Screen legend Jessica Lange says the secret to her longevity in Hollywood is simply trusting her instincts.
"As you can tell from looking at my career, there was no plan!" the 64-year-old said with a hearty laugh. "It's never setting out with a goal in mind or project or whatever. It's what kind of captures my imagination in the moment."
Lange's gut feeling recently led her to a new path as a children's book author. "It's About a Little Bird" follows two young sisters who discover an antique birdcage at their grandmothers' farm.
"It felt natural and organic and simple and kind of charmed," Lange said of creating the picture book based on her real-life experiences and featuring photographs she took and tinted by hand.
In an interview Monday, the two-time Academy Award winner discussed the book, which began as a handmade Christmas gift for her granddaughters, and the new season of her not-so-kid-friendly FX series "American Horror Story: Coven," premiering Wednesday.
AP: How did you go about writing "It's About a Little Bird?"
Jessica Lange: I didn't do it in that kind of deliberate way. It wasn't something that I had determined to do. It started really because I'm a photographer and I shoot black-and-white film. So that's kind of how it started, working on some of my own black-and-white imagery and hand-tinting them. ... And then one morning I woke up, I was up at my farm at upstate New York and I woke up and this story just kind of came to me and I thought, "I'm going to write this for my granddaughters, make this a story for them." ... And then from there it was one of those things where somebody said "why don't you print this?"
AP: Do your granddaughters get to see much of your work?
Lange: Well, obviously there's a lot they can't see, you know. I don't want them to see "Frances" or to see, you know, "Blue Sky." There's a lot that they'll see when they get older. ... I remember years ago when I won the Emmy for "Grey Gardens," which they hadn't seen, but they had seen a picture of me as like Edith Beale, which I'm sure was very confusing. But my daughter, in the morning when they woke up, showed them a little clip of me winning the Emmy and my speech and she told me later that day that my youngest granddaughter went to school and they asked if anybody had anything to share and she stood up and she said "my grandmother won a big prize!" So I thought that was great. That's kind of like as far as it goes for them.
AP: How did Ryan Murphy get you on board for three seasons of "American Horror Story"?
Lange: He called me up out of the blue — I had never met him — and started talking. And I just thought "wow, he's got quite a spiel here. This is really something." I haven't been kind of seduced like this in a long time. And you know he has a kind of uncanny intelligence about this, a talent, genius in a way and it became something really fascinating. ... He keeps kind of dangling that carrot out there. It's hard to say no.
AP: What can you tell us about your new "Coven" character Fiona Goode?
Lange: It's a woman who has ... all the powers in the world, and again I think it's a metaphor for a lot of different things, and who misuses it for the most selfish, self-serving purposes. You know has that kind of confrontation with her own mortality, finally, and realizes, you know, a wasted life. And what do you do at this age when you think, "I've wasted it all? I've thrown it all away?" ... That's a little bit of where that character is coming from and I don't know where she's going, to tell you the truth. I never know.
AP: What does success mean to you at this point in your career?
Lange: Box office success has never meant anything. I've never been so-called "box office." I mean I couldn't get a film made if I paid for it myself. So I'm not "box office" and never have been and that's never entered into my kind of mind set here. ... It is the kind of acknowledgment by other actors, really. That's really what is most meaningful.