With Split bringing 23 personalities to its Australian DVD and Blu-Ray home release this Wednesday (May 10th), we caught up with one of the film’s stars, Betty Buckley, who played Kevin’s (James McAvoy) psychiatrist Dr Karen Fletcher. A veteran of the arts, Betty Buckley has been an icon of TV, film and music for almost five decades now.
I spoke to Betty about her rise to fame in Stephen King’s Carrie to her newly released, 17th solo album Story Songs, and her love and respect for Split director M. Night Shyamalan and star James McAvoy!
The new M. Night Shyamalan film Split has absolutely smashed the box office and critics and fans alike are loving the new film, does it take you off guard when a film your involved in garners so much success and limelight so fast and has it happened before on any of the other films you have been worked on?
Carrie was a pretty big movie, but no this is pretty much the biggest hit I have ever been a part of and a real ride. I am very excited for M. Night (Shyamalan) and James (McAvoy) and for everyone involved it is very exciting!
You were also in M. Night’s previous film The Happening in 2008, despite a lot of backlash at the premise of the film being about the killer plants, I couldn’t get enough of it, did you get the same sense with Split how much M. Night has grown a lot as a film-maker since that film?
I think he has always been great and I am a huge M. Night fan, I don’t really quantify, I think the stories he tells are fun to watch and he has been great forever. I am just thrilled he is my friend and that I have gotten to collaborate with him a couple of times now. It is a joy to work for him, I don’t sit back and judge him.
Last year I sat down and watched The Visit and I was like ‘Oh my God, this guy is such a master of film making’. The camera and the way it moves, the comedy and the terror in the same back to back scenes, I was enthralled with this movie. So, when they sent me the script for Split I was really in love and thought it was awesome. He called me and told me he wrote the role for me and I could not have been happier, it was such an honour.
It was a great honour also to work with James McAvoy. I am a huge fan of his and I think he is one of our greatest movie stars and one of the finest actors around. His performance in Split deserves every award down the road, this year and next. I am so happy for him. He is also quite humble, very down to earth and there is no movie star like him about. Which makes him completely impressive.
Your character of Dr. Karen Fletcher, who is a Psychiatrist in Split, is the one who creates this believability for McAvoy’s character Kevin and describes the overall premise of the film to audience by explaining that there could actually be a link of sorts between Human evolution and Multiple Personality Disorders or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID for short). Do you think the negativity surrounding the use of such a disorder in the film was a valid reaction?
I don’t think there has been very much of it and I think the people that have taken that position are doing so just for the sake of doing so. I doubt very much they have even seen the movie. The film is so compassionate towards mental illness and the subliminal message of the movie is a very powerful one: that human beings are capable of so much more; the incredible creativity of their minds with confronting pain and suffering abuse; and that the capacity to then grow into a higher level of consciousness with infinitely more compassion for all beings is possible! That really does represent the nature of evolution for mankind. I think it is a very positive message. I think that subliminal message in the movie is getting such a positive response all over the world. Everything that Dr Fletcher talks about and everything that Night researched is actual fact and then of course the movie lifts off into fantasy, but it’s a movie, there is nothing to criticise there.
I have to bring up your work in Carrie, such a long time ago now, but another iconic film you starred in and your role as the teacher Miss Collins that most of us remember you for. What do you remember about your days on the set of a Stephen King movie in the 70’s?
Well, it was great getting to work with Brian De Palma, the role of Miss Collins he really created for me and it was a great gift from him. It was veft exciting to work on that movie. There were seven of us making our film debuts in that movie, so there was tremendous passion and enthusiasm on the set from everybody. I was excited to be a part of a De Palma movie and it was a blast!
With Split being a thriller and Carrie a horror, do you have a favourite genre you run to when offered?
I don’t really think of the stories as genre. If it is a good script and a great director and a wonderful role I want to be there. I didn’t even realise that I was part of a “horror” genre until I looked at that information that other people told me in retrospect at the time. I think those movies (Carrie and Split) are thrillers that lifted into fantasy, but both are based on some scientific facts which makes them even more terrifying.
Your TV career has had such a huge palette, with appearances on TV Shows as far back as Eight is Enough, another big stint on the series OZ and the more recent appearances on Pretty Little Liars and The Leftovers. A lot of your roles seem almost like cameos and you don’t stick around for long, you’re a big-time singer as well! Do you feel like taking more on with TV and film?
Sure, it is always about the project and collaborators and what the role is, but yeah, I love all the genres, so yes!
Do you have any other major TV or film roles coming up you can tell us about and that your looking forward to?
Not at the moment, there may be things coming up that are possible but you never know. I am teaching a workshop in Denver and I have a bunch of concerts coming up which you can find on my website (bettybuckley.com) and all those concerts are in support of the new Story Time album. I am working with this great quartet of musicians, a brilliant pianist, arranger and my collaborator, Christian Jacob. A wonderful guitarist named Oz Noy and wonderful drum and bass player, I am a lucky girl!
You have released 16 solo albums in your career, and Story Songs is your 17th release. Tell me how you do it? How do you do so much at once?
I am just a working girl David! I just gotta keep the boat afloat, it is what we do here In Texas.
You live on a big ranch over there I hear?
Yeah, I do. The sun is just going down here now in Texas. “Today’s sunset is your yesterday”!
It sounds like it could be hard work on a ranch?
It is, I love it, I love my horses and I look after a lot of rescued animals as well.
Have you ever ventured to Australia? The land down under?
I have yes, I have been to Melbourne for the Melbourne Festival a couple of times and I also shot a mini-series there for Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg called The Pacific, which was about 7 years ago. I was in Sydney in 2016 to sing some music of Stephen Schwartz’s in a concert called Defying Gravity. I have also been to Brisbane for the Brisbane Festival. I love Australia, it is such a great country!
Split Releases on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital in Australia on 10th May 2017.
Betty’s new double live record Story Songs is available now.