Thirty seconds into a conversation with Marcia Gay Harden, it’s obvious which of her current roles she enjoys the most: playing mom to daughter Eulala, 15, and twins Hudson and Julitta, 10. The Oscar-winning actress for the 2000 film Pollock, who turns 55 next month, takes time off in July to travel with her brood to the Catskills in upstate New York, where they take part in the simple joys of summer.
“It is as if I am trying to create a Norman Rockwell painting because that is childhood to me,” says the La Jolla, Calif.-born Harden.
Mom has become a recurrent role for Marcia onscreen, too. Just this month, she’s appearing as Emma Stone’s mother in Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight, and even plays the matriarch in 2015’s sultry Fifty Shades of Grey. The star of ABC’s Trophy Wife (cancelled after its first season) and HBO’s The Newsroom says her new film marked a career goal.
“It’s a bucket list thing to be in a Woody Allen film, to see how he works, how he will use you,” Marcia says.
Read on to find out Marcia’s attitude on aging—and dating—and how she stays healthy.
Spry Living: Do you have a summer ritual?
I have property on a lake—we have a canoe, kayaks, a raft and a dock slide. We call it Blueberry Hill, and in July, we gather blueberries and make jam. Now, all the kids now know how to do it. We water ski on the lake and camp down at the bonfire. The crickets are out, the lightning bugs.
SL: What’s the best health advice you’ve ever received?
Stop smoking. Sometimes I have to pick up a smoke, like in Magic in the Moonlight, and I start back up again. But right now, I’m off cigarettes, and I pray that I will stay off them.
SL: How do you deal with stress?
I’ve found at this age that you just don’t get to a place where there are no problems. When work heats up, that creates a thousand problems, because you’re so busy. When work is on the downhill slope, whoops, that’s another problem. You always have to have one foot on the brake and one on the gas pedal.
SL: Do you have a favorite workout?
I’m a mover; I move all day long. I like engaging in things: riding my bike, playing volleyball, swimming, water skiing. I like adventure— that’s my favorite workout.
SL: How do you feel about dating?
My kids are my No. 1 focus, so dating is a different thing. I enjoy going out, but I have yet to meet the person who would sweep me off my feet.
SL: Has your philosophy about aging gracefully changed?
It has to do with attitude as much as looks. We want to stay youthful in opinions and in our acceptance of new ideas. But if I have a philosophy, it is based on women who accomplish things, who are strong and business-minded, like Rosie the Riveter. We can do it, and why shouldn’t we?