Virginia Madsen, who says she is "not a city girl", took up temporary residence in New York recently, while shooting her latest movie, Diminished Capacity. Her 12-year-old son, Jack, accompanied her, and she reports that while the city overwhelmed him at first, by the end of a month he had already decided to move here when he grows up.
Madsen, who homeschools her son (with the help of an online academy) found educational opportunities throughout the city, saying they had a particularly fruitful excursion to Ellis Island, where they found information on her grandparents, who sailed from Copenhagen to Liverpool and on to New York on the Lusitania.
Madsen hit major stardom in the movie Sideways, landing an Oscar nomination. Jack was 10 at the time, but she says they had both been "preparing for a long, long time" for this to happen. When her career was quieter, "I was acutely aware of how much time I was able to spend with Jack," explaining that she would usually be able to coordinate schedules with Jack's father, actor Antonio Sabato, Jr. But she notes that it's always been hard to juggle motherhood and a career — "It's hard for anyone" — and she finds that when you focus on one thing, the other suffers.
But now that Jack is a little older, she finds it easier to travel with him, adding that "he loves the adventure." She also is enjoying the time spent on a whole new level, noting that "we can explore and experience different things; we don't have to just find 'play' places." One of Jack's favorite New York haunts is Central Park, where he loves to climb on the boulders.
Although Jack did come on a film publicity tour, complete with private jet, Madsen says she realized it was time for him to go home when he called the concierge and asked for the location of the nearest Toys r Us." She feels that "monotony is good for kids'" and that they need to go home and have a normal schedule.
Madsen recently became a spokesperson for Allergan's "Keep the Wisdom. Lose the Lines" campaign, and has been outspoken as an indulger in Botox [Allergan makes both Botox and Juvederm dermal fillers]. She feels it is her responsibility to let people know that "I do it safely. I'm not running across the border, or going to Botox parties." She notes that "I'm not afraid of aging — I like the way I look. I want to look on the outside like I feel on the inside." At 45, she feels she is in great shape, but adds that "you have to eat right, stop smoking, go to the gym — or you will age badly." She is also careful not to use too much Botox, not wanting to end up with a 'frozen face'.
Madsen learned a parenting trick from her mother, Elaine, a documentary filmmaker. "Put your kid in the back of the car and drive, and he will talk to you. After Jack outgrew wanting to be read to at night, she would sit on his bed at night, with the lights out, and they would talk. She explains that her mom, a very modern woman who reminds her of Mary Tyler Moore's TV character, and her father, a fireman, who also sang and was "an incredible storyteller", encouraged creativity. She is doing the same for Jack, adding that he proudly has a pink cell phone — and a small role in her current movie.
Of her perseverance in finally getting a breakthrough role, Madsen says, "You don't just sit and wait…a lot of actors make that mistake. When you persevere, you work to make it happen. There's a momentum to the word, a forward movement."
No one can say that this Hollywood mom is moving sideways.