by Fred Robbins
Us, October 13, 1981
Can it be that Kristy McNichol, who was Family's budding little Buddy only a few years ago, is now mentioned for an Oscar? It most certainly can. In Neil Simon's new film, Only When I Laugh, her sensitive portrayal of an alcoholic's daughter is inspiring critical praise and terrific word of mouth. McNichol recently sat down to discuss the new acclaim and its impact on her life.
Q: It looks as if your new film is going to be your biggest yet. Did you know that from the start?
A: It's a fantastic film. Marsha Mason [who plays her mother] is a very warm person and a definite professional. And Neil Simon [who wrote and produced] is a genius. He has an incredible feel for life.
Q: It's a different kind of film for you, isn't it?
A: Yeah. It's hilarious, but it's also very strong. It almost has the strength of Kramer vs. Kramer.
Q: It's also a different kind of role for you.
A: I'm trying to show I can be versatile. I don't always want to be the tomboy. I don't always want to be the spunky kid with all the energy. I want to be able to do different things.
Q: What would you prefer?
A: Actually, I prefer the fun, energetic parts. But I'd love to play a very funny person or a handicapped person or a rock star.
Q: That's an interesting assortment. Anything else?
A: I'd love to play an older person, like 23 or 24. There's all kinds of roles I'm dying to do. Hopefully, that will all come.
Q: You're 18 now and you're enjoying an extraordinary career. But are you too young for success?
A: I might be if I was an overnight sensation, but I'm not. I've put a lot of long, hard work into my career. An overnight success has no value. If anything is going to be worth anything in life, you have to work for it.
Q: Many people would rather succeed later in life. They feel you can't appreciate success if you're too young. Do you agree?
A: No, I don't. I appreciate everything that happens to me, when it happens to me. In fact I'm glad it's happening when I'm young, because too many kids are just hanging around and not thinking about a career. They're getting involved in bad things like drugs.
Q: You see that happening with your friends?
A: Not with my friends, no; they're just not into it. They've been raised the right way. They were never so insecure that they had to submit to peer pressure. They all have careers they're working on, so they don't have time for that crap. They really don't, thank God. They wouldn't be my friends if they did.
Q: What would you say to kids who want to experiment?
A: Don't, because it's stupid. They won't enjoy it. And if they do enjoy it, that's even worse. They'll keep on doing it and they might die.
Q: How about the other end of the spectrum? What do you say to adults who think all teenagers are on drugs?
A: It's obviously not true.
Q: Or to the people who think all young girls are taking the Pill and sleeping around? What about the rise in teenage pregnancy?
A: I don't know what to say about teenage pregnancy. I feel if you want to keep your baby, you should. And if you don't want to keep it, you shouldn't.
Q: You're in favor of abortion?
A: Not personally. I don't think I could ever do that. I've never been pregnant, but I don't think I could ever have an abortion. On the other hand, I don't think a woman should be prohibited from having an abortion. A woman should be able to choose whether she wants to have kids or not.
Q: Do you want to have kids?
A: Not right now. But I hope to be married in about ten years, and then I'd love to have lots of kids. I'd raise them on a farm with clean air and plenty of animals.
Q: Do you believe in marriage? A lot of people your age don't. They'd rather live together and not be inhibited by a piece of paper.
A: I can understand that totally, but it's not the same thing as marriage. I mean the whole thing about marriage -- the ceremony, the ring, walking down the aisle together -- is a great tradition. If you're going to get married, you get married. And if you're not, you call each other girlfriend or boyfriend and you either live separately or together. But I don't call that a substitute for marriage.
Q: Is having a relationship important for you?
A: I think it's important for everybody, especially when you're going through changes in your life. You need someone to share your feelings with. You need someone who isn't part of your family, your brother or sister, but who's just as close. And I have someone like that. His name is Joey [Corsaro, 23, a Beverly Hills hairdresser]. He's a real special guy.
Q: And you live together?
A: No, we don't. In fact, I wanted to talk to you about that. The Us cover [June 23, 1981] stated that I said I had a live-in lover. I never said I had a live-in lover. My aunt lives with me in my house and Joey lives about 20 minutes away. [Excerpt from the tape transcript of the first interview, conducted by Christopher Stone: Stone: Would you ever want to live with him (Corsaro) for a couple of years? McNichol: Actually, we have lived in the same room on my next-to-last movie (The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia). He couldn't do the last movie (Only When I Laugh) because of union problems. But the movie before, we were in Georgia together. Stone: Do you think you could ever marry someone whom you haven't lived with? McNichol: I don't think so. I mean, I'd have to find out how we are in every way.]
Q: Well, being in the public's eye is part of fame's price. Do you find the demands of stardom interfering with your private life?
A: Not with the private life I lead -- which is a very private, normal life with real people. Otherwise, it probably would bother me because I'd be hanging around with phonies. But because my family is so real and my friends are so honest, it doesn't affect me. I'll never let it affect me.
Q: But fame can be a tremendous burden, maybe not now, but what about later? You've seen what success has done to some people.
A: I know, but I don't worry about it. Look, if my career continues to grow, that's great. If it doesn't, that's OK, too. I want to slowly build a full career. But if it all stopped tomorrow, I wouldn't fall apart.
Q: In The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia, you were supposed to be wise beyond your years. Do you feel you really are?
A: Internally, as a person, I do.
Q: You've heard the expression, "She's 18 going on 35"?
A: They've said that about me?
Q: No, but you've heard the expression?
A: Yeah, and in a way I guess it does apply to me. At times I'm 18, at times I'm 30. At times I'm 12, at times I'm 25. It doesn't bother me. I've got time for anything.