Foxy Brown’s Pam Grier on being the original female action star, and wishing they’d invented the sports bra back then
Actress whose gritty roles in 1970s action movies helped pave way for modern-day stars such as Gal Gadot, Charlize Theron and Taraji Henson also talks Trump and a dream cast for film adaptation of her autobiography
Even at 68, Pam Grier looks like she can still kick butt. And the looks don’t deceive. While she’s never played a superhero on screen, “I’m super in real life,” says Grier, smiling and flicking back some of her flowing hair.
After almost 50 years in film and television, Grier is still going strong. In a recent interview she discussed some of the changes in Hollywood and the return of the female action movie star.
“I don’t know why people were surprised at the success of Wonder Woman,” said Grier, star of gritty 1970s action movies like Foxy Brown, Coffy, Black Mama/White Mama, and others.
Actresses such as Grier and Angie Dickinson paved the way for current female action stars such as Gal Gadot and Charlize Theron, and a new wave of black female stars such as Taraji Henson, in the upcoming Proud Mary, and Meagan Good, who is remaking Grier’s classic Foxy Brown.
“I applaud them, I want them to succeed,” Grier says. “I started it. I don’t want them to fail.”
But being an action star has its cost: Grier says she hurt herself numerous times doing stunts, including during the filming of Coffy. “I almost broke my ankle,” she says. “They painted my cast to look like a boot, and I’m limping. And I was ‘Does this look good?’ It looks good.”
Luckily today’s actors have stunt doubles and better equipment, Grier says. Asked about the difference between doing action today and back during her day, she laughs and says: “Sports bras.”
Grier has nothing but good wishes for the remake of Foxy Brown.
“It’s going to be interesting,” she said. “You see, I didn’t have a stuntwoman until Foxy Brown. And Meagan, she’s going to do great with stunts. She’ll get the sports bra I didn’t have. And you ask me would I do it again? Yeah, if I had a great sports bra.”
Grier was honoured last weekend at the annual Salute Her: Beauty of Diversity Awards Luncheon in Washington. Surprisingly, the actress said she had not been inside the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, to which she plans to donate some of her movie wardrobe.
Part of the reason for her delay is that she wants to go with her mother, Gwendolyn Grier, who lives with her in Colorado but doesn’t fly on aeroplanes, so it would require a cross-country road trip.
“I want to just walk up and stand in line,” says Grier. “I want to just walk up to Will Call and say ‘Hi, everybody!’ and see what happens.”
Grier’s also never been inside the White House, but don’t expect her to ask US President Donald Trump for an invitation. Grier says she was offered a chance to be on the The Apprentice but turned it down, saying she does her “due diligence” on people before working with them.
“Here’s a man who said he was going to offer jobs. Well, your caps are made in China,” Grier says. “I haven’t heard him say that he would have a factory here to put people to work. I haven’t heard his daughter say they would start a factory here to put people to work, so I’m confused. I’m like, ‘Where’s the logic here?’”
Grier is also promoting the Brown Sugar movie streaming service, which streams black movies such as Grier’s Jackie Brown, Black Mama/White Mama and others. For Grier, the service is a godsend because her elderly mother can watch some of her lesser-known movies at home that she missed while raising multiple children and making ends meet.
“Now that she’s ageing and not well, it’s the best time to sit with her and watch Brown Sugar,” Grier says. “It brought such joy to her to watch films she hadn’t seen, and to see her crushes, to see Billy Dee Williams, Sidney Poitier, Eddie Murphy, just to see Harry Belafonte, Eartha Kitt, Richard Pryor.”
The actress is also working on turning her bestselling autobiography, Foxy: My Life in Three Acts, into a movie, and has some dream casting in mind: comedian Jay Pharoah as Richard Pryor and Roberto Benigni as Italian director Federico Fellini.
Who does she see as Pam Grier?
“I don’t know, but whoever it is has to bring it,” she says.