Candice Bergen is intent on embracing her 70s. "My life is a very tiny life now," she said, referring to coronavirus restrictions. "I don't mind it, frankly. For someone in their 70s, it's not a tragedy."
While she still maintains a home in Los Angeles, usually she can be found at the New York City apartment she shares with Marshall Rose, a real estate developer and philanthropist she married in 2000. The couple have quiet dinners and watch "The West Wing" in a dark red room covered with dog paintings.
"I'm an old person," Bergen said. "When I go to get my makeup done, the woman who does it says, when she is finished, 'Now you look like Candice Bergen again.' Because when I start, it's like, 'Uh, what a wreck.' Stuff goes."
The Bergen family traces the history of show business in America, from the rise of her father, Edgar, in vaudeville, radio and fledgling TV as a ventriloquist — with a smart-aleck dummy named Charlie McCarthy — to Candice's own half-century career in movies and TV, capped by her five Emmys for "Murphy Brown."
Now, at 74, Bergen is in the swim with streaming, starring with Meryl Streep and Dianne Wiest in "Let Them All Talk," an extemporaneous movie for HBO Max, directed and filmed by Steven Soderbergh with a handheld camera on board the Queen Mary 2, as actual passengers wandered about.
Bergen always has been blunt about not doing extreme procedures to preserve her looks, including starving herself. "I was never a good dieter," she said, adding brightly: "I ate an entire pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, all by myself in my kitchen. Without the crust, but the entire filling of the pie."
Her daughter, Chloe Malle, a writer at Vogue, said that Bergen's lack of vanity is an extension of her I-don't-give-a-damn attitude.
"She really doesn't care," Malle said. "Most of quarantine, she has been strolling through Central Park with [her dog] Bruce in her pajamas and the coat she got on Amazon, her hair sticking up."
Early in her career, Bergen got scathing reviews. But on "SNL" and in the 1979 film "Starting Over" with Burt Reynolds and Jill Clayburgh, and then in "Murphy Brown," she discovered she had comedic timing.
"For me, being funny is my joy," she said. "Doing 'Murphy' was just such a gift for me."
Her new movie is about three college friends who reunite when Alice, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist played by Streep, invites Roberta (Bergen) and Susan (Wiest) on a crossing to London. Roberta is from Texas, and while Bergen is at a place in her career in which she easily could rest on her laurels, she refuses to do so.
"Candy told us she actually flew to Houston to see oil rigs as preparation for her role," Wiest said. "I thought, 'Wow, Hollywood royalty does deep research!' "
Her friends gush about her. "At her age, she doesn't have to do any of this," said Diane English, creator of "Murphy Brown." "She has such respect for the script and the written word, and she works so hard to get it exactly right. This is a huge challenge for her. But she wants another challenge. It's daunting but she totally embraced it."