There’s no business like show business, and that famous lyric seems to ring true for Joan Benedict Steiger. A veteran of television, film and stage, she has never been afraid to live a life in the spotlight; from real life Hollywood romances (including one with Academy Award-winning actor Rod Steiger) to a one-woman show about the loves of her life, here is a performer still dedicated to the art of telling a story.
You may know her from the early days of television, appearing on Candid Camera and The Steve Allen Show, or from popular day-time soap operas General Hospital and Days of Our Lives. But the actress only continues to grow in her craft, taking recent roles on shows like Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse and in the feature film Dead Border (Barb Doyon, 2011). FilmMonthly recently had the privilege to speak with Ms. Steiger about her long career and fondest memories.
FilmMonthly: Your resume is one that spans so many art forms- film, theatre, television, dance – that it’s hard to put a label on what type of “artist” you are. Is there one medium in particular that you are drawn to?
Joan Benedict Steiger: Theater; I like the stage best.
FM: It’s been ten years since Rod Steiger’s passing; this must stir up many feelings, but it’s clear you have many wonderful memories with him. Is there any one now that sticks in your mind that you’d like to share?
JBS: Rod was a poet and wrote a beautiful poem that he read at our wedding. One of the beautiful things that he wrote to me at one time was, “Joan is the kind of woman who could squeeze love out of a stone.”
FM: You’ve not been shy about your romances, and I’m very interested in your stage show The Loves of My Life. What is it like to perform solo on stage?
JBS: To me, performing on stage is like being in church. The stage is really sacred to me.
FM: How was it to perform a story about your own life, sharing your loves and losses with an audience?
JBS: Sharing my life story on stage was like performing in my living room.
FM: You also performed solo in Leona, as the infamous Leona Helmsley. What is it like to portray a character that isn’t fictional? Do you find yourself in the character at all?
JBS: Portraying Leona Helmsley was wonderful because she was a powerful woman and one of the first women in real estate to work in the co-ops in New York City among mostly men. It was a solo performance and I was on stage not leaving the stage for an hour and ten minutes. I remember my director said, “Don’t worry, Joan, I’m right off stage and I will cue you if you forget your lines!” I said, “You will not!” My whole concentration would have been lost.
FM: You’re preparing now to write your memoirs; with such personal work in your past, it seems you have such positive thoughts and memories about your life and career. What an enviable quality! Can you share your outlook on life with us? What do you see and hope for in your future?
JBS: I am an extremely positive thinker. I always see the good and hope in a situation.