Remembering Margot Kidder
When I regularly conducted interviews as part of my job as head writer of The A.V Club, I was incredibly neurotic about my tape recorder not working. At the end of every interview, I’d rewind the tape and live in a state of absolute fear and panic until the recording spat forth the soothingly familiar sound of me anxiously asking a question, or an interviewee responding.
I lived in fear that I would do the interview of a lifetime, only to discover that through some incompetence of my own it had somehow gone unrecorded and consequently was lost to the ages.
The closest I ever came to that nightmare scenario was many years back when I had the incomparable pleasure of interviewing Margot Kidder for Random Roles, a feature in the A.V Club where fascinating folks and classic characters discuss the roles and performances that make up a lifetime in a loose, casual, informal kind of way.
Within five minutes or so of a Random Roles interview, you sense whether a subject will be good or not. T.J Miller, for example, was fucking terrible. Literally all of his answers were, “I got the gig because I’m so hilarious and spontaneous and a wonderful improviser who creates hilarity wherever I go” and I was temped to counter, “That’s great, but it would also be awesome if at some point in this interview you showcase some of this hilarity and quick wit and genius improvisation instead of bragging about possessing those qualities?”
With Margot Kidder, on the other hand, the question was not whether she would get the feature and be a good Random Roles subject but rather whether she would be a very, very good Random Roles subject or the greatest Random Roles subject of all time, although, in all honesty, I would imagine Will Harris has probably done the best Random Roles of all time, and the ten best after that.
Kidder was an interview’s dream: funny, vibrant, gloriously candid and alive, an amazing storyteller with nothing to hide and nothing to lose. She had an incredible gift for conjuring up worlds long gone, whether that was the Quixotic, sex and drug and freedom-fueled New Hollywood of the late 1960s and 1970s, of which she was such an essential part, or the tenderness and vulnerability of her old boyfriend Richard Pryor.
Kidder said she’d like to write a memoir called I Fucked Everybody. I desperately wanted to help her write this book, because she seems to have remembered everything about a life and career most people could only dream of.
I was in absolute heaven talking to Kidder. I was liberated from the awful responsibility of having to keep up my end of the conversation because Kidder would just talk and talk and talk without seeming self-indulgent or ever being boring. Strike the thought. In the dictionary, the antonym for boring should be “Margot Kidder.”
I was lulled into such a sublime place of complacency that I didn’t even realize until forty minutes in that my tape recorder hadn’t taped anything, and the gorgeous sequel/companion piece to Easy Riders and Raging Bulls that Kidder was giving to me in interview form was lost to the ages.
I felt terrible about wasting forty minutes of this remarkable woman’s valuable time but thankfully when I told her that I’d foolishly neglected to record our amazing conversation, she didn’t seem even a little bit peeved. So we talked for fifty more minutes and the second half of the interview was every bit as fascinating and revelatory and hilarious and funny and real as the first half.
I loved Margot Kidder because she was a character, not just a character actress. I loved her because she was funny and candid and true and gave zero fucks about the fucked up world of show-business and our messed up society. I loved her because she was so honest and candid and no-bullshit about her battles with mental illness and an unkind world full of unkind people.
I was ostensibly talking to her in connection with a TV mystery movie she was promoting but as with the best Random Roles, that instantly ceased to matter. The woman wanted to talk and I wanted to do nothing more than listen.
I mean this as the highest possible praise, but Margot Kidder was one salty broad. I think she would have appreciated the humor of being a 70s sex symbol who died at the age of 69 (nice!).
Even in abbreviated fashion, the Margot Kidder Random Roles is easily one of the best interviews I’ve ever conducted. I’m happy that it gives a sense of who she was and why she was amazing and unique and irreplaceable; she wasn’t just a great actress: she was a great person and I am so lucky that our paths overlapped for even an hour and a half and while she’s gone, she will live on forever through her art and entertainment, sure, but also in the things she said and the inimitable way in which she said them.
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