Susan Tyrrell in a scene from Fat City.
Susan Tyrrell always brought a unique and offbeat magic to movies she starred in…even the ones that sucked. Her film credits read like the index for a book on cult films. From Andy Warhol’s Bad to Marco Ferreri’s Tales Of Ordinary Madness and Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone, Tyrrell could ignite flicks that strained to be weird with flashes of her eccentric brilliance, often salvaging otherwise unwatchable pieces of crap.
Tyrrell’s free and fearless spirit was a rare thing in the increasingly uptight world of commercial cinema. And when she had a good role in a good movie she could create something great. Her performance as Oma in John Huston’s Fat City is absolutely heartbreaking, an embodiment of the dark night of a woman’s soul, and deservedly garnered her a Oscar nomination in 1973.
Tyrrell suffered from a rare blood disease, thrombocythemia, and lost both of legs in 2000. But despite the handicap, she continued to take on some small film roles, including an appearance in the Felliniesque Masked and Anonymous starring Bob Dylan.
I’m a loner. I don’t like beautiful people, but I find beauty in the grotesque. And in the sweet soul inside someone who has been able to get through their life without being a rat’s ass. Such people should be collected, should be swept up immediately and kept in a box of broken people. I’ve collected people my whole life. Sometimes it ends badly, but it’s absolutely never on my part. Because I know how fabulous I am. You’re just going to have to take my word for it - I’m an incredible person. I do good deeds, and I love people, but the only way I can do these things is to stay apart. Because you can just stand so much. But the people who you meet in your life, who cross your path, the ones who are decent, should be collected.” Susan Tyrrell.
Tyrrell died this past Sunday. She was 67 and living in Austin. Details of her death have yet to be released.
Here’s a clip from 1982’s Forbidden Zone, featuring a delightfully demented Tyrrell as Queen Doris of the Sixth Dimension.