Zoe Wanamaker, the actress-daughter of actor-director Sam Wanamaker, is an American who has lived in England most of her life because she can't face Hollywood-style rejection.
The harsh competitive environment of casting calls, screen tests and auditions for movies and television in this country are too brutal for Wanamaker, who pronounces her first name zoh'ee.Pert, bright and sounding more English than American, Wanamaker moved to England with her parents when she was 3, and except for occasional forays into New York for the theater and a rare trip to Hollywood, she is content to remain an expatriate.
Her father, a Chicago native, moved to London after World War II because of his political associations after being placed on Hollywood's infamous black list in the anti-communist fervor of the time.
The Wanamakers continue to make their home in Britain to this day.
Zoe was educated in London and worked in the Royal Shakespeare Theater in such classics as "Twelfth Night," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Comedy of Errors."
"Every day that I'm in England I feel like an American," said Wanamaker on a recent brief trip to Hollywood. "I feel alien over there. But, strangely, I feel British when I'm in this country."
"I suppose my sensibilities are English," she said. "My thoughts are more closely associated to the British about such things as money and values, manners and language, but I will always be an American to the English because I'm Sam's daughter."
It was her role in "Once in a Lifetime," on stage in England in 1979-80, that led to Wanamaker's casting in the recent "Great Performances" PBS version of the George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart collaboration.
She was cast once again in the role of May, and the play was televised in England, an important item to Wanamaker.
"I was cast to play May without an audition," she said, "which is almost always the case with me in England. The stage, television and film producers know my work and decide whether I'm right for the part without a reading or screen test.
"I've never moved to the United States because I have to audition for parts here. I've never been good at auditioning, and I'm not well-known enough in this country to be hired on my reputation.
"The truth is that all actors in Hollywood audition and none of them like it. I'm simply not adept at it.
"Also I'm frightened of having to experience the rejection here after seeking out roles. In England I am sent scripts, relieving me of the strain of chasing down parts.
"Unless you're Barbra Streisand or Diane Keaton, you have to compete in the United States. That goes against traditional British modesty. In England you can't sell yourself. It's not done. It isn't considered nice to be that egocentric in England."
Then, surprisingly, Wanamaker took a swipe at Hollywood writing that a dyed-in-the-wool Brit might consider bad form. It would be all right to THINK it but not SAY it.
"It hadn't occurred to me to work in a Hollywood miniseries or weekly show like `Dallas,' " Wanamaker said, sounding a bit more English. "That would be hard work when the text is so terrible. The writing here is really inferior."
As if that were not enough, Wanamaker - who has a significant other back in London - took a pot shot at American manhood, another reason for her residing in England.
"I prefer Englishmen to Americans," she said, smiling. "I haven't met many American men I fancy. Englishmen are less aggressive. They are simply nicer and more sophisticated. Also, they're more romantic.
"Of course, I haven't spent enough time in this country to date many Americans. My longest stops in the United States were when I worked on Broadway in `Piaf and in `Loot.' "
Wanamaker said she is truly a creature of two countries - a fact that becomes evident every year at tax time when she has to pay up in both places.