Actress Blythe Danner, 70, was born and raised in Philadelphia and got her acting start on the stage in Boston. She earned a Tony in 1970 for her Broadway debut in Butterflies Are Free, and she won two Emmys for her role on the television show Huff. Audiences know her as Robert De Niro’s wife in Meet the Parents and the sequel Fockers movies, as Will’s mother on Will & Grace and as Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother in real life. Filmmaker Jake Paltrow is her other child by director/producer Bruce Paltrow. For 25 years, Danner was a member of the Williamstown Theatre Festival company, and she sits on their board. She performed on Aug. 11 with the Boston Pops at the Citizens Bank Pops by the Sea concert in Hyannis, and she lives in New York.

No. As a matter of fact, it’s sort of what put me on the map, not that I really wanted to be on the map. I kind of like having some anonymity. I like going into the supermarket and having someone say, “Didn’t you and I go to school together?” So some of the notoriety is welcome, and some of it isn’t. 


I don’t read any of it. I will not. It’s garbage, garbage, garbage. It reflects the callousness that’s taken over our society. It’s something I find so disgusting I would never look at it.


I’ve done a lot of Chekhov at Williamstown—The Seagull and The Three Sisters—that’s probably been my most fulfilling work. On film, The Great Santini was a wonderful experience. The Fockers movies all paid the bills. I’m just grateful for work. 


St. Elsewhere. I think it was wonderful, and I think it was deeply fulfilling for him.


Well, we were in L.A. for part of the time, because Bruce was working there. But when Gwyneth entered high school, we moved to New York, and I think the sensibility is closer to mine. The values are a little different. Personally, I much prefer the East Coast.


When I’m asked. I loved the Theatre Company of Boston. That was such an incredible group of actors. I went up to observe them when I was still in college, and there was Dustin Hoffman and Bob Duvall, Jon Voight.


Broken, and I gave it to somebody whose wife worked for the Tonys, and she was going to have it repaired for me. I haven’t seen it since.


To my mind, it’s really the American repertory company. When Nikos Psacharopoulos started there and was doing serious work, he really helped me to grow more than anyone ever has. 


Well, those all thankfully expired within the first year. We all have crazy names in our family. My newest granddaughter is Whistler.


I hope before I’m in my grave. I’ve done a couple of things with Gwyneth. We did a TV thing, and we did Sylvia in New Zealand.


Yes, it was right after Bruce died, and it was a wonderful cathartic and healing experience for both of us. Gwyneth was so, so spectacular in that role. And New Zealand was beautiful. An awful lot of sheep. My driver there had been a shepherd, and I learned much more than I ever wanted to know about sheep doing that film.


My parents were both beautiful singers. They met at the Philadelphia Choral Arts Society, and they just bedazzled us. They were both beautiful and talented. During the Depression, my dad was known as the singing banker of Philadelphia. So, yes, I guess it is.


He was a tremendously hard worker. I remember sitting for hours and hours and hours while he went over everything with a fine-tooth comb. I was pregnant with Gwyneth when I did that, and I remember getting an ice cream with him and John Cassavetes, who was one of his very best friends, and they were teasing me saying, “Who’s the father?”


He was wonderful, but I never felt Sidney made a great movie outside New York City. I’m sure someone would want to spit at me for saying that. I admired him for his focus. He had tremendous energy.


Rob is the most relaxed, laid-back guy. You just can’t ruffle his feathers. He’s got this confidence, which is part of what makes him such a great actor. 


I had a German grandmother who lived with us, and we spoke some German in the house, so Yiddish isn’t all that foreign to me. My husband, who was Jewish, used to say that my mother was more of a Jewish mother than his.


Yes! I’ve known Ben since he was a little boy. Anne [Meara] and Jerry [Stiller] are friends, so to see him evolve into this amazing talent is just great. It’s unusual for someone so funny to be so handsome. And such a smart guy.


I wouldn’t say regret, because they came at times that made it impossible. There were a couple of plum roles that came along, and because of family, I chose not to take them. I didn’t have a good au pair, at the time. I had one who burnt a television set. So there were maybe three really great roles that I passed on, but I don’t like to say what they are, because other actors played them.

I think having been at Williamstown for so many years, I fulfilled most of those aspirations. Being a part of that company was just so amazing.


I’ll go anywhere to work with Chris Walken. He’s outrageous and attentive, and I’ve never seen that combination in another actor. He’s a real company person. Hilarious. He’s never left me out there, hanging on a limb.


He’s a sweetheart. A really nice kid. And a good actor. Together, he and Taylor Schilling are sort of my new children.