Oscar®-winning actress Shirley MacLaine is a true original. After getting her start singing and dancing on Broadway, Shirley went on to a silver-screen career working with some of Hollywood's greatest legends: Alfred Hitchcock, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon and Jack Nicholson, to name a few.
She's played a retired ballerina (The Turning Point), a brash good-time girl (Some Came Running), a lovelorn mistress (The Apartment), an overbearing mother (Terms of Endearment) and a grouchy, sharp-tongued widow (Steel Magnolias). Shirley's diverse acting career has spanned more than five decades and earned her a place among Tinseltown's finest performers.
Shirley is here to talk about her fascinating life, past lives, former loves, honest confessions and everything in between.
She's starred in 63 films, but it's Shirley's real life that may make the best screenplay. She's written 11 books selling more than 20 million copies, many of them detailing her outspoken beliefs about UFOs and reincarnation.
"She's been criticized a lot, but I think she has been so misunderstood," Oprah says. "[She is] one of my greatest teachers."
Now, at 76, Shirley has written a 12th book—I'm Over All That—a no-holds-barred work filled with the issues that Shirley is "over" and how these things have played out in her life. "I think it's one of your best ones," Oprah says to Shirley.
As a part of "old Hollywood," Shirley was often around legends like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.—part of the infamous Rat Pack.
"The brilliance of old Hollywood, particularly with the live performers, ... [is] they always told the truth about everything," Shirley says. "[There was] authenticity about their lives. About what they were afraid of. For example, Dean and Frank would be [onstage] and Frank would tell a joke—but nobody would laugh. Then Frank would throw it to Dean and say, 'You tell the joke.' Everybody would convulse. Frank would say, 'Why didn't they laugh at me?' And Dean would say, 'You're just not funny, Frank.'"
"When you were in it with Frank Sinatra and Dean and Sammy Davis Jr., ... did you know then what it was?" Oprah asks. "Did you know that it held the level of glamour and Hollywood-ism that it now holds?"
"No," Shirley answers. "I didn't know who they were."
In addition to hanging out with members of the Rat Pack, Shirley had also worked with some of Hollywood's hottest leading men, including Jack Lemmon and Jack Nicholson.
"I wasn't attracted to Jack [Lemmon]. He was a sweetheart," she says. "He didn't have that dangerous, complicated sexual thing that I liked helping the man I was attracted to figure out."
"I think Jack Nicholson has all that dangerous chemistry," Oprah says. "He does not?"
"Too much for me!" Shirley says.
In her book, Shirley confesses which of her co-stars and co-workers she was attracted to. "[I had] quite a relationship with Robert Mitchum," she recalls. "Yves Montand...I was attracted to some of the directors ... And everyone knows that what happened on a set stays on a set. No one talked."
Before the lovers, the films and the fame, one of Shirley's treasured roles was that of big sister to her younger brother, actor Warren Beatty. "When we were kids, I really did protect him," she says. "[And] he always wanted to tag along with me and my girlfriends, but I always said, 'No, no, go home.'"
Today, Shirley says her relationship with Warren is still going strong. "It's terrific," she says. "I see him whenever I'm in California."
Though she's traveled all over the world for films and for pleasure, Shirley says that she feels most at peace at her home in New Mexico with her dog Terry. It's a sprawling, adobe-style home with breathtaking views—and Shirley says it seemed to call to her.
"I walked into the house ... not intending to buy a house," she says. "I sensed that there was a dancer that died at the top of the stairway and that she now wanted me to have this house. So, I called the person I was dealing with and bought the house without even looking at the rest of it."
Now, her home is filled with Hollywood history, from her "Wall of Life" that features countless photographs of Shirley with her famous friends to her dining room that features the furniture used in Terms of Endearment.
Forty-five miles away from her home is Shirley's 8,000-acre ranch—a self-sufficient property that's totally off the grid with its wind turbine and solar panels for electricity, fireplaces for heat and small greenhouses for fresh fruit and vegetables year round.
Shirley says she has seen many UFOs from the deck of her New Mexico property. "I've seen a mothership here, and I've seen them at my ranch," she says. "One famous day, a friend of mine was sitting in my hot tub out there, and three UFOs came over and hovered over the hot tub for about 10 minutes."
As a firm believer in UFOs, Shirley says that she believes extraterrestrials are attracted to the many crystals around New Mexico. "Crystals amplify the consciousness," she says. "They're attracted to that crystal amplification."
She says she has never seen an alien but says their teaching is that the soul does not die. "The soul is everlasting, and its learning experience is lifetime after lifetime," Shirley says.
Since she believes the soul is everlasting, Shirley says she does not attend funerals—in her belief system, no one ever dies.
"Nobody's dead, so why am I going to a funeral?" she says.
Shirley believes that instead of dying, people shed their bodies and literally pass on. "[You] go to another level of understanding until you decide to come back to the schoolroom again—Earth," she says. "It could be that you decide to reincarnate on another planet. That's why we're so interested in star nations and extraterrestrials and so forth, because we probably had experiences there and it's in our memory system."
Like Shirley, Oprah also has great interest in spirituality and points out that their discussion of spirituality is not a discussion about religion. "My definition of spirituality is really having an open heart, being able to openly receive the possibility of all that is," Oprah says. "With all the talk now about openheartedness ... and being exposed to other cultures, do you feel this is an affirmation of what you've been saying?"
"Yes, because we have all been so many people," Shirley says. "We've had so many lifetimes of different cultures and different religions and different points of view and different wars and different loves and different children."
"Then why—if we've been all those people—do you feel that it's so difficult for other people to open up and accept other people of the world?" Oprah asks.
"Because we don't have a spiritual education in our schools," Shirley says. "Not a religious education. Spiritual education. If they would teach us from the time we're little to meditate and get in touch with all that our souls know, we wouldn't fight so much."
These types of beliefs about spirituality, UFOs, aliens and reincarnation have earned Shirley her critics, but the criticism doesn't bother her. "I never had the urge to please anybody," she says. "I don't know where that came from."
"You know where it comes from? It comes from a tremendous sense of your own self-worth," Oprah says. "You know that your own value is within yourself and you don't have to get it outside yourself."
This sense of self-worth may have fueled Shirley's independent nature, which she says manifests itself in her past relationships and life today. "I felt very comfortable being alone," she says. "That's why I live alone now. That's why I never had a conventional marriage. That's why I loved to travel [alone]."
Since Shirley does not consider herself a people-pleaser and doesn't care what people think of her, Oprah asks if she ever feels misunderstood by the people who have formed less favorable opinions about her.
"No, that's their problem," Shirley laughs. "I try to make [myself] simply understood. I do know that's my task."
What Shirley has learned throughout her life is to be yourself and surrender to what is. She says, "If you're comfortable with yourself—which everyone can get to, to some extent—that's when you start getting into who is your real self."