When they met in college ‑when all of life lay in front of them- they knew they would be friends forever. Candice Bergen and Mary Ellen Mark talk about making the important things last
Summer 1999

231I-047-024 (cover)

When they met in college ‑when all of life lay in front of them- they knew they would be friends forever. Candice Bergen and Mary Ellen Mark talk about making the important things last

When they met in college 34 years ago, they must have seemed an unlikely pair: Candice Bergen, the privileged child of Hollywood, and Mary Ellen Mark, six years older, already an ambitious, iconoclastic artist. Yet, starting from their shared interest in photojournalism and enriched by their deep respect for each other, this odd couple has created an enviable friendship. Expelled from college after one year for flunking art and opera, Candice went on to lead a Hollywood life: 25 films, Murphy Brown, marriage to French director Louis Malle, who died in 1995. (Their daughter, Chloe, is 13) Mary Ellen, meanwhile, took her camera to the fringes of society: an Oregon asylum, the brothels of Bombay. She collaborated with her husband, Martin Bell, on the Academy Award‑nominated documentary Streetwise. Theirs are disparate lives, separated often by distance. "We don't see each other as much as we'd like, but we catch up," Candice says, glancing at her friend. "She's always there."


In the beginning...

Mary Ellen: I was in graduate school and you were a freshman at Penn when we met. Candice: It was 1965.
Mary Ellen: We took a photography class and we immediately became friends. Sometimes you just know that it's going to be a friendship for life.
Candice: You were one of my first women friends. We were both of a generation when women weren't so interesting. You were so much the kind of woman I wanted to be. What you were doing was so exciting.
Mary Ellen: I thought the same thing about you. You were just a kid, but you were a very grown‑up kid.

Marriage real estate and other smart investments

Candice: We've been through a lot together. You were at our wedding. And I remember when you called one morning ‑I was just getting in from jogging‑ and said, "Martin and I got married." When Louis and I lived in New York, we would come down all the time to your loft in SoHo for dinner because your husband is a great cook. I used to take an armed guard! I was this Wasp from the Upper East Side thinking, "Oh my God, I'm never going to survive!"


Candice: I don't think you could have had a child. I don't think you could have worked at a lesser level, and if you had continued to work at this level, it would have been totally unfair to a child.
Mary Ellen: I couldn't have done it. It's the hardest job a woman can do well. It's a career in itself, all‑consuming. I really admire people who can handle both. You've been able to have a solid career and be a fantastic mother.
Candice: I put Chloe first all the time. No question.
Mary Ellen: You can sense that with her because she's loved and secure. She's a beautiful child, and she's going to be an amazing adult.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Candice: One thing I really like about being older is that I'm rid of my hair. It was like walking around with two people all the time.
Mary Ellen: It's great short. But it takes courage.
Candice: Oh God, leaving behind your hair is great!
Mary Ellen: I have had nightmares about cutting my hair. I've never had short hair. I don't have the confidence.
Candice: I can't imagine you without your hair.
Mary Ellen: But you should be able to part with things like that. With confidence. I'm not always confident. I'm scared to death before I do any assignment. I'm always afraid I'm going to fail. You're only as good as the next thing you do. Candice: You have a will of steel, and your physical stamina is unbelievable. You work for days at a time and carry hundreds of pounds of equipment.
Mary Ellen: It gets harder as you get older. Some days I'm really tired.
Candice: I'm so glad to hear you acknowledge it. You make me feel like a total wuss.


The Rupert Everett thing

Mary Ellen: I just photographed Rupert Everett.
Candice: I love him. He's so gifted. He comes from a very well‑to‑do family. He's a great pianist.
Mary Ellen: He has amazing hands.
Candice: He's so beautiful. And of course, Julie Andrews was his idol when he was growing up.
Mary Ellen: He's very eccentric in the English sense. We worked together for three hours. He made it so easy. He's so good‑looking, I couldn't stop looking at him. Candice: We were on location [making the TV movie Arthur the King), and he used to come in after shooting with his vodka tonic. I felt so maternal towards him, and yet...
Mary Ellen: He's so handsome.

Plus ça change...

Mary Ellen: Your life changes, you go through different things, but friends who are solid and real are a part of your life forever. If I did something that you thought was wrong, you'd tell me. And the same with me, but that hasn't occurred. Candice: You're very passionate and very fierce. Fierce as a friend and fierce in the rights of others.
Mary Ellen: But you have that, too.
Candice: Not even close.
Mary Ellen: Maybe we'll collaborate one day.
Candice: It would be fun.
Mary Ellen: It has to be something with some humor to it. You have a beautiful laugh.