Martha Plimpton on The Goonies, Sweat, partying hard and quitting Twitter

Last modified: 01: 41 PM GMT+0

The star talks about modelling for Calvin Klein, returning to the London stage and why there’s nothing ‘silly’ about acting

That's all for today …

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Thanks everyone for your very intelligent and kind questions. I'm super impressed with all of you and I hope we get to do this again some time soon!

Tangletwigs asks:

Raising Hope, cancelled. Please discuss – it’s not fair. Plus, Goonies: thank you.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I completely agree!!! I loved that show. And I would do anything for Greg Garcia who created it. He completely changed my life when he hired me for that show. I miss working with Garett Dillahunt everyday.

pumpkindoge asks:

I read an interview many years ago in which you said you weren’t into partying hard – you preferred staying in and reading with friends. Much as I’d hate to be disillusioned after all this time, was that really how you spent your teenage years?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Things change, buddy! I actually think no one under the age of 25 should be allowed to be interviewed under any circumstances because nothing they have to say is worth repeating. And it's bound to change. Believe me, at 48 I know how to party.

Grahamsterdam asks:

One of my favourite lines of dialogue in the film Pecker is your character’s, “No teabagging!” When you read the script was there an explanation of what that meant? Were you baffled? I had never heard the expression until then.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Neither had I actually. But yes it's explained in the script - what I'm trying to prevent from happening. It's also possible that John Waters made it up which is entirely like him.

Robert Richard Twyford asks:

Are there any particular roles or alternative career directions you would like to take in the future?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I never can think of particular roles I want to do. Although I think there are a bunch of men's roles that I wish I could do. As far as alternative career directions, as I mentioned before, I'm deeply interested in pursuing tracking as a discipline not necessarily a career. In a funny way it lends itself to what I do as an actor. When you're tracking an animal (not for the purposes of hunting, which I am profoundly opposed to as a sport) you have to put yourself in its paws, so to speak. It requires empathy, listening, an ability to focus on the micro as well as the macro, to zoom in on detail while also taking in the bigger picture. And even if you don't locate the animal or if you can't ultimately find it, it's as though you're in conversation with that animal, which I find profoundly magical, for lack of a better word. Pursuing tracking has actually, I think, made me a better actor. It's certainly reinvigorated my interest in my job. I could say it's reawakened something in me that I think I had perhaps lost touch with, having been doing this for so many years. So I hope to continue doing it as a way of maintaining contact with a part of myself that I need access to in order to be good at my job.

ValuedCustomer asks:

How did you break into film acting? One understands it’s a rather tricky business to get into.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

When I was 11, somehow I was cast in a series of Calvin Klein commercials by the legendary photographer Richard Avedon. It was through these commercials that I came to the attention of the makers of a film called The River Rat with Tommy Lee Jones and Brian Dennehy. I auditioned and got the part. I was 12 and it was my first lead role in a film. And that's that.

On deleting Twitter

Liz1976 asks:

Just this morning you have deleted your Twitter account! Can I politely ask you why? I know it’s awful. We all know it’s awful. We can take breaks from the dreadful humans on it, but deletion seems extreme. You are one of the finest voices on there. You make me smile and you shut down the rightwing loons with grace and aplomb. Please reconsider. Also, what’s your favourite David Bowie album?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I deleted my Twitter account because I don't believe it's useful and I don't know who I'm speaking to when I'm on it. I don't want to share a platform with an ignoramus imbecile despot who is systematically destroying everything decent about my country. I don't believe that whatever good comes out of Twitter ultimately is of any consequence. It's there and then it's gone. It just feels like yammering through a megaphone into a void and I find myself feeling like a jabbering egotist when I use it. That's the honest truth. I also don't want to share a platform with racists and hate-mongers and Nazis and people who use it to threaten other people's lives and insult them and harm them. I just don't see the point. And, right now, Station to Station is my favourite Bowie.

Current favourite Bowie

'It's easy to feel that utter destruction inevitable'

floatinginyarn asks:

Having been an environmental activist, do you think there is much hope for us all looking at the current situation? I mean, how do you accept what is going on in the US? Do you believe that theatre still has a place in raising awareness or are you just preaching to the converted? Is it even important anymore? PS, I loved Running on Empty.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

First of all, you sound depressed. I can relate! It's very easy to feel defeated and that our utter destruction is inevitable. Particularly now. Which is why I feel that theatre is as important as it ever was - if not more. If you're preaching to the converted, it doesn't matter. Because it's not about preaching. It's not as grand as that. A person's experience while watching a play is completely private and personal - you have no idea what's going on in their head. Even if they hated it they could be changed in some monumental or microscopic way. The human mind is a very mysterious and beautiful thing. New connections get made all the time. So there's always hope.

Scott McLennan asks:

Your introductory scene in The Goonies features you standing on a jetty, dunking your head in a barrel of water and pulling out a giant crab, yet it’s never explained why. Was something important edited out of this scene, along with the similarly ditched giant octopus and escaped gorilla subplots?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I don't remember the gorilla thing! But the idea behind the crab was that I was helping out with my family's fishing business. I think.

outofit asks:

Why did you take your mother’s surname and not your father’s?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

My parents weren't together when I was born and my mother raised me and they never married so it seemed the logical thing to do.

'First of all, there's nothing silly about acting!'

leavesontheline asks:

Loved your scenes with Dianne Wiest in Parenthood, and have found you always bring a particular quality to your roles. Given the essential silliness of acting, do you find it hard to maintain the interest and energy in new projects? And does it become a job like any other, or do you still find it exciting?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Well, first of all, if I may, kind sir or madam: I don't think there's anything silly about acting at all! It's one of the oldest professions there is besides prostitution and wildlife tracking. In fact I think they go in this order: wildlife tracking, acting, prostitution. Three noble careers. And yes sometimes it is hard to be excited about a job if it feels like something you've done a lot before or if it doesn't feel like a new take on something. But I try not to lose sight of the fact that to have a job at all makes me a very fortunate member of my community. And being able to pay the bills is also satisfying. In all seriousness, I love my job and I'm very lucky I get to keep doing it.

Contentment asks:

I’ve admired much of your work on screen … My question is of a somewhat sensitive nature. Your advocacy for abortion/abortion rights is well known. In the span of your career, has being vocal about your abortion advocacy helped with or hindered any job opportunities? Thank you kindly. (I myself am 100% anti-abortion.)

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Thank you for this question - I don't find the subject sensitive at all. It's never been a factor in my work life. I've never been asked to keep quiet by any employer or potential employer or by my representatives. The majority of thinking individuals agree that reproductive healthcare is a human right. You can be certain that were anyone to ask me to keep quiet about it, I wouldn't work for them - so they'd be at a loss not me.

Andyb1967 asks:

Good or bad memories of Shy People? I am a big fan of this overlooked classic.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Thank you very much. This isn't a movie I talk about much any more so I'm happy to know that you enjoyed it and remember it. It was a really hard movie to make. We filmed it almost entirely in a swamp in Louisiana but I really loved working there and I really loved working with Jill Clayburgh and with my one-time aunt Barbara Hershey. Two phenomenal actresses who I think of often and fondly. I had my 16th birthday while filming that movie. It was one of the best birthdays I've ever had. We had a crab boil and a zydeco band and the whole crew came out to this house in the middle of the swamp. It was a really incredible experience.

Adam Best asks:

I bought you a glass of wine at a gig in Dalston about a month ago. My question is: did you enjoy the glass of wine? My other question is: do you mind people buying you a glass of wine because they go mad that you were in the Goonies? All the best.

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Yes! I am certain I did enjoy the glass of wine. No, I don't mind people buying me glasses of wine because they go mad that I am in The Goonies although if I had known that at the time, I wouldn't have accepted it. God knows what you would have put in there.

haemodroid asks:

Do you like marmalade?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I am a huge marmalade fan. I love marmalade and I eat it almost every time I put anything on my toast.

Manolette asks:

Any chance of Sweat transferring to the West End? I failed to get tickets and would love to see you in the play. Also I loved The Real O’Neals. Looked like a lot of fun to make. Was it as much fun on set as it appeared to be on screen?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

There are ways to get tickets! Every Monday at noon there are 'klaxon' tickets starting at £10. There's sometimes a queue on the Donmar website but people have got tickets that way. If you're under 25 there's also 'young + free' tickets which are donated by members of the theatre and others. And there's always cancellations. So come to the theatre and hang out up until curtain time and you may get a seat. It's also worth noting that if you are a member already or have already bought your tickets, the Donmar can't legally put anyone in your seat if you don't show up so please call and cancel your seats and get a refund if you can't go, so someone else can go in your stead. It's no fun seeing empty seats in the theatre! As for a transfer/extension, watch this space...

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Thanks so much - I loved The Real O'Neals. Noah Galvin and BeBe Wood came to London to see me in Sweat and stayed with me and I love them.


ID6096389 asks:

I saw you from the first row on stage in Sweat, and I was stricken by how precise your acting is, even in ways that would be imperceptible to the largest part of a theatre audience.

That made me wonder: how does acting on screen compare to acting on stage? Do you inhabit your character in the same ways, or do you emphasise different things, a different physicality?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

That's a really good question. They are two different skillsets even though I think having a solid sense of stagecraft is helpful when you're in front of a camera. I work mostly on television now when I'm on camera. I've only made a couple of indie films in the last few years. I like TV work because it's fast. You're free to be somewhat more expressive. But that could be just a matter of the roles I play. There isn't a lot of film work for character actresses so I feel freer onstage and in television where there's a greater variety of things I can do.

Plimpton in Sweat at Donmar Warehouse.
Plimpton in Sweat at Donmar Warehouse. Photograph: Johan Persson

Lilaitomniweotawicha asks:

What/who is your spirit animal?

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

I think this whole spirit animal thing is really overdone. BUT I love elephants. In fact, I love animals in general. As far as spirit goes, before I came here to do this play I studied tracking in the bush in Botswana. Which is something I intend to continue studying.

Martha is with us now!

User avatar for MarthaPlimpton Guardian contributor

Hi everybody! I'm really excited to be here and ready to answer some of your questions... Let's get this show on the road!

Martha at the Guardian’s London office.
Martha at the Guardian’s London office. Photograph: Chris Wiegand for the Guardian


Post your questions for Martha Plimpton

Martha Plimpton was just 14, and had already modelled for Calvin Klein, when she starred in her breakthrough film, the rollicking treasure hunt The Goonies. She shone as Stef, one of the savviest underground adventurers in the box-office hit. Acting is the family trade: her parents are Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton.

That decade, Martha appeared alongside River Phoenix in The Mosquito Coast and Running on Empty, and stood out in the comedy Parenthood. Her later films include A Woman at War (playing a Belgian resistance fighter during the second world war), Stanley & Iris, Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle, I Shot Andy Warhol, and the John Waters film Pecker, in a role as the big-haired MC of a gay go-go bar.

Martha has had award-winning roles in the TV series The Good Wife and Raising Hope, and has performed in plays by Tom Stoppard (The Coast of Utopia), Caryl Churchill (Top Girls) and Edward Albee (A Delicate Balance) on Broadway. She was last seen on the London stage in 2014 at the Old Vic, in Other Desert Cities.

Now, she’s back in London at the Donmar Warehouse starring in the five-star smash Sweat, a Pulitzer prize-winner by Lynn Nottage. Michael Billington called it a “breathtaking” drama that “shows the anger and despair that helped fuel the election of Donald Trump”.

Martha joins us to talk about Sweat and her stage and screen career in a live webchat from 1pm GMT on Wednesday 9 January. Post your questions in the comments section below.


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Sweat review – breathtaking drama about life in the American rustbelt
Based on interviews with residents of small-town Pennsylvania, Lynn Nottage’s play vividly describes the betrayal and resentments of striking female factory workers in an era of industrial decline

Michael Billington

20, Dec, 2018 @10:35 AM

Article image
Michael Jackson musical to hit Broadway in 2020
A stage show about the King of Pop’s life featuring the biggest hits from his catalogue is now in development

Jake Nevins

19, Jun, 2018 @3:35 PM

Article image
Lynette Linton: 'Why are we not marching in the streets?'
Fuelled by passion and outrage, the playwright and director is shaking up theatre with works about Windrush to an all-women-of-colour Richard II – and now she’s taking over the Bush in London

Bridget Minamore

02, Jan, 2019 @3:00 PM

Article image
The week in theatre: Sweat; The Convert; The Tragedy of King Richard the Second – review
Lynn Nottage brilliantly dramatises industrial unrest in small-town America in the year’s most powerful play

Susannah Clapp

23, Dec, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Hamilton review – Broadway hit is now a breathtaking screen sensation
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical is smart, witty, funky and leaves us reflecting on America’s past and future

Arifa Akbar

30, Jun, 2020 @5:11 PM

Article image
When you're a Jet and a Shark: West Side Story's George Chakiris
The Oscar-winning star portrayed rival gang leaders in the stage and screen versions of the classic musical. He remembers dancing with Marilyn Monroe, playing Dracula and his role as a trombone

Chris Wiegand

17, Mar, 2021 @10:11 AM

Article image
Carla Gugino: 'Sexuality is a primal part of who we are but it's been misused'
The star of Jett and Sin City is back on stage in Alice Birch’s raw Anatomy of a Suicide. She talks about the play’s emotional toll, how she unwinds and American puritanism

Alexis Soloski

12, Feb, 2020 @3:18 PM

Article image
Carol Channing, star of Hello, Dolly! on Broadway, dies aged 97
Celebrated for her performances in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly! Channing also earned an Oscar nomination for Thoroughly Modern Millie

Chris Wiegand

15, Jan, 2019 @12:31 PM

Article image
Where to start with Stephen Sondheim: 10 of the best from the maestro
Discover the musical theatre titan through the life-changing cast album of Company, Imelda Staunton’s phenomenal turn in Gypsy, starry birthday concerts and his essential book on lyric writing

Michael Billington

29, Nov, 2021 @9:00 PM

Article image
Tony nominations 2017: Bette Midler's Hello Dolly! pipped by Tolstoy
Surprise on Broadway as Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 picks up 12 nominations, while British production of Groundhog Day the Musical gets seven

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

02, May, 2017 @4:24 PM