Mary Stuart Masterson Reflects on the 30th Anniversary of Fried Green Tomatoes
“It really was about people doing right by each other.”
Believe it or not, it has been thirty years since we first ventured to the Whistle Stop Café. It's been three decades since Fannie Flagg's characters first came to life on the big screen through the powerhouse cast including Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary Louise Parker, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and Cicely Tyson. We remember it like yesterday, watching Evelyn befriend Ninny on that bench in the hallway of a nursing home and Evelyn, along with the rest of us learning the legend of Idgie, Ruth, Sipsey, and Big George. In honor of this anniversary, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are bringing Fried Green Tomatoes back to the big screen for three screenings starting on Mother's Day. What a great way to celebrate movie theaters re-opening and mom at the same time. You can find information about where to get tickets in your town here.
Recently, Southern Living caught up with star Mary Stuart Masterson and chatted with her about this momentous anniversary and the lasting legacy this film leaves. "When you set out to make a film, you're just thinking about how do I do the story justice? And you're sort of in the moment of just the doing it and not thinking about how it will resonate 30 years later," Masterson said. Adding, "In this case though, it was so obviously a great group of people and such a great book that Fannie Flagg wrote... It was a real pleasure to make it. And it is amazing to see now the resonance of all the aspects of the story."
Thirty years on and in a different phase of life, Masterson is able to view the film with a different lens. "It was such a pleasure to watch it again. I hadn't seen it in literally 30 years. And it was just like the strangest experience of traveling back in time. I so identified with everyone but my character. I now have four children and I identified with all the different women in the story. Which was really such a cool perspective to have after so much time."
It's also easier, with time, to feel the importance of the messages conveyed through this charming story. While in part, a love story to the South and Southern food, it didn't shy away from the heaviness of the time period. As Masterson said, "it really was about people doing right by each other." But it also showed the power of female friendships and the ability for those friendships to bridge the gaps of age in the case of Ninny and Evelyn, and of race in the case of Idgie and Sipsey. "I really, really just love that you have a heroine that is in Idgie but also in Ruth and then Ninny and Evelyn who are all these really amazing women, who are so strong and really are supporting one another. And that's something that I think is so often missing in popular culture for women. That women can be allies with each other."
Masterson continued, "Not just the strong female in a typically masculine kind of role. But women working together and women being strong in a feminine way as opposed to always having to be these superheroes to show their power. There's another way to show strength. And so often women are portrayed as competing or betraying one another. And in this case, they find the most tremendous support in each other. And that's a message for the ages."
Fried Green Tomatoes was a film that left a lasting impression, and now days, Masterson is aiming to make an impact of a different sort on her community. While her family hails from Virginia and Texas, she now lives in Hudson Valley, New York, with her husband and four children. She has recently launched four companies including the nonprofit Stockade Works, that aims to improve access and inclusion and provide training to people who wish to seek careers in film and television crew production. She also opened a soundstage called Up River Studios just two hours from NYC. "The idea was to create a new media eco-system for the Hudson Valley to be a new economic engine because basically IBM shut its doors in the late 90s and those 30,000 jobs never were recovered." Masterson also launched her own production company and has a film already in the works. And if that wasn't enough, she and husband Jeremy Davidson, whom she met during a production of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, have opened Storyhorse Documentary Theater, also in Hudson Valley.
We look forward to seeing what new stories will come from these exciting new ventures.