In “Book Club,” Mary Steenburgen plays a woman who’s having problems in the bedroom with her husband, played by Craig T. Nelson, who won’t talk about their lack of a sex life.
It’s not something that has come up with her longtime real-life husband Ted Danson.
“I’ve never had the need to slip him any drugs,” she says, laughing. “But if we did have that issue, it would instantly be discussed. We’re in a much more communicative marriage. If someone recorded our conversations, it would be hilarious,” says the Oscar-winning actress, 65, who costars with fellow acting legends Diane Keaton, 72, Jane Fonda, 80, and Candice Bergen, 72, in the comedy about friendship, love and sex opening Friday.
“It’s great to be part of a funny movie that doesn’t feel preachy. I can’t think of another remotely like it,” she says.
The fact that Hollywood rarely produces movies about older women — “especially not four, in roles that are whole, interesting people” — is among the reasons Steenburgen wanted to do the film.
She was the last to join the project. Director Bill Holderman and Erin Simms wrote the movie for Keaton, who plays a widow who finds love with a pilot (Andy Garcia), to the dismay of her adult children.
Fonda plays a successful businesswoman who owns posh hotels, and rekindles a romance with an old flame (Don Johnson), and Bergen portrays a divorced judge who reluctantly enters the online dating world. Their circumstances change as they read “50 Shades of Grey” for their book club. (Steenburgen admittedly has read only some of the dirty parts of the blockbuster novel.)
Interestingly, none of actresses had worked together before.
“Isn’t that crazy? We couldn’t believe it,” says Steenburgen, adding “but everyone had either been married to or dated Craig T. Nelson onscreen. I was married to him twice.”
Upon meeting her costars, she says, “We all admired each other and held our breath on the first day, hoping we wouldn’t be disappointed.”
Steenburgen calls the movie “this wonderful thing that has been absolutely rewarding for us, for surviving this business.”
Initially a little starstruck, Steenburgen says of her colleagues: “It was kind of amazing how vulnerable and down to earth they were… but I should know better, because people do this to me.”
The actress, who was anticipating hearing the fate of her TV show (the doomsday satire “Last Man on Earth” has since been canceled) is looking forward to continuing the friendships she made on “Book Club” and becoming a better accordion player, a pursuit she took up at 60.
She’s also looking forward to seeing her grandchildren, the product of her first marriage to Malcolm McDowell, the costar of her second movie, the romantic thriller and San Francisco-set “Time After Time.”
She says, “It gave me Malcolm (McDowell), who gave me my two children. We’re still close friends.”
IF YOU GO
Starring: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen
Written by: Bill Holderman, Erin Simms
Directed by: Bill Holderman
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes