Jean Simmons is a "lazy bag." At least she says she is.
"I'm also becoming a hermit," the London-born actress said."I'm spoiled, I'm contented, and I can afford to do only the things I want to do films and television series that have either a jolly good script or actors I like."
But the films and television series keep coming for Simmons, who, at 59, can look back on a long career in which she played Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's film version of "Hamlet," an evangelist in "Elmer Gantry" and stole the heart of Marlon Brando in "Desiree."
She successfully fought alcoholism, saw two marriages to British actor Stewart Granger and writer-director Richard Brooks end in divorce and has run the gamut from what she calls goody-goody roles to tense portrayals of older women.
"Dowdy roles seem to be coming up for me these days," she told Reuters. "I have not played a good bitch part for ages."
Now settled in Los Angeles, Simmons estimates she rejects scripts on a ratio of 10-to-1. "Then the right script turns up or a true friend turns up with a part," she said.
At Kirk Douglas's suggestion, she recently played his loving wife in the television mini-series "Inherit the Wind," inspired by the "Monkey Trial," in which a teacher, J.T. Scopes, was prosecuted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution.
The offer for what she called "not the greatest part in the world" came just after she had filmed "The Old Jester" in Ireland, and Douglas was lucky to persuade Simmons to take it on.
"I'm a lazy bag," she chuckled.
"Kirk tracked me down in Ireland and said `I want you to play my wife. You've got to do it,' " Simmons said. "He is wonderful to work with. He makes a woman feel very feminine."
Simmons, whose leading men have included Spencer Tracy, Richard Burton, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum, began her career as a Rank starlet, a group of young British actresses who appeared in a stream of films made by studio chief J. Arthur Rank.
"I made four pictures a year when I was a kid," she said. "I was very naive then. It was a life of working by day and parties by night. After that I was going to get married and have kids.
"I started to take acting seriously only when I worked with director David Lean in `Great Expectations' when I was 18," she said. Two years later she was nominated for an Oscar for her Ophelia.
She married Granger, the husky star of such films as "King Solomon's Mines," in 1950 and they moved to a ranch in Arizona before coming to Hollywood to make films.
They divorced after 10 years, and she said she hasn't seen him for a long time. But she said second husband Brooks has become a very good friend.
"I am very glad about that. He still calls me `Heh, Kid,' " she said.
"When we married I did sort of semi-retire and cooked for Richard. At the end of a year, he said, `Heh Kid, don't you think you ought to go back to doing what you do best. We'll get a cook.' "
"Poor dear, he must have been starving to death," Simmons murmured.
She has no more marriage plans. "At my age, friends are better," she said.
Her friends include two cocker spaniel puppies. "I have to wear tennis shoes in the house to stop them biting my feet," she said with a laugh. "But they are right for my beautiful home. I can keep things on coffee tables."
Simmons said she used to wait two years before watching one of her films.
"When I was doing `Hamlet' Larry (Olivier) wanted me to see the daily rushes. During one of the mad scenes I started to laugh. Larry threw me out of the screening room.
"Richard (Brooks) made me watch a scene when he was directing `Elmer Gantry' and I literally couldn't walk, talk or do anything for a long time. I was so self-conscious. Richard also told me never to watch rushes again.
"You suddenly become aware of what is wrong with you during rushes," she said.
What is wrong with Jean Simmons?
"Never mind," she said.