Looped Star Stefanie Powers Recalls Memories of Tallulah Bankhead and the Challenge of Playing the Hollywood Icon

If Stefanie Powers is experiencing deja vu while playing Tallulah Bankhead in the national tour of Looped, she has every right. Matthew Lombardo’s play centers on the Hollywood icon’s belabored attempts to re-record a line of dialogue from the 1965 movie Die! Die! My Darling! In a fascinating, and slightly meta, twist, Powers played Bankhead’s daughter in that very film when she was just 19 years old. 

“There was a great disparity in our ages, so obviously I was not going to become an intimate friend of hers,” Powers told of working with Bankhead, who was 63 at the time and died three years later. “She opened the door to the possibility of me seeing her whenever I was in New York, so I took advantage of that.”

Powers is tight-lipped about her impressions of Bankhead, but speaks with reverence for the star. “I won’t describe her. I think she’s been described by many more witty people than myself. She stands on her own as an icon, unique among all of those great names of her time. I don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of her again.”

An Emmy nominee for the long-running detective series Hart to Hart, Powers, now 70, was tapped to take over the role of Bankhead from Valerie Harper, who earned a Tony nomination for originating the part on Broadway and was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Looped is currently playing at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through March 17.

Powers noted that portraying Bankhead on stage, having known her personally, has been an unconventional task. “I can’t be subjective and objective at the same time,” she said. “I’m trying my best to play eight shows a week and slip into the skin of somebody as a character whom I have a memory of as well. That is an advantage for me, but at the same time, I have the same dilemmas as all actors do. Trying to slip into her skin every night is why I became an actor. I’m fortunate that I knew her and this is such a wonderful piece of material.”

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