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Original Mattie Ross talks eating disorder

February 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
While the Coen Brothers' version of "True Grit" has been life-changing for Hailee Steinfeld, it was also life-changing for the young actress who played the role of Mattie Ross in the 1969 version of the film.

The western film was a monumental moment in Kim Darby's career, but with it came a downside. Now, more than 40 years later, the still beautiful actress is talking about the ugly side of that success.

"At that time after 'True Grit,' my agents and my manager expected me to be a leading lady. And one way I went about it was to get really thin, in not a healthy way," said Darby.

She says when she started shooting "True Grit" she was "chubby" because she'd just had a baby. But after the film, she developed an eating disorder and an unhealthy addiction.

"I am 35 years sober. And I never drank but to get thin I was taking amphetamines. And I am so, I am so lucky," said Darby.

The eating disorder lasted for 16 years, and during that time she got down to 72 pounds. Getting it under control gave her more self-esteem.

"People underestimate me, but I'm very tenacious and I do what I have to do to get something done," said Darby. "I'm not a little waif and I'm not a victim. I'm none of those things."

Darby calls the new "True Grit" a "masterpiece" and she salutes Steinfeld for the young actress' performance in her signature role.

"She was out of this world," she said. "I had that window of time and I know what it's like. And she's a lovely young woman. She's a lovely young woman and I love everything about her."

Fans still love Darby. Even now, she still gets mail about "True Grit."

For 17 years, she taught acting at UCLA. While she plans to keep acting, she's off to Kentucky soon for a new teaching experience, and she's stronger than ever.

"I'm here and I take care of myself and that makes me really happy," said Darby.

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