David Bowie’s androgynous, bisexual space rocker character Ziggy Stardust put it all out there in the early 1970s. But actress Candy Clark remembers the rock star-actor behind the space mask as notoriously reticent on the set of Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 cult classic “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
“He was very cool and kind of inscrutable,” says Clark, who played his love interest Mary-Lou in the film. “He would only give enough information to keep you tantalized and then a look and a smile. He wasn’t a blabbermouth like me.”
Clark will spill more behind-the-scenes secrets in “A Tribute to David Bowie: The Man Who Fell to Earth” at the Castro Theatre Saturday. Attendees can also expect sing-alongs, tribute performances, a fashion show and more.
The 68-year-old TV and film actress, best known for her Academy Award-nominated turn as Debbie Dunham in George Lucas’ 1973 motion picture “American Graffiti,” believes Bowie’s secretiveness contributed to the “suddenness” of his recent death.
“He holds his cards very close to his chest,” Clark says. “Hence, he got sick and died, and so few people knew it. That’s why it was so stunning when they announced that he died. He’d been working up until the end and there was no indication. You turned on the Internet in the morning and there it was. It was a real slap.”
Many of Clark’s memories of the then first-time actor, whom she describes as “perfect for the part” of a humanoid alien searching for water for his arid planet, involve running lines.
“He and I had a really good work ethic,” she remembers. “When we weren’t doing one scene, we were running dialog for the next one. His acting was superb, so we made each other really good. It was easy to believe that he was from another planet, and I made it easy to believe that I was Mary-Lou.”
Outside of that, Bowie, guarded by his entourage, mostly kept his distance.
“We just hung out a bit,” Clark recalls. “But I knew he was a big reader because he brought a lot of books in a trunk.”
To get more up close and personal with the rock star-actor today, the actress says audiences only need see “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
“If you’re a Bowie fan, you can really see him up close in that movie,” she says. “He’s just gorgeous with the lighting, the makeup and his hair. His skin was iridescent and really reflective of the light.”
It’s re-experiencing moments like these that carry Clark through the tragic loss.
“Hopefully, this David Bowie tribute will lighten things up,” the actress anticipates. “It should be pretty raucous, upbeat and a lot of fun. There may be some tears watching the movie, though, because there are some great close-ups.”
IF YOU GO
in A Tribute to David Bowie: The Man Who Fell to Earth
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.
When: 6:30 p.m. March 12
Tickets: $27.50 to $47.50