Playboy: In 1965, you were ten years old--a little young to be so aware of social change. Was it your mother who was aware of what was going on around her?
Goldberg: No, no. Awareness had nothing to do with it. Everybody's parents worked. Some people had two parents and some people didn't. I was aware of what the women's movement was asking for. These women were burning bras and saying, "We want to be able to do this and that." But that had nothing to do with the people in my neighborhood. The issues that were raised then were issues that my mother had already fought for. She worked as a practical nurse at French Hospital in New York. Female practical nurses made what male practical nurses made. Equality was never a question. In my neighborhood, it's about your kids' being hungry, you know?
Playboy: How does that attitude work for you in Hollywood? Haven't you ever been offended as a woman by, say, a male-chauvinist producer or executive?
Goldberg: As a person, yes. Never as a woman. Of course, I don't like people having nasty attitudes toward me for no reason. People have told me I wasn't pretty enough to do certain films. But then, because they can't get the really pretty people, they have to switch and pay an ugly woman's price. [Laughs]
Playboy: Let's turn it around. Has being a woman made it easier for you?
Goldberg: I've never fucked my way anywhere, if that's what you mean. Could never do that. [Pauses] I don't think so. The only time I think about being a woman here is when I see how women treat one another. Basically, people don't fuck with me, because I don't intimidate anyone overtly, like by being glamorous. I'm sure that if someone has to spend two hours on her make-up and then she looks at me and knows I spend five seconds just wiping myself off, it may be a bit intimidating. [Laughs] In the same way, I look at some women and think, Goddamn, if I could just look like that for five minutes, I would be happy. I'd love to look like Shari Belafonte Harper--gorgeous and a nice person. If you're lucky, you get both. I have days like that.
Playboy: Is it tough to relate to these pretty fashion plates?
Goldberg: We don't have much in common. I can't talk about nail color, because I bite my nails. I can't talk about the best hairdos, facials or shopping. IÂ haveÂ watched a lot of women play woman games, especially if I'm at a function with my husband. A woman will say hello to me and "Hiiiiii" to my husband. The first one is kind of a "Watch this" to me; the second is an "I can make your dick hard" to him. I could whisper in her ear, "Bitch, if you come near him, I'll chop your fingers off," but I don't have to. I'm too secure to think he's going to go out onto the veranda and fuck some stunningly gorgeous woman. In fact, I'm rather pleased that women notice him.
Playboy: Women's jealousy--sounds like a subject you might discuss with your friend Oprah Winfrey.
Goldberg: Yes. She and I and Rae Dawn Chong got very tight with one another on the set of The Color Purple. We'd sit and gab in the fucking Holiday Inn. We went to see Patti LaBelle in concert. Also Springsteen. I took Oprah to buy cowboy boots. We talk about everything. Girl talk about guys, mostly. You know: "Whoopi, what's the craziest thing that's ever happened to you?" And I said, "My Rolodex." So Oprah and I went through my Rolodex together and she was going, "Ooh, girl! Oh, shit! I want this number!" Now we just call each other ho. That's for whore. "Hey, ho!"
Playboy: On your next picture, Jumpin' Jack Flash, the problems apparently happened during filming, not afterward. What stands out about that experience?
Goldberg: Making that movie was awful. It was a fucking terrible experience that made me an ugly person--and I didn't like that. The fact that the film has done well is no consolation. None. The producers wanted me to be the female answer to Eddie Murphy. But I'm not the black female answer to anybody. At the outset, they said, "We want something original. You put it together with the writers." They went through a lot of fucking writers. But very little of what you see on the screen was on paper. It's me.
Playboy: Wasn't the script originally done----
Goldberg: For Shelley Long. It's a mistake to try to rewrite things for me. Only I can take the material that's already there and have some fun with it. They'd said I could--which is why I said yes to the script. Eventually, I sat in a room with an executive who said, "Well, I know we promised you all this, but, frankly, we've got you. You have signed on the dotted line. You have to make this movie and you're going to do it this way." I got the "artistic-control" handshake in the beginning, but I've learned never to assume anything again. From now on, every minute detail will be spelled out in my contract so that I know where I stand at all times. It was quite an education--like graduate school. This film deva-fucking-stated me! I'm not even positive that the producers wanted to make this movie work. [Pauses] It's a piece of shit that flew for some reason. It flies because I'm cute in it. It doesn't have any redeeming quality, and it's not a great performance.
Playboy: Nonetheless, it was a box-office success. Does its director, Penny Marshall, deserve the credit?
Goldberg: No. Donald Duck could have directed that film and the producers would have gotten what they got. Penny Marshall should have been the actress in the movie. We clashed, because I had been on the movie for a while before they brought her in and had been going in a specific direction. The producers had given me some leeway to play with things and she had her own very definite idea of how it was going to go. There were times when she'd be standing behind the camera giving me nuances as I was working, as the camera was rolling, showing me what she wanted to see.
Playboy: That's directing, isn't it?
Goldberg: It's annoying. [Sighs] But the further I get away from it, the easier it is for me to calm down and see that it wasn't meant as an insult. A month ago, I would have said it was because Penny was a rotten, terrible, horrible person. And she's not. She would never have been my choice for a director, but this was her first time out and there's a lot of stuff she didn't know. And a lot of faith she didn't have in me, OK?
For me, this is not a good way to work, because I've been spoiled rotten. I got spoiled by Mike Nichols, who said, "You know how to do this. What are you going to do here?" And Spielberg, who said, "OK, great. How would this go?"
The only thing I know how to do is act and do characters. It's one of the reasons for all this hoopla about me. If you don't allow me to show you what I've developed for the character you've given me, then you're fucking yourself. You can get someone else.
Playboy: Hasn't that very self-confidence led some to call you a prima donna?
Goldberg: That's fine. Of course.
Playboy: Have you heard it yourself?
Goldberg: People don't tell me shit to my face. But, like I told you, people are waiting for me to fuck up--and now I have. But that's OK. Jumpin' Jack Flash made money because I'm in it.
Playboy: Your most recent film, Burglar, wasn't written for you, either.
Goldberg: No. It was written for Bruce Willis. I was supposed to play his sidekick. When Bruce didn't sign, the studio canned the project. I called a week after they'd shut it down and said, "I can do this." And they said, "Of course!"
Playboy: The role in Burglar was written for a man, and one of your main characters, Fontaine, is a man. Do you like playing male roles?
Goldberg: My attitude is that I can play anything. I meet with resistance, but people forget that playing different genders is nothing new. Actors did it in Shakespearean times. Or look at Linda Hunt [in The Year of Living Dangerously]. No one knew for a long time that she was a woman. I'd like to play Bob Marley. I'm not saying actors should be allowed to play anything, but they should be able to play anything. That is the art form.
Playboy: Why do you say it's a mistake to write or rewrite scripts to suit you?
Goldberg: Because I do too many things. You have to give me a character and let me build from there. For someone to attempt to write for me means he or she knows what I'm capable of--and it's too soon to know that. I prefer to have things written for Meryl Streep or Shelley Long or Diana Ross or Robert De Niro. And let me play.
Playboy: Aren't you also saying that roles written for you would be limited to black women?
Goldberg: Yes. But also, people think they have to write comedy for me--and I'm not a comedienne. I do not do stand-up. They try to write what they think I do.
Playboy: How has this philosophy been received in the corridors of Hollywood? It's certainly not playing by the rules.
Goldberg: I get strange looks. And I don't know the rules. They don't apply to me.
Playboy: Interesting attitude.
Goldberg: It is. But so far, so good. Rules of limitation on what I can do don't apply, because if they did, then I wouldn't be an actor. I'd be a piece of meat. I'm not interested in that. I'm a good actor, and actors can play anything.