Even as Connie Stevens’ first film as a director, the September release “Saving Grace B. Jones,” is collecting accolades, the one-time Hollywood bombshell is looking forward to directing her second movie. It’s an independent Western called “Prairie Bones” that takes place in 1870.
“They saw my film and hired me to do it,” she says of the producers. “I think I’m right for this historical piece. I love history, and I’m interested in the details of history.”
She also has five other movie projects she’s written. And she’s working on a script she’s planning as a starring vehicle for daughter Joely Fisher, “something really important for her.”
This would be an impressive burst of creativity at any age, but the fact that Connie is 72 makes it downright phenomenal.
What took her so long to embark on her career as an auteur? “I’ve always been the girl with the smile and the chiffon dresses. Maybe I just didn’t believe I could do it myself,” admits Connie, who movie drew accolades as compassionate and poignant at the recent Los Angeles Women’s International Film Festival. “I bought my own publicity, so to speak, and lifestyle.”
The 1950s-set “Saving Grace B. Jones” stars Tatum O’Neal as the mentally disturbed central character, who creates chaos after being released from an asylum and moving in with her brother and sister-in-law (Michael Biehn and Penelope Ann Miller) in a small Missouri town. Connie’s other daughter, Tricia Leigh Fisher, is in the cast as well. The story came out of Connie’s own life experience, dealing with an unbalanced neighbor in Boonville, MO, where she lived as a young teen — well before her rise to fame as Cricket of “Hawaiian Eye” and her years as a fan magazine favorite during her marriage to Eddie Fisher and beyond.
Unexpectedly returning to Boonville on her drive from New York to Los Angeles after 9/11 brought back memories for Connie. Seeing movies that left her thinking “I could write something better than that” and getting inspired by the success of Oscar-winning “The Hurt Locker” director Kathryn Bigelow — all figured in to her venture into the professional unknown.
Becoming a film director as a septuagenarian has advantages, she points out. “I’ve traveled the entire world; there are only two or three places I haven’t been. I find the lightness in people, and what they care about, transcends differences in where they are….I’ve lived long enough to have a different viewpoint on certain subjects that are now coming to the attention of a generation.”