How the many characters of Shirley MacLaine live in “The Last Word”

Mar 21, 2017 by Marketing on The Nickelodeon Blog

By: Sarah Nichols

Shirley MacLaine, 60 years into her well-received Hollywood career, is a household name. This pop culture icon’s newest film, “The Last Word,” is a portrayal of kinship, generational inspiration and the power to change your life, or someone else’s, at any time. With Amanda Seyfried starring alongside her, MacLaine acts as Harriet Lauler, who is in many ways the same organized, endearing and border-line abrasive woman that America has known and loved for years now. In this sense, “The Last Word” is a continuation, culmination and tribute to all of MacLaine’s excellent characters past.
Much like her namesake, Shirley Temple, MacLaine is a triple threat. Her song, dance and theatre talents broke her into Broadway upon high school graduation. With both luck and her extraordinary potential, MacLaine was filling in for Carol Haney in “The Pajama Game” when she captured movie producer Hal B. Willis’ attention. Shortly after, she signed with Paramount Pictures, where she followed in Temple’s footsteps as an endearing Hollywood starlet. Her most notable roles have included “Terms of Endearment,” “Sweet Charity” and “Steel Magnolias,” the first of which she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1984. She won this same award just a few years later for her portrayal of Madame Sousatzka in the film of the same name. Although, in Hollywood, it seems easy for actors to hit their peaks and then burn out, MacLaine still goes strong as an actress that has established a respect and likability that won’t burn out or diminish.

MacLaine is actually what encouraged Seyfried to join the film. In an interview with the Times Herald, Seyfriend said, “I always wanted to work with Shirley and never expected to. What I love about her is that she’s completely who she is in every moment…She’s a force. I have never met anyone like her before and I’m sure I won’t again.”
For filmmaker Mark Pellington, MacLaine was his muse for the movie. When discussing Harriet Lauler’s character, Pellington once remarked that “she is like Aurora Greenway from Terms of Endearment, but it’s 25 or 30 years later. Imagine that kind of controlling woman considering the final years of her life”.
The story itself illustrates Harriet Lauler, a retired business woman, as she commissions Anne Sherman (Amanda Seyfried) to write her obituary prior to her death. Through the writing process, they discover that Lauler didn’t make a lasting impression on anyone, or, at least, a good lasting impression. Lauler takes this matter in her own hands and finds a way to utilize the later years of her life to leave a legacy that is both heart-warming and well-written. “The Last Word” is a snapshot of how the strength and character of one woman can transcend and influence generations to come.
The Nickelodeon will be screening “The Last Word” starting this Friday, March 24. For tickets and more information, click here.