Last year, we met actor and director Stacey Souther, who crafted a touching document of the life and career of Oscar-nominated actress Valerie Perrine. The former Las Vegas showgirl wowed audiences with performances in films like Slaughterhouse-Five and Lenny and achieved cult status for her portrayal of the ultimate “henchwoman with a heart of gold”, Miss Teschmacher in Superman and Superman 2. (And we here at Socialite Life adored her in the Village People musical Can’t Stop the Music.)
Upon its initial release, Valerie received critical and fan praise and brought Valerie’s story – and her current struggles with Parkinson’s Disease – to fans both old and new. On May 3, Valerie is being released on DVD through Amazon and Walmart and will be available to rent on Amazon, Apple TV, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube. We caught up with Stacey to discuss the film’s reception, Valerie’s health and more in our exclusive interview.
On its original release, the movie got an amazing reception from fans and critics. What was that experience like for you?
Oh, I loved it. I mean, when you make something like that, you never know. I thought because it’s her and she does have such a great fan base and she just has an amazing story. She’s had this incredible life with ups and downs and the whole thing, you know, I, I knew people would like it, at least I hoped they would, but you know, I’ve gotten a pretty good reception. I didn’t know people would take away so much from it and giving [Valerie] hope and inspiration because of what she’s going through in the way she’s battling her Parkinson’s and that kind of thing.
I did festivals, but I only did Academy qualifying festivals and that worked out and the movie was being considered for the Oscars, which was a huge thing for my first movie. And, actually, since we talked, they contacted me some time at the end of last year and the movie is now in the permanent collection in the Academy archives. So that’s pretty impressive. You know, so I was happy, I guess Valerie is happy. You know, she’s, you know, she’s seen through the whole thing.
As soon as I would do an interview, whoever it was, like Jeff Bridges or Richard Donner, I’d come home, I’d upload my footage and then I would take it over to her house and then just show her. I’d tell her, “Hey, look, here’s Jeff saying all of these great things about you.” I thought that would also help be therapeutic because who doesn’t want people saying good things about them and how great you are? I mean, I need more of that, you need it, we all need more of that, especially in the world we’re in now.
How is Valerie doing?
She’s hanging in there. She’s starting to have some trouble talking. You can maybe see it some in the movie because it’ll be in [her head]. It’s just hard to get it out, you know, and Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways and there’s no timetable. You know things happen more quickly than other people, but again, she’s hanging in there and she still has a good outlook and is taking it day by day. She’s happy that the movie’s done. She was happy when I didn’t have to shoot her anymore, because I’d be like, “All right, I’m going to shoot you today.” And you know, some days you just don’t feel like it, whoever you are. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel well or not, but she was always a trooper and you’ve seen it, she let us know. It was very intimate, I shot things when she wasn’t feeling good and there was other stuff that didn’t make it in the movie where she just was having a hard day, but she would still be a trooper and at least give it a try.
Stacey Souther talks about Valerie Perrine
Is there any additional content on the DVD?
No, I wish there was. I’ve got stuff and maybe somewhere down the line, I could do another something and add things to it. I had so many great interviews and you know, there were some people that didn’t make it in – because it was going to be a feature originally and then it got scaled down to be a short. Alex Rocco, if you remember him from The Godfather, was great and said some really good stuff. It just didn’t fit in once it got small.
When we were going to start putting it together, one of my producers said, “Hey, this is your movie. You do whatever you want, but have you thought about the short world?” And I was like, “No, not really.” And then he started telling me about all the shorts that were nominated for Oscars that year (2016). There were some good ones that year like Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405. And I thought, you know, not to toot my own horn or whatever, I was like, I think my movie’s better than that movie, I mean for what it is.
So I thought it’d be a bigger fish in a smaller pond and [the movie] might just get more recognition than if it were an hour and a half and maybe get lost. I mean, if I had it all to do over again, I’d probably make it a feature, but I can’t go back now.
I am happy that Valerie is so open about showing the impact Parkinson’s can have on someone’s life.
That was one of the big reasons that she wanted to do the movie, because showing all that raw stuff could help someone else. It could be someone with Parkinson’s or mental health issues, or just somebody going through a bad time in life but that was one of the reasons she did it. And when it comes to celebrities and whatnot, you know, you don’t see that a lot, usually not until they’re really further along in an illness or they pass away or something – like Bruce Willis, you know, apparently his thing’s been going on for a while, but now they brought it to the public’s attention. And I mean, look at all the support that he got from that. I mean, just people reaching out from all over and it’s very positive and I wish…well, I hope that we get some more of that, you know? I mean, that’d be great for Valerie to have more of that kind of support, like, wow, thank you for being you and everything you’ve done and you’ve made a difference in my life or whatever, just all those little things. I think they help out anybody going through going through anything. Again, it’s just positive. We just need more positivity in the world.
Watch the Valerie trailer
Valerie is currently available to buy or rent at valeriemovie.com. There you can also donate towards Valerie’s medical expenses via GoFundMe. Follow Valerie on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Follow Stacey on Twitter and Instagram.