I'm munching on hors d'oeuvres, staring at Katharine Ross and thinking: How can she possibly be 57 years old? Her gorgeous square face is lined from years in the sun (Ross is quite the horsewoman), but her eyes are as bright and clear as they were more than 30 years ago in The Graduate and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Men her age tell me that she was the "it" girl of their youth -- a natural, laid-back beauty with presumed brains behind the exquisite exterior. Ross exudes good health, both mentally and physically, and is as down to earth as the woman next door. She has come to Colorado Springs to help raise funds in support of the Cripple Creek Film Festival, now in its second year and growing, and maintains an abiding love for the American Western film. It has been a long time since we were graced with her presence on-screen -- Ross took a long leave of absence from filmmaking to raise her daughter, now 16 -- but she currently has two new films in the can.
Did you ever dream, at age 24, that The Graduate would become a classic of American cinema? (Laughs) If I had that kind of foresight, I'd be in every successful film. No, seriously, in doing it, you don't think about that -- you just hope people like it. Of course, you know when it's a good script and that was a great one.
You were out of the public eye for a long time, staying at home to raise your child. Was that a good decision? It's the only decision, as far as I'm concerned. My daughter will be 16 in a month, she'll be a sophomore in high school and she's going to start driving.
What made you decide to come back now? I started thinking that in a couple of years she'll be off at college, so I thought I needed to get a life. I called an agent and said, "Do you think there's any work for someone my age?" and the next thing I knew I was working on two films. I've never had two films going at the same time in my life.
Is it hard showing up after a long absence? Not really. I'm gonna take it slow. I don't have to prove anything to anybody; I've already had a successful career as a film actress.
How did you become interested in the Cripple Creek Film Festival? I worked with Wendy Wilkinson (producer of the festival) years ago in L.A. She was my publicist right after I gave birth to my daughter when I was working on a television series, kind of a Western spinoff of Dynasty called The Colbys. But when that was over and I decided to stay at home, I didn't need a publicist. Then last year, I got a call from her saying that she was producing this film festival in Colorado and would I like to get involved.
Why did you say yes? I love Westerns. My husband (Sam Elliott) loves Westerns. And everybody who makes them seems to be fading away. I think it's important to support Western films, to keep them alive.
Katharine Ross will be on-hand at this year's Cripple Creek Film Festival, "A Tribute to the West Then and Now," Sept. 29 - Oct. 1. For more information, see: WWW.CRIPPLE-CREEK.CO.US/FILMFEST.HTM; e-mail: www.cripplecreekfilmfest.com; or call Michael Herst at 719/686-9249 or Ella Groth at 719/689-3461.