Albert Brooks' mother on Albert Brooks' ''Mother''
Thelma Bernstein tells us how creative her youngest son really is
Although I don’t feel Mother is about me, the first thing I did after seeing the movie was run to my freezer. Not that I had an eight-pound hunk of cheese in there like the mother in the film, but I must tell you, the next day it was a lot emptier. I do buy ice cream and sherbet in large quantities — I never know if someone’s going to come in or if I’m going to need it — and I opened one box and saw a little ”protective ice.” I couldn’t believe it. That box went right down the drain.
Albert called me one day soon after I’d seen the movie, and my call waiting came in, and you know what? I didn’t pick it up. Knowing that half the country laughed over the trailer featuring that scene, I just didn’t want to deal with it.
The relationship between a son and his mother is a difficult subject to begin with — I can’t think of any other movie with that story line — but Albert is so real, and I think that’s what comes across.
Albert and I have always had a wonderful relationship, but he’s very deep and it’s hard to really know what he’s thinking. This movie gave me insights into his feelings and has brought us even closer.
I can’t think of any reason he would have felt the way he does toward the brother in the film. Albert wasn’t jealous when I recently went to visit my middle son, Robert [comedic daredevil Super Dave Osborne], in Canada. And my oldest son, Clifford, is quite brilliant — I always say he’s the most brilliant of all. I’m very grateful to have a good relationship with all three of my children.
I feel I’ve lived so many lives. Well before Albert was born, I was a singing actress. [Brooks’ father was the radio comedian Parkyakarkus.] I did a couple of pictures that were on TV a few years ago [The Toast of New York and New Faces of 1937, using the stage name Thelma Leeds]. Albert never expressed any surprise, but I guess something must have inspired the part in the movie when the son begins to see his mother as who she is — as a person, not just his mother.
Debbie Reynolds did a beautiful job as the mother. I was so sorry she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar because she played the part with such restraint and in such a loving way, she was absolutely perfect. I think because she wasn’t her old boisterous self, people didn’t realize what she had accomplished. Debbie was cute in real life, too — she kept saying we should get Albert and Carrie [Reynolds’ daughter, Carrie Fisher] together.
Although he claims to have women trouble in the movie, Albert has dated more than I know. I once told him, ”I’d like to see you married before I die.” Thank God he’s happily married now. Mother is about a man who believes he must figure out his relationship with his mother before he can enter into a lasting relationship with a woman, and Albert got engaged right after shooting this movie. Isn’t that the funniest timing? Albert Brooks’ mom’s grade: A+++
As told to Lois Alter Mark