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Oscar-nominee Christie Aims to Raise Alzheimers Awareness

Posted: February 24, 2008 12:37 a.m.
Updated: April 26, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Forty-three years after winning her first Oscar, Julie Christie is up for another award today, this time for her role as an Alzheimer's disease patient.

HOLLYWOOD - Academy Award-winning Actress Julie Christie, who has a half century of fond movie-making memories, says she prefers playing a character who remembers as op-posed to one who forgets.

At age 66 and after 43 years of accepting the Oscar for Best Actress in 1965, the woman who embodied the swinging 60s is nominated again tonight for Best Actress, this time for playing a woman who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Christie stars in Sarah Polley's film "Away From Her" and plays a woman who slips in and out of remembering her past and remembering her husband played by veteran Canadian actor Gordon Pinsent.

When asked if it was difficult playing two different women in the body of the same character, she said: "It wasn't a problem. I would have liked more of the one who remembered. She was fun, I thought she was great."

Christie told The Signal at a luncheon honoring some of the Oscar nominees Friday that she's at an age when many of her friends have parents suffering from Alzheimers.

"My friends, 60 percent of them have parents, friends that are my age, so they have parents who are in their 70s and 80s," she said. "So I've become very familiar with (Alzheimers).

"When you're my age, it could happen to all your contemporaries, I don't mean Alzheimers in them, but rather in their parents."

The film, also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, gives a voice to those who care for people suffering from the disease, she said.

"I have many friends who have seen the film and who have been through this experience. And, they feel at last that their work as caregivers has been recognized. They've been completely unrecognized.

"And, as an enormous growing epidemic, those who end up caring for (parents) go through this sadness and loss.

"I think they feel nobody recognizes them or knows them or knows anything about Alzheimer's, so this film puts it on the map in a very unsentimental and practical way.

"I think they feel so grateful," she said.

Christie said she's seen the performances of all the women she's up against for Best Actress, including: Cate Blanchett for "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"; Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose"; Laura Linnney for "The Savages" and Canadian Ellen Page in "Juno".

She called all the performances great.

Christie has appeared in some of the film industry's best-remembered movies such as "Doctor Zhivago" (1965), "Far From the Madding Crowd" (1967) and "Shampoo" 1975) opposite Warren Beatty and Robert Altman's "Nashville" (1975).

In 1966, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences presented Julie Christie with an Oscar for her role as the ruthless ambitious model in "Darling".

On Friday, she was one of a half dozen nominees who attended a pre-Oscar party at the home of Canada's Consul General in Los Angeles, Alain Dudoit.

Also at the event was Jason Reitman, nominated for Best Director, for his film, "Juno".

Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman who directed such comedy classics as "Ghostbusters," "Meatballs" and "Stripes," said his father gave him some very good pre-Oscar advice.

"He said not to connect every movie, and to deal with each movie separately. He said 'You'll have successes and failures and the films you think wouldn't do well, surprise you.'

"You just never know."

Reitman is up against some very stiff competition including director Paul Thomas Anderson for "There Will Be Blood" and the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, for "No Country for Old Men".

Jason said he's trying to put the film industry's top honor in perspective. Win or lose tonight, he has his sights set on a string of films he wants to make.

"They're all very small but, hopefully, I can put off selling out for as long as possible."


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