She walked the red carpet and was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1987 thriller “Fatal Attraction.” She shared the screen with some of the legends of the 20th century; Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, and Danny DeVito. Beautiful, impassioned and dedicated to a cause, Anne Archer is by far more substance than looks, although she certainly excels in both. At her home in Beverly Hills, she sat down with Forward Magazine’s Sami Moubayed, discussing her baby project, Artists for Human Rights.
Let’s start from the beginning; what made Anne Archer the artist she is today?
Well I grew up in the arts. My mother and father were actors, and my stepfather was a theatrical producer. My parents were very well known in theater, and my mother was one of the most famous actresses on American television. At a very early age, I knew that I wanted to become an actress. I started pursuing my dream, worked, and got nice reviews. The real change came when I did “Fatal Attraction” with Michael Douglas in 1987. It hit so big and was up for many awards, taking my life into an entire different dimension. That is when I became very well-known. Then came my movies with Harrison Ford; they put me into a stratosphere and made a great career for me.
You tested for “Superman: the Movie” and were one of the finalists for the role of Lois Lane? The role then went to Margot Kidder.
That is right, I did test for Superman. It was actually a really good test, I must say. This was long before “Fatal Attraction;” I was very young. I was too pretty for Lois Lane.
What are you working on now?
I actually finished filming a romantic comedy about three months ago called “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Michael Douglas. It’s really good and should be out next Spring. I also started filming a series for television—my first for TV—where I play a woman who owns a huge cosmetic empire. She is very smart, glamorous, and dynamic. I think it’s my best role ever.
This will be your second film with Michael Douglas?
Yes, although we never worked together on this one, nor did we meet on filming location. His scenes were all squished and I actually finished filming before he even arrived on location. Jack Nicholson, for example, shot all of his scenes for “A Few Good Men” in one week. For the rest of the filming period, they had to shoot around him. Busy actors have busy schedules.
Apart from acting, Artists for Human Rights is your baby project; tell us more.
Actually I had been involved in Youth for Human Rights, which was started by a teacher named Mary Shuttleworth. The concept was that educating young people of the world about basic human rights can actually change tomorrow. So while I was helping with Youth for Human Rights, it occurred to me that artists are the ones who bring about the fastest change in societies. This is because artists are listened to, and because their films, music, writings and paintings touch people’s souls and hearts. People find themselves—due to an artistic work—suddenly tolerant of a different people who they had previously hated. This is done, for example, when they watch a film about a certain people, and it helps them understand them better.
So I started thinking out-of-the box, as usual, about those willing to stand up for the individual and his/her right to self-expression. Artists know how important self-expression is because it is what they do in life. They are the first to be silenced whenever a suppressive regime comes along because it would know that an artist can stir up a people’s emotions about certain things. I realized that if we could get artists to unite and get this one message out, that human rights is the issue they must address, we have a chance of bringing public awareness of our basic human rights. You cannot defend what you do not know. At a village in Africa, for example, a woman probably has not heard of her basic human rights; her children grow up not knowing that one has no right to kidnap them, put them in camps, and turn them into child soldiers. That is against basic human rights. They think that this is their lot in life; because they are not educated the way we who are were fortunate enough.
So what do we do? We have to get this message out. Who can do it better than anyone else? An artist. So our goal has been to galvanize artists on this issue, talking about it to the press, making films about it, and making it the issue of the day. You can flow money into these war-torn areas, its very needed and must continue. But in a sense this is guilt money because it really doesn’t change the thinking of the people in that area. And to change thinking, you have to have commitment.
Have you ever tried securing a steady cash flow for the organization, as a way of institutionalizing its finances?
Our main source of funding is membership and we are looking forward to a large campaign to make that grow. That is what Amnesty did. They did it under Jack Healey’s inspiration (who is on our board and was executive director of Amnesty USA for 12 years) with the Conspiracy of Hope Tour, bringing artists like Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, and Sting.
How many people are you now at Artists for Human Rights?
I would say we are reaching 1,000. We are just brand new. We started in March 2005 and our first big presentation took place in August 2005. When you form an organization you spend a lot of time getting people on your advisory board, getting administration into place, starting a website, and so on. Our artists and members have managed to get our message across to no less than 50 million people worldwide, in concerts, radio, exhibitions, and events.
You have got one branch in Mexico and another in South Africa. Any plans on coming to the Middle East?
We plan on reaching the entire world. We have established an important connection with a gentleman in India, who expressed interest in opening a chapter in New Delhi. It takes initiative from people living in specific districts because we are based over here in Los Angeles and don’t know contact people all over the world. This person has to have love, spirit, and commitment.
One immediate problem you are going to face in the Arab world is politics and its relationship to human rights. You are not going to be welcomed in many places unless authorities feel safe that you are not there to audit their performance.
We really do stress that our purpose is educational. We are there to educate about basic human rights. There was this young boy back in the 1960s who grew up as a sharecropper’s son in Mississippi. He went to a tattered school, using third-hand schoolbooks, and one day he was sitting there reading from a history book when he came across the Bill of Rights; which spells out human rights in America. He read it and asked, “Why is this a BLACK ONLY school? Why are there BLACK ONLY bathrooms and busses? What I am reading does not match with what I am seeing!” He then said to himself, “Something here is disconnected and maybe I can do something about it.” His name was Martin Luther King, Jr. The idea is rather than dictate, and come across as having some kind of political agenda, countries should teach human rights from within.
Syria is a perfect place for Artists for Human Rights. A Syrian, former Prime Minister Fares al-Khury, was one of the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. That is so perfect because people won’t have to think, “America is coming over to tell me how to do things.” This is a gentleman who was at the UN and who believed in the need to uphold and educate on basic human rights, deep in his heart.
What are the two most troubling human rights abuses that trouble you, Anne?
Two things: child soldiers and rape of women in war. I just watched a documentary about the genocide of the Achuli tribe in Uganda, a film called “War Dance” that was nominated for an Academy Award. Everyone should see this film. It made me very angry. I am just shocked by the inhumanity of soldiers when they form a group and prey upon others. An individual alone would never do things that happen in groups. As a soldier, however, in mob mentality, he is transformed into an animal. That is why education at a young age is so important. This is so that, even if a young man gets caught in a group mentality, an inner part of him says, “This is not right.”
Would you visit war-torn areas to help promote human rights, and shed light on the abuses being practiced? Or would that be too dangerous?
Absolutely, if it’s going to make a difference. I would be the first to go for real change, not just a photo shoot and to smile to the cameras. I wouldn’t want to tarnish my sense of truth by being commercial about it. If being there helps, or inspires others, I will be the first to go. I actually think Angelina Jolie’s commitment to Africa has brought tremendous awareness to the problems taking place over there…
She visited the Iraqi refugees in Syria…
Well good for her; her commitment is very true and she feels strongly about it. She is a perfect example of an artist making a difference. George Clooney is another example. Even Mia Farrow, who went to Darfur, brought the attention of a wide audience when she appeared on CNN. An average person learned about an issue which he or she previously had known nothing about.
I was shooting a television show the other day and had a scene where I was surrounded by many extras. One of them was a young man from Serbia. I decided to start a conversation and said, “Did you read that (Radovan) Karadzic was arrested yesterday and is going to the Hague?” He did not know. The woman next to him asked, “Who is Karadzic?” I started to explain about all the atrocities and how the Clinton Administration had reacted to one of the worst genocides since the end of World War II. She looked at me and said, “You mean Desert Storm?!” That shocked me. I asked myself, “What are we doing? We cannot afford this! People must know; the world is getting smaller. We need to take responsibility that these things do not happen again and only by education can we do that!”
Forward Magazine, September 2008.