Kathy Bates Has One of the Most Interesting Careers in Hollywood

The Oscar winner and star of <em>Bad Santa 2</em> on cohabiting with the Coen Brothers and earning her place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

I took my first trip to L.A. from Memphis in 1956 because my aunt Lee and grandmother Nan lived in Hollywood. My aunt used to take me on the bus down Wilshire Boulevard, and we would go to Bullock’s downtown. We’d go upstairs to the tearoom and have pimento sandwiches, and I think they had aspic and stuff like that. Those were the days when women were still walking around with all of the fashions on, and so it made me feel like quite the little lady. I have a wonderful picture of my aunt and me in front of Grauman’s Chinese, probably about 25 yards from where my star on the Walk of Fame is today. We were going to see The King and I. I went back 34 years later with Stephen King because that’s where we had our premiere for Misery. That photo of me and Aunt Lee was actually blown up and used in the film; it’s the picture over Annie’s piano in the parlor. Getting the star and seeing that photo of my aunt has been bittersweet because I can remember her calling from L.A. to tell us she had breast cancer. I recall being on the phone in the back hall in the house in Memphis and hearing her voice on the phone—I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. My mother also got breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy, and I had breast cancer about four-and-a-half years ago. I loved spending time with my aunt—I was so fond of her.

I moved from New York in 1985, and when I came to Los Angeles, I felt a relief to get those cement buildings off my head.

My fiancé at the time found a place through a friend of ours—I want to say it was Frances McDormand. We were up on Westerly Terrace in Silver Lake, before it became gentrified. Sam Raimi was one of our roommates, and he had just done The Evil Dead; he had these weird creatures in his room that he’d built. We were also splitting the house with the Coen brothers. I ended up doing a lot of theater in those first few years. I did a production of Aunt Dan and Lemon with Elizabeth McGovern, who was dating Rob Reiner at the time—I think that’s what gave him the idea to cast me in Misery. At the Oscars that year, I remember telling my then-fiancé, “I think I’m going to win,” and he said, “Don’t get your hopes up.” And I thought, I just have this feeling I’m going to win. I’ve learned that you always feel that way.

I guess because I came to the Hollywood scene late in life, I’ve never felt part of the A-team. When I got my star, my friends from college all came out. I’m 68 now, and I’ve worked for a good 45 years to build a career and to build a home for myself. I was so happy and proud to share it with my friends and to really look around and appreciate the fruits of my labor and feel truly at home.