‘After Days of Heaven, five-foot-two Linda Manz played Peewee, a diminutive tough in The Wanderers (1979); she was cast in the TV film The Orphan Train and a handful of other early-eighties roles, and finally in Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen, as interpreted for Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. It’s a shame and a mystery that more parts didn’t come her way then. “I kinda got lost in the shuffle of being in the movies because I didn’t have an agent at the time and things were slow and . . . I dunno,” Manz said in a Village Voice interview with Nick Pinkerton in 2011.
‘In the intervening years, she moved to California, married cameraman Bobby Guthrie, and had three kids. In 1997, when Harmony Korine brought Manz back on-screen for Gummo, her performance was weird and fearless and funny and gruff, a jumpstart moment, reintroducing her to a new generation. Korine rightly called her “one of the top five screen presences of all time—right up there with Lillian Gish and Gena Rowlands.” But after Gummo and David Fincher’s The Game, Manz disappeared from the public eye almost as quickly as she’d reentered it.
When I tracked her down in 2014, Linda Manz was living in a small community in the mountains north of Los Angeles, a shrimp-puff-cooking young grandma with rebellious irreverence intact. She didn’t make it into LA much. She told me she was teaching her three-year-old granddaughter how to tap dance the way she had been taught as a child (“a tomboy learning to tap dance!” is how she remembered her own first lesson), the way she had done in her movies. “We were tapping all over the place yesterday!”
‘A Chihuahua barked in the background. She was surrounded by her movies. “I got ’em all right here,” she said proudly. She could still recite her best lines. From Dennis Hopper’s Out of the Blue, playing the Elvis-worshipping Cebe (pronounced CB), hollering at passing trucks: “Subvert normality!” or “I saved your life today.” “How?” “I killed a shit-eating dog.”
‘So much can be said of Manz’s voice, but she was an expressive and captivatingly physical actor too. When she visits her father (Hopper) in prison, she presses her face to the glass with such intense feeling and force you imagine she could launch herself through it; when Richard Gere’s character is shot in Days of Heaven, an uncontrollable shake courses through her body like an electric shock. In her best scene in Harmony Korine’s Gummo, tough and bizarre and tender, she descends into a junk-strewn basement in hot pink short-shorts, pulls a gun on her silent, unyielding son (“If you don’t smile I’m going to kill you!”), tap dances and chicken struts and poses in too-large men’s shoes.
‘Of all her characters—that tap-dancing mom, the tiny gangster Peewee in The Wanderers, the wannabe “mud doctor” Linda of Days of Heaven, and others—Out of the Blue’s Cebe remained her favorite. (A new restoration of the film was set to debut at South by Southwest in March.) When filming wrapped for Gummo, she gave the custom jacket she’d worn in it, embellished with Elvis’s name on the back, to costar Chloë Sevigny. She modeled Cebe after James Dean, she told me. “James Dean, James Dean, James Dean, he was it for me! I’ve always been a tomboy. I’d wear jeans, white shirts, rolled up with the cigarettes right under the sleeve!”
“How much of Cebe was you?” I asked her.
“Probably 100 percent.”
“How so? Would you have described yourself as punk?”
“Not at all, I was into disco!”
“But Cebe’s whole mantra is ‘Disco sucks’!”
“Hahahaha!” I loved Linda’s laugh.
“So maybe you were 99 percent Cebe?”
“Hahahaha!” she cracked up again.
“’Cause Cebe was into Elvis, Johnny Rotten . . .”
“I loved disco. Donna Summer, the Bee Gees! I loved Barry Manilow! Barbra Streisand!” Manz said. “I used to go to discos all the time. I went everywhere. I went to Studio 54 . . . I got in because they got me in.” She didn’t recall who “they” were, but around this time pictures appeared of her with Brooke Shields and with Matt Dillon (who’d just made his own debut as sleeveless punk Richie in the suburban teen rebellion movie Over the Edge). Her version of punk—what she transferred to Cebe—was a feeling: “Attitude,” she said. “Just strong-willed, strong emotion.”
‘When Linda added me as a friend on Facebook, I felt a little starstruck and was compelled to log in more often. Sometimes we exchanged messages there. She reliably posted songs by Barry Gibb, but Barry White was another perennial favorite, as were Al Green, Laura Branigan, and clips from Soul Train—dance music. On her profile she listed her education experience as the School of Hard Knocks, and the University of Life, and I could picture her laughing as she did it, and it was also true. She was online frequently, but having a physical copy to hold in your hand still means more and she asked if I could send her the piece and I said I would. I made color copies and mailed them to her address in California. I imagined maybe I’d get to meet her there someday.
‘Sometime after that story, the director Jeffrey Peixoto asked if I could put him in touch with Linda for a music video he was making. That video never came out, but he sent me footage he’d shot, a brief dazzle of Linda’s family shooting off fireworks in the yard, Linda holding a grandchild and smiling as embers dance past. She was in her midfifties by then; she looked older, but also timeless. By then, he said, she relied on both cigarettes (no judgment) and an oxygen tank, and gamely joked she should voice the part of a Disney witch. This would have no doubt thrilled her grandchildren, not to mention the rest of us who miss her tremendously and, in the wake of her too-early death at fifty-eight, rewatch her brief, blazing output.
‘I knew Manz had become sick and had some emergency hospital visits earlier this year. She was open about some of the heartaches in her life, especially the recent death of one of her sons, in a motorcycle accident. Still I thought she’d outlive cancer, as she had so many other things. “I’ll always be that character,” she’d told me of playing Cebe. “I’m just a tough little rebel, I guess. A survivor, that’s what you’d call me.” I imagined her escaping too, in some version of the way the Linda of Days of Heaven does, the classic knotted-bedsheets-out-the-window move. In the film, it’s cast as an inevitable event. This kid is half raised in open air; she’s just seen fire and plague and murder and she’s expected to go to boarding school? This time she brings along a young rebel comrade who lights a smoke, speaks as tough as Manz (“fuh” for “fur”). Outside, Manz cartwheels down the gray streets, instantly at home again on the railroad tracks, her words mingling with Morricone’s score as they liberate themselves, disappearing into a gray but widening horizon.’ — Rebecca Bengal
Linda Manz @ Wikipedia
Linda Manz @ IMDb
Linda Manz obituary
‘I’m a tough little rebel’: Linda Manz, Hollywood’s anti-star remembered
Subvert Normality: The Streetwise Voice of Linda Manz
Though her credits were few, she left an indelible mark on film culture.
Linda Manz (1961-2020)
Linda Manz @ MUBI
Linda Manz: Out Of The Blue And Into The Black
Film Community Remembers ‘Days of Heaven’ Star, Dead at 58
Calling Linda Manz
R.I.P. Linda Manz
Linda Mana @ Letterboxd
ON THE VOICE OF LINDA MANZ
My small tribute to Linda Manz
Why Chloë Sevigny Is on a Mission to Save the Work of Linda Manz
Secret Style Icon: Linda Manz in Days of Heaven
Gone With The Pain – Linda Manz
DAYS OF LINDA (published at MAI Journal, 2020)
LOS GINKAS – LINDA MANZ
Calling Linda Manz
by Nick Pinkerton
A swaggering, compact wild-child with a fine-featured, scar-chipped face, Linda Manz was a kid star who wouldn’t get past security at Nickelodeon. With Dennis Hopper’s 1980 Out of the Blue beginning a week-long stand at Anthology Film Archives, New Yorkers can see her in her signature role.
Manz, raised on East 78th Street, today lives amid the orchards of California’s Antelope Valley, 49 years old, mother of three grown sons, two hours and a world from Hollywood (not to mention a lifetime—20 years—away from New York). Not much for phones, she took my call at a friend’s house. Her hostess even popped on the line: “I’ve seen the movies, they’re great! She was a helluva little actress!” I agree.
Manz disabuses me of the notion, easy to believe given her total veracity and lack of affect on-screen, that she was a latchkey prodigy who wandered onto a film set: “My mother had an idea of me being in movies—I never had an idea of me being in movies,” she says with a smoker’s laugh and still-strong Dead End Kid accent. “She was a cleaning woman—she worked at the Twin Towers. Yeah, she always put me in drama classes, she put me in dancing schools, talent classes, she put me in Charlie Lowe’s professional whatever-it-was. . . . I think Elliott Gould went there, too. They taught you how to sing, how to dance, how to improv . . . stuff like that.”
Manz was discovered during casting calls for Days of Heaven (1978), eventually playing Richard Gere’s little sister, “Linda,” in Terrence Malick’s Texas Panhandle–set period piece. When Malick couldn’t find his 70mm epic in the editing room, he had the crazy-brilliant idea to let his 15-year-old starlet lead the way: “This was later on: They took me into a voice recording studio,” remembers Manz. “No script, nothing, I just watched the movie and rambled on . . . I dunno, they took whatever dialogue they liked.” Laid over the images, these extemporaneous monologues abut God, the Devil, and some kid named Ding Dong (“I just made that up”) gave the movie its perspective—and a surreal humor Malick never matched.
Days led to roles in the cartoon Bronx of Philip Kaufman’s The Wanderers, as a boxcar kid in TV’s Orphan Train, and then Out of the Blue, Hopper’s head-on collision with the brick wall of nihilist rebellion he’d been staring at his whole career. “I think I was Cebe,” says Manz of relating to her character, a punkette growing up in the blue-collar Northwest who goes out with a bang. Manz, however, faded away, never graduating from juvenile to ingénue—though the scene in Out of the Blue in which she confronts her father (played by Hopper) looking like a Balthus model makes you wonder, “What if?”
Of her early retirement: “I kinda got lost in the shuffle of being in the movies because I didn’t have an agent at the time and things were slow and . . . I dunno.” Though happy enough to recount her film career, the subjects that Manz today speaks about with the most enthusiasm are her first grandchild, three months old, and her recipe for clam bread (see below). She knows that Malick’s latest, The Tree of Life, won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, but hasn’t seen any of his movies since Days: “I’m not a movie buff, I don’t go to movies. . . . I haven’t been to a movie in 20 years.” (She’s been in a couple, however—playing the mother in 1997’s Gummo in a brief comeback—before withdrawing again.)
There’s a prophetic statement by the casting director who found Manz for Days in a 1979 Time profile: “I suspect that Linda wouldn’t feel bad if no more acting jobs come up.” And she really doesn’t seem to—but, oh, the difference to us.
IN HER OWN WORDS: LINDA MANZ’S CLAM BREAD RECIPE:
“Clam bread—this has everything. You take a loaf of French bread, and you hollow it out, and you save the pieces you take out and you cut ’em up like for dipping pieces. . . . And in a saucepan you put one cube of butter, two cubes of cream cheese . . . say two cloves of minced garlic, and you melt it until it’s smooth and creamy, and you pour that into the hollowed-out bread shell. You get two cans of minced clams—after you got it all stirred up, you drain the clams and you dump it into the mixture, stir it up, and then put it into the bread and bake it. Wrap it in tin foil, put it in the oven for like 15 minutes and heat it up—everyone’ll be wanting clam bread. I make it every time for Thanksgiving, Christmas, any holiday, and there’s none left at the end of the day. It’s gone. That and shrimp puffs.”
11 of Linda Manz’s 14 roles
Terrence Malick Days of Heaven (1978)
‘On set, Malick would later confess, Manz had often eluded him. “I feel like I have not been able to grasp a fraction of who she really is,” he said in a rare 1979 interview. But Malick’s instinctive way of working—the magic-hour shoots, his method of directing the crew to suddenly shift gears and film, say, a flock of birds passing overhead—was in so many ways not so different from Manz’s. She’d forget her lines, but she would also transform them, marvelously, revealing the surreal ironies within them just as Malick’s spur-of-the-moment noticings led to some spectacular cinematography. (“Every time I gave her new lines, she interpreted it in her own way,” Malick said. “[W]hen she refers to heaven and hell, she says that everyone is bursting into flames.”)
‘At an impasse two years into editing the film, Malick called in Manz and let her riff, recording as the film unspooled. He was drawing on a voice-over technique he had previously used in Badlands, which features flat, diaristic narration from another precocious teenage girl.
‘Manz’s narration, raw and direct and dreaming, supplied him with the story that was missing, its necessary humor, its fatalistic wizened edge. It pulls Days of Heaven down to earth but also hovers above it, floating in and out of the action, sometimes in the midst of it, often omniscient enough to glimpse the hidden dangers lurking on a sky-blue horizon, the fire behind the sunset, the ghosts that only a child can see. Malick regretted all he left on the cutting floor, but the result is a remarkable edit.
‘Transcribed, it amounts to less than twelve hundred words—a standalone oblique and haunted monologue that lies somewhere between the bloodshot verse of Arkansan poet Frank Stanford and the no-nonsense delivery of Mattie Ross, the young, hard-bitten heroine of Charles Portis’s True Grit. Threaded into Malick’s sublime skies and wheat fields, it becomes something else, intuiting the terror below those ecstatic surfaces. Manz knew the world and the people in it were torn (“You got half devil and half angel in you”) and she ad-libs delightfully, inventing a guy named Ding-Dong whose Rapture vision she recounts: “The mountains are going to go up in big flames. The water’s going to rise in flames. There’s going to be creatures running every which way, some of them burnt, half their wings burnin’. People are going to be screamin’ and howlin’ for help.” Her words lurk beneath idyllic footage of elk herds and clouds, but when the fires and locusts arrive, you start to wonder if maybe Ding-Dong is vindicated.
‘Sometimes the voice is pure hobo poetry, matched to Malick’s Wyeth-esque lonesome houses and fields. “I got to like this farm,” Manz says. “Do anything I want. Roll in the fields. Talk to the wheat patches. When I was sleeping, they’d talk to me. They’d go in my dreams.”
‘“In all my movies I’m just being myself,” she told me. “I just ad-libbed everything. With Days of Heaven, I came in and did all the voice-overs. I made all that stuff up. It wasn’t hard, there wasn’t any pressure. I was just having fun.”’ — Criterion Collection
DAYS OF HEAVEN – Linda Manz Interview
Philip Kaufman The Wanderers (1979)
‘Manz had a small but significant role as Peewee, the girlfriend of a New York street gang member, in Philip Kaufman’s 1979 comedic drama The Wanderers. The film was a solid success with critics and audiences, serving as a springboard for the film’s lead, Ken Wahl. Manz received no such career boost from the film’s good fortune.’ — Awards Daily
Stephen Verona Boardwalk (1979)
‘In 1979, Linda Manz appeared in a curio called Boardwalk that starred Ruth Gordon and Lee Strasberg as an old married couple facing urban blight in Coney Island. Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it “a movie of unrelieved, unexplored gloom.”’ — Vanity Fair
William Graham Orphan Train (1979)
‘In 1854, there were living on the streets of New York City over 10,000 abandoned orphaned children. Out of this desperate situation was born the orphan Train. This is a fictionalized account, based on actual events.’ — MUBI
Dennis Hopper Out Of The Blue (1980)
‘With its dark depiction of a family mired in abuse of all kinds, the picture practically fireballed into 1980’s Cannes Film Festival, where astonished, booing audiences ensured it would slip through the net of history in the years to come. If the raging nuclear family at the movie’s core seem hell-bound, Out of the Blue has been obscurity-bound.
‘For those who did manage to see the film, Manz’s performance has been an inspiration, even a lifeline. For Chloë Sevigny, writing on her Instagram last month, Cebe is “arguably one of the best teen actresses ever portrayed on screen”; interviewed by Paper magazine back in 1995, she even said she wanted a career like Manz’s. “As for acting, I’d like to have a career like Linda Manz. She’s my favourite actress. She did three movies and all of them are masterpieces, except for The Wanderers. Now she lives in a trailer park with three or four kids, I think. But I’d rather do that than do ten movies and make millions of dollars and have them all be trashy films.” For Natasha Lyonne, herself a child star, watching Cebe as a teenager helped her feel less alone. “The world at large doesn’t always make sense to me, and there are safe havens,” she told Interview magazine in 2013. “Linda Manz in Out of the Blue is one of them.”’ — AnotherMag
E.W. Swackhamer Longshot (1981)
‘You know this 80s cheese: a couple kids… a chance to make it big… a few set-backs… and… tournament-level foosball play. Yep, this is an attempt to invest table soccer with stakes and excitement, but finds the actual action of playing the game completely uninteresting until the very last (ridiculous) shot of the film. Which isn’t really surprising given the material. Fortunately Linda Manz (seeing her in something other than Days of Heaven brought us to Tubi for this) as the 14-year-old foos-shark runaway is pretty great, and the whole comes together as fairly adorable fluff. With a lot of original songs that sound like knock-offs of middle-of-the-road 80s pop (several sung by lead Leif Garret) and, somehow, a surprise appearance by Oingo Boingo.’ — Rock Hyrax
Gustav Ehmck Mir reicht’s … ich steig aus! (1983)
‘The intelligent Linda, daughter of Joseph and Jane, takes a critical view of her parents’ marriage. Her father’s dominant behavior and her mother’s indifference become so unbearable to her that she decides to run away. She manages to persuade Jane to accompany her.’ — FGC
Harmony Korine Gummo (1997)
‘After Out of the Blue, Manz, at around 20, stopped acting and didn’t return until Harmony Korine cast her as the mother in his surrealist 1997 film Gummo. “I kinda got lost in the shuffle,” she told the Voice in 2011, and claimed at the time she hadn’t seen a movie in 20 years.’ — Jordan Hoffman
Gummo Trailer (rare alternate version)
Excerpts (w/ audio review)
David Fincher The Game (1997)
‘Retired actress from the late 70s and early 80s, Linda Manz, had a small part in Fincher’s ‘The Game’ as “Christine’s Roommate Amy”.’ — IMDb
Mark Hanlon Buddy Boy (1999)
‘Dark and quirky film about a real introvert that stays home to take care of his mother. He’s extremely lonely and frustrated by his life and spends his time spying on his attractive neighbor. Sounds like a creepy film and it is but Susan Tyrrell who plays his mother is just terrific. Her performance elevates this film from a throw away to a real curio! Tyrrell has made a career out of playing these incredibly offbeat roles and no one does it better. One of the frustrating things about the story is when Emmanuelle Seigner’s character is somehow attracted to Aiden Gillen and he doesn’t seem to appreciate it. Then his paranoia starts to take over and he thinks she’s a cannibal. Film has one of those ambiguous endings and its up to each viewers taste as to how you’ll react to this. But Tyrrell is a standout. Former child actress Linda Manz (Days of Heaven, The Wanderers) appears in the film as well.’ — rosscinema
Nick Ebeling Along for the Ride (2016)
‘Whether or not you’re already a passionate defender of Dennis Hopper’s commercially doomed 1971 Easy Rider follow-up, The Last Movie, which long ago acquired cult status, first-time feature documentary-maker Nick Ebeling’s Along for the Ride will surely make you curious. This rip-roaring tribute to a maverick artist trips along like a surreal odyssey, punctuated by lively reminiscences, choice clips and superb photographic material. The whole enterprise seems remarkably true to the spirit of an anarchic life often driven by booze, blow, women and guns.
‘Blue Velvet gets its due as one of the films that revived Hopper’s career as an actor, with David Lynch praising his work ethic while acknowledging that something inside Hopper made him spark to the character of sexually twisted sociopath Frank Booth: “Dennis was Frank. He knew all about Frank.” But of the handful of later films Hopper made as director, only 1980’s Out of the Blue receives much attention, via recollections from Linda Manz, who played his daughter.’ — Variety
p.s. RIP Vin Scully. Genius. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Thanks, pal! I’m sure I’ll be passing along what’s going on with the film when it goes on. Túró Rudi sounds extremely interesting. I’m going to do a google search and see if there’s anywhere in Paris where I score one. Surely there’s some Hungarian-inclined patisserie out there. Yeah, I reminder when I was hypnotised, my friends would say, you know, ‘Sing a song’ or ‘Do a striptease’ or whatever, and I was just, like, ‘No.’ I remember that when hypnotised, I had no sense of humor. I’m usually kind of humorous guy in person, but under hypnosis I was very calm and robotic. The memory thing was weird. Also one time my hypnotist friend gave me a post-hypnotic suggestion. It was the late 60s, and he said that when I heard a song by King Crimson playing I would think it was Pink Floyd. (I knew those bands really well and wouldn’t have mistaken them.) Then, sure enough, later on when I was post-hypnotised, he played King Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ and what I heard was Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and identified the song as that. Strange. Do you know anyone who’s had a tongue split? I had a friend who had that done back during the ‘Modern Primitive’ fad in the ’90s, and, boy, is he sorry now. Apparently you cant really undo that modification. It’s going to be 36 degrees here today so for the next 24 love can be anything he fucking as long as he’s ice cold and cuddles with me, G. ** Misanthrope, Glad you enjoyed. He’s great. Mm, I suppose it’s not impossible that Alexander’s secretly buried there. That sure would completely alter history yet again. And, let’s face it, history is starting to get a little predictable until you’re a conspiracy theorist. How or why did you get the nickname Dodgie? With an ‘ie’ even. ** JJ Stick, Hi, welcome! Thank you for coming in. Me too, re: Mathews. What’s your favorite of his? Mine kind of shifts around but fairly often it’s ‘The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium’ for some reason. Take care! ** _Black_Acrylic, Yes, indeed, I agree. I’ve never heard of ‘The Voids’. Huh. I’ll seek it out, sounds fun. Thanks, buddy. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Well, right now we’re about to make cuts and trims to our budget to get it down the amount we have. We have to cut 50k out, which is quite a lot considering our small budget. When we have our final budget, we’ll know what we can pay people and can start hiring them. Then Zac and I will go to LA, either in late August or very early September, and do early pre-prod work. There are some people we’ve Zoom auditioned for the crew who seem really promising, so we’ll meet with them. Same with some potential actors. We need to nail down the film’s main location where 85% of the film takes place. There are prospects, but we need to visit them to be sure. So that’s next, and hopefully by the end of that trip we’ll be at least fairly prepared. Then we’ll travel back and forth to LA a few times to work and nail down the cast and rehearse, etc. before we shoot the film probably right after Xmas. Thanks for asking, man. Yeah, I cant say Lovato holds even the tiniest interest for me, but they sound very market savvy. Interesting to write (and read) about at least. ** Okay. I’ve never done a Linda Manz post, and obviously I should, so I did, and now I have, and there you go. See you tomorrow.