All Photos: Alan Mercer
Candy Clark is best known for her role as Debbie Dunham in the film ‘American Graffiti,’ which garnered her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. 'American Graffiti,' nominated for five Academy Awards and grossing more than $200 million, overshadows everything else. The film was set in Modesto, California, but primarily filmed in Petaluma in only 28 days. The schedule was grueling for Candy and co-stars like Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Harrison Ford and Suzanne Somers. She reprised the role for the sequel ‘More American Graffiti .’
Candy is also known for her role as Francine Hewitt in ‘The Blob.’ Her other films of note are ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth,’ with David Bowie, ‘The Big Sleep,’ ‘Blue Thunder,’ ‘Cat's Eye’ and ‘At Close Range.’ She has also made guest appearances on television series including ‘Dating Game,’’ Magnum, P.I.,’’ Simon & Simon,’ ‘Matlock,’ ‘Baywatch Nights’ and ‘Criminal Minds.’
Born in Norman, Oklahoma, she grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. She attended Green B. Trimble Technical High School. She dated Jeff Bridges, whom she met on the set of Fat City, for several years. After two brief marriages, Candy quickly replies “Never!” when asked if she would ever remarry . Today, she attends many hot rod shows, and enjoys gardening, collecting antiques, and trading memorabilia on eBay.
Candy appears in the 2009 film The Informant! as the mother of Mark Whitacre, played by Matt Damon. In 2011, Candy went to Berlin to work on the play Images of Louise Brooks directed by Sven Mundt.
I met with Candy at her home in Los Angeles for a casual photo shoot and a quick conversation in her backyard, where she has three chickens running around.
AM: Candy, I think it’s wonderful that you just finished filming a new movie where you are the lead. What is the title and what’s it about?
CC: Yes, it’s called ‘Cold Moon’ based on the book ‘Cold Moon Over Babylon’ written by Michael McDowell. The book was a big hit in the Eighties. I play a character named Evelyn Larkin.
AM: Did you enjoy the filming experience?
CC: It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed getting into a role where I played a grandma. I wore a grey wig. It was fun having more than a days work. Lately I have been getting good films but small parts.
AM: That seems to be the norm for most actors.
CC: I felt like a glorified extra on ‘Zodiac.’
AM: Most of us remember you best from the classic ‘American Graffiti.’
CC: That was the second film I did. The first one was ‘Fat City’ directed by John Huston. That’s a great movie.
AM: That’s right! How did it feel to know you had never made a movie and you were going to be working with a legend like John Huston?
CC: Fortunately I didn’t really know who John Huston was. I wasn’t the person who followed films or people in films at that time. Being from Fort Worth, Texas, my highest aspiration was to be a secretary, suddenly I was working with Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Ray Stark, Stacy Keach and all these great people. Ray Stark became my inspiration for collecting art. Ray had big bronze Henry Moore sculptures in his backyard. I realized I liked art so I started collecting.
AM: So how did you even get into acting?
CC: From my modeling work. I had moved to New York City and got involved in modeling.
AM: Did you enjoy being a model?
CC: The first year was really hard because I didn’t know how to pose in front of a camera in a relaxed way. I always thought you had to freeze for the camera but then after a year I realized the camera freezes you. Big difference! Then I fell in love with modeling. I really, really enjoyed it. Once I realized how it was done I had a knack for it.
AM: You don’t hear that very often from women who have modeled.
CC: I thought I was going to stay in New York and model forever. I didn’t think past that.
AM: So you didn’t have an aspiration to act, but you just happened to be talented.
CC: Well, I wanted to do extra work so I got a gig on a Dustin Hoffman film, ‘Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?’ I was in a crowd scene of two hundred people and I thought this is great!
AM: What did you like about it the most?
CC: I got to meet movie stars and eat donuts. I really enjoyed that too. I had to hit pause a lot but I think I found myself in that crowd scene when I watched it on line.
AM: So you thought extra work was awesome?
CC: I wanted to do more extra work so I went to my agents office and met a very famous casting director, Fred Roos. He asked me if I wanted to go watch the screen test for ‘The Godfather.’ So I said, “Sure!” This was at a time when if someone looked nice you’d just go off with them. It was more of a hippie era. It was a nicer era when people were nicer and more trustworthy.
AM: You couldn’t do that today! We live in a different world now.
CC: I would never think of going off with a stranger now.
AM: I find it interesting and fascinating when someone ends up being successful as an actor when it wasn’t what they were going after.
CC: Yes it’s all by accident!
AM: I’m used to people struggling and suffering.
CC: Well I struggled and suffered for a year with modeling.
AM: George Lucas wasn’t a legend when you worked with him.
CC: No he was just beginning.
AM: Did you enjoy working with him?
CC: Yes, but I really enjoyed the script from ‘American Graffiti.’
AM: You occupy a special place Candy. No other actor is anything like you.
CC: Do you know any other actor raising chickens?
AM: LOL I don’t know about that. Your personality comes off as very unique.
CC: Thank you.
AM: You seem to really appreciate life.
CC: I do. I come from a very poor background so I do appreciate a lot. I appreciate animals, reading and collecting. I love estate sales and yard sales. I’m a garage sale junkie.
AM: Is that how you fill your spare time?
CC: Yes, most of the things in my house are from a second hand store or an estate sale. I don’t care for new things.
AM: Do you feel the spirit in these things?
CC: Yes, I even prefer used clothing because they’ve been broken in. Now they make new clothing to look like it’s used.