Actress Catherine Mary Stewart got her big break after a director framed her beautiful face with his fingers.
Corny, right? But oh, so Hollywood.
She recently checked in with WWTW to share how she turned from a dancing ingenue to a fixture on the silver screen.
WWTW: You studied to be a dancer initially and had early success in the field – how did you transition to acting, and why?
CMS: I began dancing when I was 7 years old. I was told that I had the perfect ballet dancer’s body and had these crazy high arches in my feet that resulted in an amazing point. Ballet was very disciplined and, frankly, a little boring, so I eventually transitioned to gymnastics. I loved that although I never reached a competitive level.
Finally, when I was 14 and sort of flailing aimlessly, as so many teenagers do, my mother talked me into going to a jazz dance class. I fought it, remembering my ballet days, but agreed to take ONE class. Well, I took to that immediately, even being called to the front of the class to demonstrate an exercise that we were just learning.
It pretty much solidified my path for the next decade or so. Later I joined a dance troupe called Synergy and when we first started to perform professionally it was again a decisive moment for me, an epiphany really. I realized with all my heart and soul that I wanted to perform in front of an audience. When I graduated from High School, I made the
decision to pursue my dance training in London, England. I was SO scared at first, not knowing if this little girl from small town Canada could possibly make it with these highly trained London dancers.
My transition into movies came completely unexpectedly.
I was in London studying dance. One day I was walking to my class when I came upon a couple of my classmates walking in the opposite direction. As it turned out they had heard about an audition being held for dancers for some new movie that was being cast. I weighed the options and decided it would be a great experience and worth a little
potential hassle from the school.
The audition was for “The Apple” for about 200 dancers. We were broken up into groups and tried to pick up the steps of choreographer Nigel Lythgoe and assistant Ken Warwick, both now producers of “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”
The director, Menahem Golan, was sitting by watching the proceedings and I noticed that he was doing that ‘frame thing’ with his hands and fingers and looking through towards ME.
Some time later he came up to me and asked me if I could act and sing. Of course I said yes but I hadn’t prepared anything so he had me work with a pianist on a song from the movie and gave me a script to read, on the spot. The next day I came back and I had the role.
We did a photo session right there in the garden of where the audition had been held, and next thing I know my picture is splashed on a full page of some trade magazine with the title “A Star is Born.”
WWTW: You’ve starred in some of the ’80s more memorable films, from “Night of the Comet” to “Mischief” and “The Last Starfighter” – do you have a personal favorite from that era?
Anyway, it’s weird looking at the movies of the 80’s. I auditioned for so many of them and was in a fair number, so I kind of have a skewed opinion of them.
- “Gregory’s Girl” – It may have been my favorite movie of the decade.
- “A Chorus Line” – I not only could relate to it but performed it in Edmonton.
- “Fame” – Just durn entertaining in a fantasy kinda way
- “This is Spinal Tap” – Just laugh out loud funny from beginning to end!
- “Diner”: Good character movie that all young adults can relate to on some level.
- “Color Purple” – Beautiful, heart-breaking.
- “Fatal Attraction” -Scary, addressing those dark corners of a woman betrayed.
- “Urban Cowboy” – Earthy, real life, Debra Winger (LOVE HER!).
Tomorrow: Catherine Mary Stewart shares how she avoided the excesses that tripped up many of her ’80s peers.