Since COVID-19 shut down Hollywood, Ellen Burstyn has been stopping often to smell the roses literally. “Staying connected to nature is one of the deepest human experiences,” Ellen, 87, who has been looking back on her life during this time of enforced idleness, exclusively tells Closer, on newsstands now. 

In the silence, Ellen has found sympathy in her heart for the people who wronged her. “I wish I could have had some wisdom earlier,” confides the veteran actress, who over her six-decade career has won a Tony, two Emmys, and an Oscar for 1974’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Long before those accolades, Ellen dropped out of high school and fled Detroit to escape domestic violence. “[My life] didn’t start out easily,” acknowledges the star, who endured corporal punishments from her stepfather as her unsupportive mother, Correine, stood by. “Early on, I figured out how to abide suffering and trouble,” she says. “I learned how to hold steady in a storm.”

New York Women in Film and Television's 39th Annual Muse Awards, Arrivals, New York, USA - 13 Dec 2018

Married and divorced twice as a young woman, Ellen was working in theater when she wed fellow actor Neil Burstyn in 1964. He was “charming and funny and eccentric,” she recalls. By the time Neil was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Ellen had withstood years of terror and abuse. They divorced in 1972 and he later died by suicide.

Today Ellen can look back without bitterness. “I really don’t resent anymore,” she says, adding she finds herself thinking often about her mother, who spent so long trapped in a bad marriage. “We didn’t really get along, but now I miss her,” admits Ellen, who recognizes that her mother needed help. “I wish that I could call her. I hope that through some mystical magic, she hears that.”

Read this story and more in this week’s issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.