The Untold Truth Of Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone is a living legend in the entertainment world. Over the course of her decades-spanning career, the Broadway, TV, and film actor has received three Tony Awards, (seven nominations) two Grammys, and two Olivier Awards, making her the first-ever American recipient. "Patti's a force of nature, and, in really the best sense of the term, a star," friend and producer Jeffrey Richman said in The Washington Post.

LuPone rose to fame as Eva Perón in the original production of "Evita" in 1979, nabbing her first Tony Award for that seminal role. She picked up a second Tony playing the indomitable stage mother Mama Rose in a 2007 revival of "Gypsy." Earlier this year, the Tonys graced her with a third statuette for her performance in "Company." On TV, she starred in "Life Goes On" in the '90s, and had recurring roles in "Oz," "American Horror Story," and the Netflix miniseries, "Hollywood," playing a part Ryan Murphy wrote specifically for her.

Besides all the acting accolades, the Broadway belter may be just as famous for spouting off about almost anything or anyone. This grand dame of The Great White Way is often unfiltered and unflinching, especially when it comes to those who stand in her way. So, sit tight. We've got your front row seat for all the drama, both on stage and off.

She got the acting bug early on

Patti LuPone grew up in the Northport area on Long Island. Before she was old enough for school, she knew she belonged on stage. As she recounted in a 1991 interview with Newsday, at her first dance recital, all the four-your-old needed was one look at the crowd. "Then I noticed the audience, and I realized, 'I can't get in trouble up here. I can do whatever I want, and they're still smiling at me,'" she said.

Patti and her twin brothers also got into the act. The Three LuPones performed as a dance trio and their mom made it all happen, but LuPone told Newsday that her mother wasn't your typical stage mom or "momager." In high school, Patti stood out from the pack, but not necessarily in a good way. "She was the square peg in the round hole," recalled Esther Scott, one of her teachers. "She was a live wire. She had a presence about her." 

LuPone credits her hometown's school system with fostering her love of music. As she shared at a League of Professional Theatre Women event (via the New York Public Library), her elementary school encouraged students to play instruments, and those music lessons carried on through high school. "So I had a strong musical background in a public school system," she said. LuPone would go on to study at Juilliard, where she would be a member of the drama program's first graduating class.

She called her Evita director 'demoralizing and defeating'

When Patti LuPone was shooting Steven Spielberg's film "1941" on the West Coast in the late '70s, she was called back to New York for a final audition for the titular role in "Evita" on Broadway. As she details in "Patti LuPone: A Memoir," she was warned that if the audition interfered with her shooting schedule, she could kiss her dreams of a Hollywood career goodbye.

She nailed the audition, and collected her first Tony for "Evita," but the show was fraught with off-stage turmoil. In 2019, LuPone told The New York Times director Hal Prince bullied her and relentlessly taunted her in front of the cast and crew. "He treated me like a stupid chorus girl. It was so demoralizing and defeating," she said, noting that it minimized her status as the company's leading lady. At the time, the actor didn't know where to turn for help, because she believed the director had all the power.

"But I would've been fired, and I knew that," she said. "Evita" was her star-making turn on Broadway, but it came with a cost, leaving her so scarred by what happened she never worked with Prince again, as she shared with The Washington Post in 2017. In her memoir, LuPone writes, "What many believe must have been a glorious ascent into heady stardom was, for me, a trial by fire, with the constant threat of being burned at the stake."

Patti LuPone panned Uma Thurman's Broadway debut

In 2018, Patti LuPone expressed her dismay over Hollywood stars who are not qualified to perform on stage, and she set her sights on one particular target: Mia Wallace. Yes, Patti LuPone called out Uma Thurman. Per INews, at the launch of a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company," the Broadway veteran started the conversation by saying, "I don't necessarily need to see film actors on stage, because they can't. Not in my country they can't." Then, she lit into the "Kill Bill" actor's first Broadway outing. "Can I just say, Uma Thurman in 'The Parisian Woman,' anybody see it? Holy s**t! I'm sorry, I'm sorry." The Tony winner added that she didn't have a personal beef with the film actor, but she did have concerns about Broadway casting Hollywood stars in general. "I'm not sure there is a stigma any more (about film actors doing theater), perhaps there should be," she said

In her final point, LuPone suggested movie stars are lowering the standards of theater. "But you want those people to come to the stage for the right reason and that is to honor the stage, honor the theater and not be in for themselves, and I'm not saying that Uma was," she said. For the record, a number of reviewers seemed to agree with LuPone's assessment of the "Pulp Fiction" star's performance. The New York Times dubbed it "exceedingly bland," and Deadline called it a "train wreck."

Patti LuPone called Madonna 'a movie killer'

After beating out Hollywood heavyweights Meryl Streep and Michelle Pfeiffer, Madonna landed one of the most coveted roles of the late '90s. Playing Eva Perón in the 1996 movie musical adaptation of "Evita," the Material Girl earned a Golden Globe Award for her performance. But Patti LuPone "expressed herself" freely about the singer's portrayal of the character that made her a Broadway star, and she was not at all impressed.

In 2017, on "Watch What Happens Live," she told Andy Cohen, "Madonna is a movie killer, she's dead behind the eyes, she cannot act her way out of a paper bag, she should not be in film or on stage. She's a wonderful performer for what she does, but she is not an actress. Bang." The "Life Goes On" actor shared that the two Grammy winners met after the film's opening night party, and according to LuPone, the "Vogue" singer only had four words to say to her: "'I'm taller than you.' Bada bing."

As for the professional critics, not many gave Madonna's take on "Evita," which co-starred Antonia Banderas and Jonathan Pryce, a resounding two thumbs up. Regarding Madge's performance, Entertainment Weekly wrote, "She drains the life out of herself, and drains it out of 'Evita,' too." Film reviewer Tim Brayton wasn't any less critical, writing for Antagony & Ecstasy, "No matter how great all the constituent elements were, [it couldn't] survive the kind of stiff, wholly artificial and forced performance that Madonna gives." Ouch.

Patti LuPone sparked controversy with a tweet

In 2019, Patti LuPone sent a tweet urging Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to come out of the closet, and it didn't go over so well. It started when the South Carolina senator defended President Trump's racist tweets about four congresswomen of color. As CNN reported at the time, Graham then took it a step further on "Fox & Friends," calling the legislators communists. In response, LuPone tweeted, "Lindsey Graham you are a disgrace. On a personal note, why don't you just bite the bullet and come out. You might just come to your senses." 

While there have been rumors and speculation surrounding the senator's sexuality for years, in response to a 2018 Chelsea Handler tweet about the subject, he confirmed to TMZ, "To the extent that it matters, I'm not gay." Some were surprised by the tweet from LuPone, an LGBTQ ally, with one user writing, "Wow! Patti LuPone is homophobic! Who knew?" Another user didn't see it that way, tweeting, "Calling on someone to come out of the closet and live their true best life isn't homophobic."

Another person applauded the Broadway veteran's post, writing, "Brava Miss Patti. Drag that queen." Per The Advocate, neither Graham nor LuPone commented about her tweet. As for Senator Graham, who never married, he told Politico in 2015 that there is nothing wrong with being single. "Having a marriage and a good family and children is a blessing," he said. "But I don't think I'm a defective person by any means."

Patti LuPone feuded with Glenn Close for years

In 1993, Patti LuPone was the original Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical adaptation of "Sunset Boulevard" in London's West End. The show was a hit, and the leading lady was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for her performance. But when the production headed to Broadway, Webber was talking to other actors to replace her, including Meryl Streep. 

As W Magazine recounted, gossip columnist Liz Smith broke the news that Glenn Close, who was playing the role in Los Angeles, would be taking the lead. When asked by the press at the time to comment about Webber, LuPone joked, "I have nothing nice to say about the man, so I choose to say nothing at all." The actor sued the composer for breach of contract, and a settlement was reached in 1994 for an estimated $1 million, per the AP.

LuPone spent the money on a pool, calling it, "The Andrew Lloyd Webber Memorial Pool," per The New York Times. She admitted she held a grudge against Webber and Close for years. But on a 2017 episode of "Watch What Happens Live," LuPone said the two stars ended their decades-long feud at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors. There was an empty seat next to LuPone, and the "Hillbilly Elegy" star sat down. "She said, 'I had nothing to do with it' and we hugged," LuPone explained. "And it's that easy, that you can get rid of years of that anxiety."

She feared the Gypsy revival wouldn't happen

After the "Sunset Boulevard" debacle, Patti LuPone returned from London feeling physically and emotionally drained. Tony-winning playwright and director Arthur Laurents ("West Side Story") called her with an offer she wasn't crazy about. Speaking to The New York Times in 2019, LuPone said Laurents wanted her for his play "Jolson Sings Again." LuPone didn't like the material, wasn't happy with the deal, and passed on the offer. When his show flopped, Laurents blamed it on the actor who turned him down.

In 2001, while LuPone was filming "Heist," the director reached out to her again. "He told me I sank his play. In my head I thought, No, actors don't sink plays; playwrights sink plays," she explained to the NYT. "The next thing I heard was that I was banned from his work," In 2006, LuPone was starring in a production of "Gypsy" at The Ravinia Festival outside Chicago, and producers wanted to take the production to New York.

In a 2010 interview with NPR, LuPone said she had to convince Laurents, who wrote the book for the show, to approve another revival of "Gypsy," and she was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to direct her in it. The director received a Tony nomination for his work, and the company's star won a second Tony for her performance. Of the experience, LuPone said in Time Out, "It was a perfect cast, and it was directed out of pure love by Arthur [Laurents]."

The truth about her sex scenes in Hollywood

When Ryan Murphy first approached Patti LuPone about her explicit sex scenes in his miniseries "Hollywood," the TV and movie veteran didn't have much on-screen experience in that department. As she told The New Yorker in 2020, she had a brief topless moment in 1999's  "Summer of Sam," and another sex scene in an Italian film. In "Hollywood," LuPone plays Avis Amberg, the wife of a Hollywood studio mogul who enjoys the company of younger male escorts.

LuPone said she had no reservations about jumping into the graphic sequences. "I'm a sensual person. Why wouldn't I want to have sex and have the world see it?" she said with a laugh in a 2020 interview with Tim Teeman. "Finally! I enjoyed it so much." Her on-screen partners included "The Politician" actor David Corenswet and "Law & Order: Organized Crime" star Dylan McDermott. After their shoot, LuPone told McDermott their scenes felt too orchestrated, having to change camera angles and work with an intimacy coach. Ultimately, McDermott and LuPone's racy moment got the chop. Why? Well, as "The Practice" actor told Schön! in 2020, "My sex scene with Patti LuPone was cut because it was too hot for TV."

The Broadway legend gave Murphy his props for seeing women of a certain age as sexy. "At my age, in Hollywood you're offered dowdy mothers and dowdy grandmothers," she told Tim Teeman. "Ryan gave me a glamour part—which is what I normally play on stage."

Patti LuPone has played Patti LuPone

Patti LuPone is somewhat of a larger-than-life personality. Naturally, she's often asked to play herself on screen. Back in 2005, the Broadway diva and gay icon, made an unforgettable cameo on "Will & Grace." In the episode, Jack, played by Sean Hayes, tries to convince Will (Eric McCormack) he would rather spend time with his best friend than listen to the "Evita" star sing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" while he secretly cuts a lock of her hair.

When "Glee" was still in its original run, Ryan Murphy wanted to center an entire episode of the hit musical series around her. She was not on board. As she told The New Yorker in 2020, "I immediately said no: 'No, no, no, no! I cannot afford to be Patti LuPone'd out of the business.' I'm not Cher. I'm not Britney Spears. I'm not Madonna. I'm still a working actor." She agreed to shoot one scene only with Lea Michele's Rachel Berry, which was the 2011 season finale.

In 2013, she played Patti LuPone yet again. When she was asked to appear on Lena Dunham's popular HBO comedy, "Girls, the "American Horror Story" actor was all for it. "I shot two episodes of 'Girls,' which was thrilling," she told Theatre Mania at the time. "It was a riot." In the two-episode arc, LuPone plays a fictionalized version of herself, alongside fellow Broadway veterans: "The Prom" actor Andrew Rannells and Reed Birney from "Mass."

Patti LuPone insists she's not a 'diva'

For much of her career, Patti LuPone has been labeled a diva. But the outspoken star scoffs at the moniker, calling the term sexist and demeaning to women. "It's just because women are supposed to shut up, or not think those thoughts or talk back," she told The Guardian in 2018. "It's crazy. But talking back is something I've done since I was a little girl, and it's always got me in trouble. Ha!" she said. One of those troublemaking incidents happened while she was working in "Evita."

Speaking to The New Yorker, LuPone recalled an interview with Backstage magazine, in which she said she had no idea what a casting director does. "Is the director such an idiot that he doesn't know how to cast?" she asked. This stirred up some major drama behind the scenes. "And I think I came out of that known as this roaring b***h," she added. In a 2019 interview with The New York Times, LuPone said, "I've been bullied in this business."

"The Pose" alum maintains she's had to endure one crushing blow after another because the industry sees her as tough. "If I am, I've been made tough by this business in order to survive, in order to continue to perform, which is what I was born to do," she said, adding that nothing will stop her from taking her rightful place on stage. We suspect LuPone's loyal fans, the "LuPonettes," have come to expect nothing less from the strong-willed star.

She has no patience for rude audience members

The show must go on, with one exception. Patti LuPone will bring a production to a screeching halt if rude or inconsiderate theatergoers are in attendance. In 2009, the "Gypsy" star literally stopped the show before the big ending of her song, "Rose's Turn," when she spotted someone in the audience snapping photos. "Stop taking pictures, RIGHT NOW!," she shouted at the photographer. "How dare you? Who do you think you are? Get them out!"

In 2015, during a performance of "Shows for Days" at Lincoln Center, LuPone grabbed a cell phone right out of the hands of an audience member who was texting, per CNN. In a statement to Playbill, the actor wrote, "We work hard on stage to create a world that is being totally destroyed by a few, rude, self-absorbed and inconsiderate audience members who are controlled by their phones." And in 2022, LuPone, who tested positive for COVID-19 that February, blasted another theater patron, this time for not wearing a face covering, per The New York Post.

After a performance of "Company," she went into a foul-mouth rant scolding the maskless woman. "Put your mask over your nose — that's why you're in the theater," she said. "That is the rule. If you don't want to follow the rule, get the f**k out!" The patron, however, didn't appreciate the public rebuke, yelling at the Tony winner, "I pay your salary!" LuPone fired back, "Bulls**t! [Lead producer] Chris Harper pays my salary!"

She lives in the country with her 'even-keeled' husband

Patti LuPone met cameraman Matthew Johnston on the set of the 1987 TV movie "LBJ: The Early Years." The couple married on Broadway, on the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater in 1988, where the actor was starring in "Anything Goes," per The Gettysburg Times. Two years later they welcomed a son, Joshua. As frantic and drama-filled as her professional life may be, LuPone's home life with Johnston is what keeps her grounded.

"Matt is really even-keeled, and makes me feel legitimate in what I'm feeling as opposed to histrionic," she told Tim Teeman in 2020 about her husband, a Midwestern sports fan. During the pandemic, the couple locked down with Joshua at their home in rural northwest Connecticut. "It's been lovely," LuPone said about that time together. "I don't know the last time I spent so much time with family, or watch the blossoming of trees."

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the time, she said they biked, walked, cooked, and fed the squirrels and birds. "It all feeds the soul, and I think right now, we are just looking at things to feed the soul." In 2016, the "Penny Dreadful: City of Angels" alum explained to The Los Angeles Times she loves the rush of opening a show on Broadway or singing to a sold-out concert hall. "But I get bored easily. I'm a mother," she added. "I'm a regular person who lives in the country, and I live my life. It's essential."

Patti LuPone's big talent earned her big bucks

Patti LuPone has led a one-of-a-kind career, and she's got quite a fortune to go along with it. According to Celebrity Net Worth, she has a net worth of $8 million dollars. So, how does a legend of the Great White Way go about spending that dough? You know, aside from the pool named after Andrew Lloyd Webber?

Among her purchases is her Connecticut home, which became something of a social media star during the pandemic. Well, a certain piece of the house, that is. As The New Yorker wrote in 2020, "Patti LuPone's basement looks like a cross between a penny arcade, a TGI Fridays, and an after-hours piano bar." In their feature about LuPone's Twitter tours of her basement, the Los Angeles Times quipped, "Naturally, she has a massage table. But who would have imagined that her cellar of curiosities would include a slot machine, Nipper the RCA dog and a pinball machine?" What's not to love about Ms. LuPone's subterranean den of wonder? 

Though she's been an award-winning star of screen and stage for decades, the stage side of things hasn't always been so lucrative for LuPone. As she told NPR's "Talk of the Nation" in 2010, "The first time I made an equivalent of a Broadway salary was two years ago in 'Gypsy.'" Bear in mind, she made her Broadway debut in the 1970s. 

Why she may have sung her Broadway swan song

In a 2017 interview with Vulture, Patti LuPone declared she had belted her last song on Broadway. "This is the last musical. They're very difficult," said the actor who was starring in "War Paint," the story of two rival cosmetics moguls. But in 2021, the famed mezzo-soprano was singing a different tune. After joining a revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Company," LuPone won her third Tony Award starring in the critically-acclaimed production.

After that, the "30 Rock" alum told The New York Times her days as a Broadway hoofer would really be over. "I have two new hips and one new shoulder," she said. "Musicals are killers. They were breaking my body." Noting that she tripped on stage during one performance, she quipped, "The next musical is in a wheelchair." The renowned theater actor is looking to another medium for the next phase of her career: TV.

Speaking to Playbill in 2016, she explained it took quite a while for her to gain acceptance as an actor on the small screen. "I'm all about television now. In fact, I want to end my career in a big fat hit situation comedy." As for retirement, she told the Los Angeles Times that same year she's concerned about how she would spend her time. "I'm not a crocheter or a gardener, I failed home ec, but I like to cook," she laughed. "You know the day goes by so quickly when there's nothing to do."