The award-winning actress discusses her complicated relationship with her mother, film and Broadway roles, and her ongoing search for personal and professional authenticity.
Ellen Burstyn has always defied expectations. Born in Detroit during the Depression, she left home at eighteen and became a model for J. L. Hudson, Detroit's largest department store. After a failed marriage and a string of unsatisfying relationships and jobs that took her from Detroit to Dallas to Montreal, Burstyn settled in New York, where she began her career as an actress. Her first audition landed her the lead in a Broadway play, with the show's producer, the legendary playwright and director Moss Hart, telling her, "You're a natural."When Burstyn reluctantly moved to Los Angeles with her second husband, she eventually turned to film, delivering over the course of her career brilliant performances in The Last Picture Show; The Exorcist; Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress); Same Time, Next Tear; Resurrection, and Requiem for a Dream.Lessons in Becoming Myself is the culmination of these lessons. It's the story of Burstyn's life as an actor, of her early work in such films as the critically acclaimed Last Picture Show, and of how her portrayal of Chris MacNeil in The Exorcist - a movie still considered by many the scariest ever made - led her to star in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, one of the first movies to explore the plight of a single mother struggling to find her own way in the world.Yet this book is also an account of Burstyn's search for personal and professional authenticity and the consequences of that search. She describes the personal missteps, toxic relationships, and private demons she has battled, and how confronting them prompted her to find a different life path. Raised a Catholic (for a time she even attended a Catholic boarding school), Burstyn has traveled the world exploring a wide range of spiritual experiences that defy labels and go deep to the heart of who she is. From the Swiss Alps to Cambodia, from the Himalayas to the streets of New York, Burstyn has sought - and found - answers to life's most puzzling questions.