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Roger Smith

What's Ann-Margret Doing at 75?
Still Playing the Girl Next Door

Ann-Margret, of "Bye Bye Birdie" fame, chooses an outfit at the atelier of Mark Zunino, left, for the premiere of her new film.


— In the new Zach Braff-directed heist comedy "Going in Style," out April 7, the performer Ann-Margret stars as Annie, a supermarket employee who flirts, overtly, with a grumpy old man of a customer played by Alan Arkin.

They eventually end up in bed. More on that later.
Off the screen, it turns out Ann-Margret is actually not all that familiar with grocery stores.

"I went once and I asked the lady next to me, 'Which one is spinach?'" the 75-year-old actress said, before breaking out into laughter.
Still, she was not joking.

When the movie — a remake of a 1979 George Burns vehicle about three elderly gentlemen who rob a bank — was filmed in 2015 in Brooklyn, "Alan and I were doing a scene with vegetables," Ann-Margret continued. "'What's that?' I asked him. It was purple and it was perfect."

"You don't know what that is?" Mr. Arkin said to her.

"No, I don't," Ann-Margret responded.

"It's an eggplant," Mr. Arkin told her.

"Usually I just see eggplant all mashed up," Ann-Margret said in an attempt to explain away her confusion. "Alan Arkin is a good cook. He couldn't fathom the fact that I didn't know what the purple thing was. I'm the only one of all my friends that doesn't cook. But I don't cook and I don't care."

Working in that grocery store, at least for a film role, suited her though. "I got to wear a cute outfit," she said.

It was a chilly Southern California afternoon, and Ann-Margret was seeking another cute outfit. This one would be for the "Going in Style" premiere, which takes place late in the month, in New York. So she paid a visit to the marbled atelier of Mark Zunino, a tanned, muscled designer she has worked with since he took over the business of his mentor, the late Nolan Miller, who also regularly dressed her.

"Isn't this so glamorous?" Ann-Margret asked, as she walked in, wearing a yellow printed shirt and scarf that belonged to her mother. There were pictures of many of Mr. Zunino's clients on the wall, including Beyoncé, Joan Collins, Elizabeth Taylor and, of course, Ann-Margret. A fit mannequin was scrawled with Ann-Margret's name and that of Selena Gomez. Apparently, their hips are the same size.

"Really?" Ann-Margret asked, underlining the aw-shucks, "Who me?" persona that has trailed her since the 1960s.

"She's beautiful," she said of Ms. Gomez. "I've seen her on television."
Typically, she will alert Mr. Zunino to her event calendar. "This time we gave them a week," said Alan Margulies, the actress's manager, who accompanied her to the fitting, along with his assistant, a hairstylist and a makeup artist.

"They know what I don't like," Ann-Margret chimed in, then paused for effect. "What don't I like?"


Mr. Zunino's team presented the actress with two looks — one black, one cotton-candy colored. Before trying either on, Ann-Margret already knew which one was for her: a dress with a removable sleeveless vest, one that she described as "Bye Bye Birdie" pink. Playing the all-American teenager Kim MacAfee in the canonical 1963 movie musical set the then-wide-eyed 21-year-old Swede on the path to superstardom. She likes to stick with what she knows works.

"It's very 'We've got a lot of living to do,'" she said, referring to a big number in the film, as she comically gnawed at the pink crystals lining the dress's sleeves.

Despite having more than 50 films and innumerable episodes of television, from "The Flintstones" to "Army Wives," under her dancer's belt, Ann-Margret said that she liked to keep it demure and was still quite shy. At premieres, "I'm uncomfortable," she explained, as she slipped into the outfit, borrowing a pair of heels and getting a hair and makeup touch-up for a photographer. "How Ann-Margret is that?" she asked no one in particular as she gave herself a once-over in a mirror.
She has also played the sex kitten time and again, a role she reprises as a septuagenarian in "Going in Style." But it makes her blush to describe her love scenes with Mr. Arkin, who this weekend turns 83.

"I'm an only child; my father did not see 'Carnal Knowledge,'" she said of the 1971 film, with Jack Nicholson, that earned her an Academy Award nomination. "He was very proud that people had said that I was talented as an actress, but he knew what it involved."

As Mr. Horsch pinned the outfit, she coyly asked to change topics.
On this year's Oscars: "I felt so sorry for Warren and Faye," she said. As for "La La Land," "it was adorable."

On the new Ryan Murphy show "Feud," about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford: "Studios are still doing that. Pitting people against you." (Ann-Margret's first film role was as Ms. Davis's daughter in "Pocketful of Miracles.")

On her workout routine: A trainer comes to the house in Beverly Hills three times a week. "I eat salad," she said.

On the hot-button issue of women behind the scenes in Hollywood: "On my first movie, there were three women. The body-makeup girl, the hairdresser and the secretary of the producer." There was also a woman who worked as an electrician, like Ann-Margret's father, on "Going in Style." "I'm thrilled," she said. "It'll get better."

Though there were a few "Ray Donovan" episodes in 2014, and movies like 2006's "The Breakup" and 2009's "Old Dogs," Ann-Margret's main role these days remains nursing her husband, Roger Smith, who has Parkinson's disease. "If we make it to May 8, we will have been married 50 years," she said. He was not well enough to join her for much of the film's New York shoot, and his attendance at the premiere was up in the air. "I'm a loner anyway," she said.

But still, Ann-Margret admitted, she would like to keep working, the thought of which changed her outlook on discussing that sex scene with Mr. Arkin after all.

"It's different. It's age appropriate. I think it's wonderful," she said, wistfully. "There's no cutoff age. It doesn't end when you hit 40. It doesn't end when you hit 50. Just because you're older doesn't mean that we've stopped wanting to be with someone. It doesn't mean that you're dead."

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By MARSHALL HEYMAN

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From New York Times

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