Shirley MacLaine is angelic in 'Heavenly' Hallmark TV movie

LYNN ELBER
Associated Press
In this image released by the Hallmark Channel, actress Shirley MacLaine plays an angel in "A Heavenly Christmas," a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie airing 8 p.m. EST Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.  (Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Crown Media United States LLC via AP)
In this image released by the Hallmark Channel, actress Shirley MacLaine plays an angel in "A Heavenly Christmas," a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie airing 8 p.m. EST Saturday on the Hallmark Channel. (Chris Helcermanas-Benge/Crown Media United States LLC via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Shirley MacLaine is direct, funny and down-to-earth no matter how high-flying the topic may be, including the guardian angels and aliens she accepts as givens.

In a recent interview, there's also no hint of the diva she easily could be, given her stardom of six decades and counting; five lead-actress Academy Award nominations; and an Oscar for what she cites as her favorite role, Aurora, in 1983's "Terms of Endearment."

She long ago traded the big city for New Mexico, but never abandoned acting. MacLaine plays an angel in "A Heavenly Christmas," a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie airing at 8 p.m. EST Saturday on the Hallmark Channel. In a big-screen film set for release next spring, "The Last Word" with Amanda Seyfried, she plays a strong-willed woman intent on crafting her own obituary.

That's a "mentoring angel" in the Hallmark project, MacLaine emphasizes, explaining that her character has much to share with a young workaholic (Kristin Davis) who's lost her way. Eric McCormack co-stars.

In a phone interview with The Associated Press, MacLaine, 82, said she's healthy, active and a devoted traveler. She shared her views on spirituality, ranch life and, only indirectly, presidential politics.

AP: You believe in angels?

MacLaine: Of course I do. Are you kidding? I believe in UFOs, I believe in extraterrestrials, and I believe in angels. And maybe they'll protect all of us.

AP: What have angels done for you?

MacLaine: We don't have time. I lost my dog of 17 years, Terry, and right now she's a little angel who's delivering nice things. ... It is incredible, when you start believing in angels your life becomes a lot smoother.

AP: Do you follow any organized religion?

MacLaine: No, just tolerance, organized tolerance. Organized patience, which I'm not too good at. Organized understanding of differences, which is really giving me problems now. Organized sense of humor.

AP: You've done TV but never a Hallmark movie. Why this one?

MacLaine: I just loved the idea. I thought playing an angel would be very good for my image. And they paid me a lot of celestial money, so what the hell. (Laughs.)

AP: Does your image need angelic burnishing?

MacLaine: Sometimes it does. I'm too direct and too unsparingly impatient. Usually I'm right, by the way — so never mind all the other.

AP: How do you spend your time in New Mexico?

MacLaine: I'm very involved with learning to be self-sufficient. I'm a city girl and I never really lived in the country, so I'm learning about that. I have a ranch here, at Abiquiu, where Georgia O'Keeffe used to paint, and I had to build it up to be self-sufficient because it's really off the grid.

AP: Do you have other animals?

MacLaine: Altogether about six dogs. And then I've got bear and elk and coyotes in my front yard. It's living with nature.

AP: And people company?

MacLaine: I have a great life, to tell you the truth. I have a lot of friends who come and stay, and we talk about the world. And of course I travel, (most recently) to Virginia, where I was honored at the University of Virginia and did two and a-half hours onstage answering questions from students. ... That was really fun.

AP: How does spirituality fit into the world now?

MacLaine: I think materialism has trumped a lot of stuff, but I don't think it has trumped the heart, especially when it comes to (a person's) last thought. It's not going to be about money. It's going to be about who am I, what have I done and where am I going. And of course that gets us into reincarnation, it gets us to are we alone in the universe. ... All of that stuff, which is infinitely interesting to me.

AP: You have no doubt when this life ends you will return?

MacLaine: I'm not sure I'll come back to this planet. I may come back to another one. (Laughs.)

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.