Kathleen Gackle was a poultry farmer’s daughter from Santa Maria, Calif. and didn’t quite get the word that Hollywood had no roles for women anymore. So after winning a $500 Hugh O’Brian Acting Award at UCLA, she dropped out, joined a showcase workshop and hired an agent. She also switched to her dad’s middle name arid, as Kathleen Lloyd, somehow eluded the unemployment chorus line for most (but not all) of the past six years, guesting on TV series like Marcus Welby, M.D. and Ironside. Finally, at age 26, came her maiden movie offer—the female lead in a superpromising Western, The Missouri Breaks, to be directed by Arthur (Bonnie and Clyde) Penn and starring Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson, no less. Yet she said No, thanks.
“It’s kind of an etiquette trip in this business,” observed the by-then-canny Kathleen. “They hope you’ll be so pleased with the role that you’d do it for nothing. Well, I was excited, but I’m still a professional, and I wasn’t being paid enough.” The roughly $10,000 feel-out offer for three months in Montana was upped to something sensible, and now Lloyd’s big Breaks is playing in more movie houses than All the President’s Men. More remarkably, she manages to hold her part of the frame with Nicholson, a star with the country’s most cunning grin this side of Jimmy Carter. “Seeing yourself on the big screen is weird,” she found, “but it was a real fine introduction to movies.”
When Breaks filming began, Kathleen admits, “I went through some trips, being insecure and doubtful about who the hell I was to be there. They scared me a little. I’d heard all about Jack being a big party person, but he was not ever into drinking at all. He rented a home in Billings, and Anjelica [Huston] was there. He went home after work.” Lloyd’s childhood idol, Brando, “was full of surprises—I hadn’t heard about his cue cards until it happened before my eyes.”
Subsequently, Kathleen did not move into the starlet ghetto around West Hollywood, but kept her rented clapboard shack 46 miles away in the San Fernando Valley. To be sure, she tools into L.A. a couple of days a week because “one without the other isn’t enough.” But while she thinks it “perfectly fine socializing with people I’m working with while we’re actually working, when we’re not, I want to be by myself or with friends.” They include a pillows-and-bedding manufacturer who Kathleen says is “a good friend who’s lately become closer than that.” Lloyd passes her time studying about the stock market, practicing the guitar and reading, lately Jessamyn West and film scripts. She recently hired a new agent specializing in movies. Her second role may take time to find, Kathleen recognizes, for The Missouri Breaks “has made me very selective.” After working with Brando and Nicholson, she says, “I’m only interested in staying on the same level or going up. I’ve been with the best—and I want to be with the best.”