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Flashback: High Times with Frances McDormand

Anyone who's followed her illustrious career knows that Frances McDormand is anything but your typical Hollywood actress. First of all, she lives in New York with her director/writer husband Joel Coen.

May 2003 High Times

At the 90th Oscars. McDormand became a two-time winner in the Best Actress category fo her role as an angry mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. During her acceptance speech, she asked all the women who were nominated to stand up. It was a thrilling moment. 

Now, she's on the precipice of winning a third Best Actress Oscar for her starring role in Nomadland, in which she plays Fern, a homeless widow who travels alone in a van in the American West. It's currently streaming on Hulu.


Photographing Frances

I met McDornmand nearly 18 years ago when I was senior editor of High Times. Laurel Canyon was about to come out and we had the chance to interview and photograph her.

McDormand was not then or now considered a major marijuana supporter, like her Three Billboards co-star and fellow Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson. But the movie was about a record producer who likes to smoke pot, so the interview was arranged.

She arrived by herself (no team of handlers) wearing a pot-leaf t-shirt, jeans and a light black leather jacket. Though we we warned by her publicist to not ask her to smoke weed on camera, she quickly overruled that. McDormand proudly held a lit joint for the eventual cover photo. In another, she had three of us light it for her. 

High Times photo shoot in 2003 by Duke Lobos

"I'm a recreational pot smoker," she declared when the conversation shifted to marijuana. "Because, it's not a constant in my life, I don't say it should be made legal so that it's more available. But from a medical point of view, I have friends who need to use it. Why should they have to look so hard for the thing that makes them better?"

McDormand pot for the first time when she was a freshman at Bethany College in West Virginia. "There has never been enough of a distrinction between marijuana and the other drugs," she added. "In the classic weird hygiene movies from high school, everything led to deparavity - marijuana, sex, coffee! There was no distinction made between the effects of one thing and another. So it's always been lumped in with drugs in general. Unfortunately, I think a lot of peoples' first experiences  with marijuana and other drugs happen in the time of their lives that invloves a lot of peer pressure."

She then delcared:

"It's a human rights issue, a censorship issue and a choice issue."

Asked about her favorite Coen Brothers movie, McDormand pointed to Fargo (she won his first Academy Award for her sheriff character, Marge) and Miller's Crossing. She called The Big Lebowski a "middle-aged boy's movie" and noted that "Marge Gunderson might have gotten high during her college day. She seems like an adverturous sort."


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.