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Ellen Burstyn Q&A: ‘Flowers in the Attic’

Ellen Burstyn already has two Emmys on her crowded mantle and could well be picking up two more this year for her featured performance as a ruthless grandmother in the Lifetime telefilm "Flowers in the Attic" and her scene-stealing guest turn on the FX comedy "Louie." During our recent webcam chat, she reflected on the very different demands of these two roles as well as her past Emmy victories, that controversial 2006 nomination which led to a new rule, and winning the Oscar and Tony within weeks of each other. 

Last year, Burstyn claimed the Best TV Movie/Miniseries Supporting Actress Emmy for playing opposite Sigourney Weaver in "Political Animals." She told us of her frustration that the ratings did not warrant more episodes but explained that the show had been up against both "Breaking Bad" and the Winter Olympics.

And she recalled with pleasure her first Emmy victory back in 2009 for a guest spot on "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit." With that win, she became the 18th performer to score the acting triple crown of Oscar, Emmy and Tony awards. In the spring of 1975, Burstyn had won the Best Actress Oscar for the Martin Scorsese film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" However, as she recalled, she had to skip the ceremony as she was appearing on Broadway in the play "Same Time, Next Year" and wanted to focus on the work, not the prize. She ended up winning the Tony for that role a few weeks later. 

She just needs a Grammy to complete the EGOT. And, as she reminded us, she was nominated in 1997 for Best Spoken Word as part of the team of actors who performed "Grow Old Along with Me, The Best Is Yet to Be" but they lost to Hillary Clinton for "It Takes a Village." 

Only two of the 12 people to pull off the grand slam of all four major showbiz awards won their Oscar, Emmy and Tony for acting:  Helen Hayes and Rita Moreno (Hayes got her Grammy for spoken word while Moreno won for children's album). An additional 15 performers have won these top honors for their skills as thespians: Jack Albertson, Anne Bancroft, Ingrid Bergman, Shirley Booth, Melvyn Douglas, Jeremy Irons, Thomas Mitchell, Al Pacino, Vanessa Redgrave, Jason Robards, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Scofield, Maggie Smith, Maureen Stapleton and Jessica Tandy.

Burstyn first contended for the Emmy in 1981 for the title role in the telefilm "The People v. Jean Harris." That was the same part Annette Bening played in "Mrs. Harris" in 2006. Burstyn had a 15-second cameo in that and was surprised to reap an Emmy bid. The uproar over this led to a new rule that only those performers who appear in at least 5% of a project are eligible for Emmy consideration. She was bemused to have caused this change and referenced it in her acceptance speech last year.

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UPLOADED May 26, 2014 9:48 am