There have been 69 best actress winners in Oscar history—and three of those legendary ladies are getting together to relive their golden moments and reflect on life after Oscar.
Throughout her career, Sissy Spacek has been nominated six times. First nominated in 1976 for the teen scream classic Carrie, Sissy took home the gold for Best Actress in 1981 for her spot-on performance of country singer Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. Since then, Sissy has captivated audiences in more than 60 film and television roles.
Four-time Oscar nominee Holly Hunter is best known for playing the brilliant but neurotic television producer in the 1987 hit Broadcast News. Holly won the Academy Award for her haunting portrayal of a mute woman trapped in a loveless marriage in The Piano.
Susan Sarandon's sexy turn as a baseball groupie in the 1988 movie Bull Durham made her a star, and her gutsy performance in Thelma and Louise had women across America cheering her on. Susan had already stacked up four Oscar nominations when she won Best Actress for her role as a compassionate nun in Dead Man Walking.
When Holly went to the Oscars for the first time in 1987, she was surprised to realize it was all just a big television production. "It's a little out of body," she says. "It's flats and sets. That was kind of stunning to me, that it really didn't look like the thing was encrusted with real diamonds."
Richard Gere was Susan's date to her first Oscars. "We were late, so they wouldn't put us in our seats to begin with," she says.
Susan says she also struggled with what to wear. "I'm not somebody that's used to getting dressed up and no one at that time gave me a dress or anything," she says. "So a good friend of mine who was a costume guy gave me a little fur to put over my dress, which I barely could buy and it had to go back that night on a plane. So I didn't even get to keep it the whole evening."
Sissy says fashion wasn't as big a production as it is now. "We just went out to the store and bought a dress off the rack," she says. "It actually was less pressure."
Holly agrees. "And there was much less judgment," she says. "[But now] it's fun to have access to all these amazing gowns. There's pros and cons—but there's definitely pros."
The women say they will never forget the night they won their Oscars. "Laurence Fishburne leaned over to me and said, 'If you don't get it this time, we're burning this place down,'" Susan says.
When she won, Susan says her son was watching at home. "I put my hand to my head, he thought I was going to faint," she says. "So he was very happy I just didn't fall down."
Sissy says she was overwhelmed when she took the stage—until she saw Loretta Lynn and her husband. "I swear I looked out and I saw a cowboy hat. And they said they looked at the tape and there was no cowboy hat," she says. "Loretta punched him and made him take it off."
Once taking Oscar home, Susan says she kept hers in the guest bathroom. "There's a bathroom that has a number of statuettes, not just the Oscar, but all the different things ... the kids always called it the 'famous bathroom,'" she says. "But right now my Oscar got bored of being in the bathroom, and now it's on tour. The Museum of Natural History [in Chicago] took it. I lent it to them for their gold exhibition."
Holly's Oscar is in a display case next to the Academy Awards of her longtime friends Frances McDormand and Joel and Ethan Coen at the Coens' New York office. "Joel and Ethan said, 'Do you want to keep your Oscar at the office?' And I just said, 'Yeah, sure,'" she says. "We just have them as a little family down there."
And Sissy? "I'm rarely without it," she jokes. "I take it everywhere with me."
Knowing what she knows now, Susan says she wouldn't want to be a 20 year old in show business today. "Everyone has a phone with a camera. They're reporting every move you make. When you make a mistake, it goes everywhere. People are constantly talking about your body type," she says. "I think in some ways it is harder."
For three years, Holly starred on the TV hit show Saving Grace—and performed many nude scenes at age 50. "I was getting to play kind of like a rock star at the age of 50, somebody who didn't care about her age at all and didn't really have any boundaries," she says. "I'm very grateful that I had that opportunity at the age of 50 instead of at the age of 35."
When it comes to plastic surgery, Sissy says she's all for it—in print. "I vote for what they can do in magazines where they airbrush you," she says. "If somebody could just invent an airbrush that you can use on film footage, it would be a gift from God."
Still, Sissy says she's careful in the messages she sends her daughters, who want to follow in their mom's acting footsteps. "It's hard being a woman in today's world," Sissy says. "We're always judging ourselves, and I'm pretty careful about that because I have two beautiful daughters."
Sissy says she mostly wants her daughters to follow their bliss. "I raised them in Virginia. Then, of course, both of them moved to L.A.," she says. "But they took their Virginia values with them."
When Susan started her career, she says people told her having a family would limit the roles she was offered. "I remember people saying to me, 'You know, once you start having kids, you won't be sexy anymore,'" she says.
Because of that, Susan wants her two sons and daughter to know they can find fulfillment in any area of their lives. "I think that the most important thing really is to understand that you do have the right to be happy, you have the right to have a family and a career," she says. "I think the most important thing, especially if you're raising kids that are privileged, is you want them to find something they feel passionately about."