Susan Blakely has led a decades-long career in Hollywood as a sought-after actress and model, but the star has one thing to regret.
The 73-year-old played Julie Prescott in “Rich Man, Poor Man,” which also starred Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte and Ed Asner. The miniseries, which aired in 1976, earned four Emmys and 23 nominations.
But when “Rich Man, Poor Man – Book II” came along, Blakely decided to pass. The sequel went on without her from 1976 to 1977.
“That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done,” Blakely recently admitted to Closer Weekly.
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“They didn’t sign us” [for the sequel], so we could have literally asked for anything,” she explained. “The heads of Universal and ABC kept saying, ‘Susie, blank check. What do you want?’ I said no, it wasn’t about the money. I wanted to do other things. But when you have that kind of success, don’t turn your back on it. It was just youthful ignorance.”
Blakely also revealed that she got the part with the unexpected help of a major star.
“I had made a film called ‘Report to the Commissioner’,” she recalls. “Carol Burnett saw the movie. She was friends with… [producer] Harvey Bennett, and she told him to cast me. I didn’t know until later. Carol is an idol of mine, but she never told me because she is so humble. She didn’t want to take the credit.”
Looking back, Blakely described how she got along with her castmates as she brought “Rich Man, Poor Man” to life.
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“Oh, I love Nick,” she gushed about Nolte, 80. “He’s such a consummate actor, but also a nice, funny guy. And Peter was fantastic – we reconnected recently. There were other lead actors in it. that show that were also fantastic: Bill Bixby, whom my character married, Ed Asner and Robert Reed.”
But the role that really captivated Blakely was that of Patty in 1974’s “The Towering Inferno.” The Oscar-winning film had an all-star cast of Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, William Holden, Fred Astaire, and Faye Dunaway—just to name a few. to name. Blakely noted that she took on the project because Newman was attached to it.
“I was just in love with Paul Newman,” she told the outlet. “He was my biggest crush. So when I heard Paul Newman was in it, I said if he did it, I did it.”
Blakely said she was incredibly nervous on set, but the cast quickly put her at ease.
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“I had a fantastic time,” she said. “I had to hang out with William Holden, who was a great man, and Fred Astaire, who was great… He was just so humble and sweet. I also met my husband on that set, but it didn’t click then I remembered him when we met again later.”
While she didn’t share many scenes with Newman, meeting the actor was more than enough.
“When William Holden said, ‘Susie, I want you to meet Paul Newman,’ I looked at him and my heart started beating!” she said. “He was the sexiest man, the best actor, and he turned out to be the nicest man too.”
Blakely also got along well with Newman’s wife, Joanne Woodward.
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“They were just such down-to-earth people,” she said.
Newman died in 2008 at the age of 83.
Today Blakely is happily married to Steve Jaffe. She and the producer first said “I do” in 1982.
“…We’ve been through hard times, but I know my husband supports me more than anyone I’ve ever known,” she said. “And I have his. Besides, he makes me laugh every day.”