Rutanya Alda [Interview]


Happy Friday, Folks! We are wrapping the week and the month with some wonderful words from an on screen legend. It’s Rutanya Alda! With a career spanning over 50 years, and hundreds of credits to her name, Rutanya is an iconic figure who we are so damn pleased to have grace our digital pages today. I first became aware of Alda’s work when she appeared in one of my favorite film of the 90’s, which would be Paul Chart’s 1997 cult classic American Perfekt. And of course, I would then recognize her in a variety of roles, from horror classics like the late Larry Cohen’s film The Stuff or Amityville Horror II (co-written by our old friend Tommy Lee Wallace!), to legendary films like The Deer Hunter or 2001’s The Glass House. She’s all over the place Folks!

Rutanya has a wonderful story to tell, and we are honored that she was willing to tell some part of that tale on this very site. So without further ado, please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Rutanya Alda!




What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this first project?


my first paid work in being an actor, aside from summer stock and out of town theatre, was in  my first work as a background artist.  Up the Down Staircase, starring Sandy Dennis,  was my first job as a student in her class.  It was a wonderful experience, insanely interesting.  The film jobs as a background artist , and photo double for Barbara Streisand in Hello Dolly and Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby followed among many other films.  I did have a speaking line in Rosemary’s Baby as Dr. Hills answering service operator…a voice over when Mia is in the phone booth.

Then followed a line or two on television shows and my first starring role with Robert De Niro in Brian de Palma’ss Greetings (won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin Film Festival) followed by Hi Mom, with my infamous “Be Black Baby” scene (20minutes ) that Quentin Tarrentino called the greatest film scene in American cinema.  Richard Scheckel wrote up a whole piece on that scene in Life magazine.

One particular genre of film that you have done some incredible work in is our favorite genre around here, the world of horror. Especially in your incredible performance in the classic film Amityville Horror II. I am curious to know how you enjoy working in the world of horror? What is something about this genre that sets itself apart from the plethora of other genres you have worked in?

About Amiytivlle 2. I dont look at a film as a horror film, although I know it is that genre.  when I look at working on that film, I look at telling a story of the mother who is caught in circumstances beyond her control. I look at her as a human being and let the audience experience the horror of what she is caught in. I never play the horror.  That is playing the result. Fortunately the director, Damiano Daminai, felt the same way and we had a terrific work relationship. I think together we worked to tell a story in a real and truthful way.  I think that is why it still resonates with the audience today.
In 1997 you appeared in one of my favorite films, which happens to have been written & directed by friend of the site Paul Chart. That film was American Perfekt. So, what was it that drew you to this unique story? What was it about this project that made you want to become a part of it?
Paul Chart is a unique talent. Also he knew all the films that I had done. This was stunning.. he is very knowledgeable about film.  He is also a great writer, director and human. I would love to work with him again. He asked me to be in his movie and I was so glad to be a part of it.  i think it is an underrated masterpiece.
When you look back on your illustrious career of over 50 years, what would you say you are the most proud of? Not necessarily one individual project, but as a whole? What would you like the Rutanya Alda legacy to be in the future?
When I look back at the last 50 years, which i try not to do very often….but from the first time i ever saw a film at the age 6 in a refugee camp, and particularly in a camp for sick children…i found that i became  part of a magical world of stories. It was also showing me there was another world beside the  experience of suffering, hunger and devastation that World War 2 left in Europe. I was always fascinated by stories. I love stories and I consider myself a storyteller on film. I’m beyond thrilled when I have touched a heart with my work, or illuminated someone’s life. That is everything too me.
What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?
I am always still thrilled to act. I want to tell stories on film. The sad thing is that older women are the most discriminated in this industry. Hopefully writers will realize that there are mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, grandparents in the world. Not just 20 year olds. And like the European films I see, older women are part of them. Older men too. I have written my one person show about growing up in the refugee camps and parallel in the play is my fathers journey of surviving the Gulags of Stalin. I hope to do it this year in NYC. It has been submitted for the Sundance theatre lab, but I wont know if i make the finals until April 1st. That would be great, but if not I will do it elsewhere in NYC. This story is my most personal one and after all these years I want to tell it.
What was the last thing that made you smile?
The last thing that made me smile is my cat Popeye putting both his paws on my hand to make me stop writing you and pay him the attention that he wants and deserves.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

One Response to Rutanya Alda [Interview]

  1. Joan Rosenfelt says:

    Oh, this interview is wonderful. And has all kinds of things in it that I didn’t know about Rutanya’s work life – and we’ve been good friends for something like 40 years! Thank you for this lovely, informative piece!

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