Ellen Barkin: Enjoying her third act

Actress Ellen Barkin CBS

Ellen Barkin is an actress of strong opinions on just about everything - including herself - as Erin Moriarty of "48 Hours" discovered during a recent round of Questions-and-Answers:


Moriarty pulled out a copy of New York magazine: "There is this incredible picture of you, which is just a beautiful picture of you," she said.

"Thank you," said Ellen Barkin. "That looks like me!"

"When you look at that, I mean, do you think of yourself as a beautiful woman?"

"No. Here's what I see: I see that she's got, like, a nose that hangs down on one end, and has like a ball, like a Karl Malden. The eyelids are too heavy and could probably use a little something."

"How would you describe your looks?" asked Moriarty.

"Well, I would say it's not for everyone, as the Jews say!" Barkin laughed. "That's what I would say."

OK, so maybe the individual features ... the crinkly eyes, the crooked nose and mouth ... ARE a little unconventional. But put them all together and you get one hot actor, a woman who has perfected the tough, but sexy broad role.

"As soon as someone tells me I can't do something, I think, 'Oh, oh, obviously, I can do that and I WILL do that."


Ellen Barkin and Moriarty sat down at an exhibition of classic movie posters - featuring classic faces - at New York's Lincoln Center.

Their first topic: The face Barkin presents to the public as part of her latest passion: Twitter.

"There is something that enrages me about every ten minutes about the world I live in now, so I think, 'Oh, this has really got me angry. I'm gonna Tweet it!'"

She tweets under her own name ... oh, does she TWEET! Dozens of posts a day, demonstrating that her tough persona is no act.

"There are an awful lot of F-words in your Tweets," Moriatry said.

"Right."

"So people wonder, could that really be Ellen Barkin?"

"Well, I mean, if you had dinner with me, I don't think you would doubt that it could be me," she laughed.

The rough language and the in-your-face attitude, Barkin says, are just part of being a born-and-bred New Yorker.

"You know, some people would not want to be able to be walking out in a city and have people recognize you. That doesn't make you uncomfortable at times?" Moriarty asked.

"Here in New York I don't," she said. "You know, I'm not Brad Pitt."

She grew up in the South Bronx and Queens, and after high school moved into her first Manhattan apartment. She showed us the exact spot: "It's all fancy now."

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She was in her mid-20s before her first auditions led to work in the theater. She calls herself a late bloomer: "I was, yeah, all around."

"But why? Were you afraid to go to auditions?"

"I think so, yeah. I mean, it was partly just fear. And then I think the other part was that I was very committed to learning my job."

Her first big break came in "Diner," a seminal '80s movie directed by Barry Levinson. (Remember that name - it'll be important later.)

But back then, Barkin says, other filmmakers weren't quite ready for her.

"They'd be, 'No, no, she can't be the girl, she's not pretty!' And they'd say terrible things to you."

"And that didn't discourage you?"

"No. Tenacious! I'd say, really. I can't be that girl. Really. Not sexy? Not pretty? Okay! Maybe I can't get through the pretty thing, but it was a rebelliousness."

Her tenacity paid off in an unforgettable role opposite Al Pacino in "Sea of Love."

"I only got the part in 'Sea of Love' because every girl in Hollywood turned that part down, so they were desperate. They were, like, ready to go and had no one. So they said, 'Okay, let's get that, you know, not-so-pretty one, and see if maybe we can make it work.'"

It DID work ... and opened the way for a career that spans more than 40 movies.

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