Remembering Ken Russell: Ann-Margret talks about her famous 'Tommy' scene
British filmmaker Ken Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 84, had a knack for creating images that were unforgettable for both their pop-art beauty and their boundary pushing eroticism: Alan Bates and Oliver Reed wrestling naked in Women in Love (1969), Vanessa Redgrave passionately kissing Jesus in The Devils (1971).
But one scene in his work stands out from the rest for its sheer tongue-in-cheek audacity. In Tommy (1975), Russell’s psychedelic adaptation of The Who’s rock opera, a pinball wizard’s emotionally fragile mother (Ann-Margret) suffers a surreal nervous breakdown, rolling in baked beans, bubbles, and melted chocolate after throwing a champagne bottle into a TV set. “The crew members were all wearing high boots,” recalls the actress, who earned an Oscar nomination for her gutsy performance. “And here I was in my spandex catsuit that was shrinking each time I did a take.” Here’s what else the actress tells EW about the scene that brought her Oscar glory — and a trip to the hospital.