey, 12, and Sarah
Margaret, 6. (She clearly prefers keeping them out of the spotlight.
The only time her body language seemed to say "Next question" was
when the conversation turned personal.)
Raised Episcopalian, she's a regular at Central United Methodist,
even agreeing to speak at a luncheon once about living out your
faith in the work place. "She was real nervous," noted associate
pastor Don Inlay. "She said, `I'm used to reading what other people
write. Now I have to do my own thing.'"
She doesn't even mind when the celebrity life seeps innocently
into real life, as when the Dowden Sisters finished performing
spiritual/bluegrass music once in church and asked MacDowell for an
Inlay recalled MacDowell's reaction: "She said, `You guys are
wonderful. I should ask for your autograph.'"
Figuring it all out You're sitting in
rocking chairs on a gorgeous morning in the N.C. mountains, talking
to one of the best-known actresses around. You're naturally curious
to get the scoop on Willis (she starred with Bruce in "Hudson Hawk")
and Beatty (she appears with Warren in the current semi-bomb comedy
"Town and Country").
And yet here she is in unglamorous blue jeans and hiking boots,
gripping a cup of coffee, refusing to surrender to idle celebrity
chatter. Instead, she turns the conversation toward the book she's
reading, "The Ragamuffin Gospel," and the challenges we face.
"We're all ragamuffins," MacDowell says. "We're dealing with the
day-in and day-out of life, trying to figure it out."
And just like that, it's clear:
Andie MacDowell - Rose, really - is succeeding where so many
Despite two names and two lives, she knows who she is.
She has figured it out.
Ken Garfield: (705) 358-5094; email@example.com;
The Observer, P.O. Box 30308, Charlotte, NC 28230-0308.
Andie at the Blumenthal
MacDowell will be in Charlotte July 30 for a benefit premiere of her
new movie, "Dinner with Friends," airing Aug. 11 on HBO. Story, Page