Paper Napkin Interview: Dishing with Sissy Spacek

We chatted with Academy Award winner Sissy Spacek about baton-twirling, her new memoir, and priceless family heirlooms
Interview by: Donna Florio

You grew up in Texas but have lived outside Richmond, Virginia, since the 1980s. Why?
Well, my mother always told me that Virginians settled Texas [laughs]. My husband grew up there, and I went back with him.

Why did you decide to write a memoir?
I really did this for my children—I wanted to get the story down. I sometimes don't remember what I did yesterday, but I vividly recall my early years.

What's your most cherished family heirloom?
A glass filled with mismatched silver spoons. It was my grandmother's, and she kept it in the middle of her kitchen table. If the house was on fire, that's what I'd grab.

What makes a Southern woman?
I was going to say the way they cook, but I'm a terrible cook! Being Southern is a state of mind. I think maybe it's about having home and family at the center of your world.

How do you take your barbecue?
I love it all! When I was a kid, it was sausage and brisket with no sauce at Kreuz Market outside Austin.

What's one thing that people don't know about you?
I like things neat and tidy. My kids laugh and say they get out a glass, and by time they get out the orange juice I've already put the glass in the dishwasher.

Your baton-twirling was written into Badlands. Do you still twirl?
Not much, but when I'm out walking and pick up a stick the size of a baton, I have been known to twirl. It's like riding a bicycle—something you don't forget.

Do you have a favorite movie role?
I loved working on The Help. I incorporated some of my favorite precious aunts from Texas into my character. I loved [playing Hilly's mother] so much because she reminded me of those strong Southern women who are so full of style and put together, who are funny, and who have a vulnerability that comes with getting older.

What's your favorite Southernism?
Y'all come back!

You did all your own singing in Coal Miner's Daughter. Do you sing karaoke?
I'd be a nervous wreck at a karaoke bar. I'm so shy I'd have to sing something easy to remember, like "The Yellow Rose of Texas."

Any favorite singers?
Besides Loretta Lynn? My very favorite is my daughter Schuyler Fisk, who was part of the South by Southwest lineup this year.

What's the last thing you scribbled on a paper napkin?
Probably a telephone number. I've written songs on them, gotten ideas for characters. I'll jot on anything that's around.