Besedka Johnson, who became an actress at age 85 and won praise for last year's movie "Starlet," has died. She was 87.
Johnson died on April 4 at Glendale Memorial Hospital of complications following surgery for a bacterial infection, her son, Jim Johnson, told the Los Angeles Times (http://lat.ms/Z7qH66 ).
Besedka Johnson played the cranky widow Sadie, who befriends Dree Hemingway in last year's movie. It was her only role.
"Besedka showed that no age is too old to do what you dream. I loved her dearly," Hemingway said in a statement.
Johnson got the part when an executive producer for the movie saw her in the locker room at a YMCA gym in Los Angeles and asked her to audition.
"I thought it has got to be a great big joke," Besedka Johnson later said, but "when you're this old, it's like let's just go along with it and see what happens."
"We were all incredibly lucky to have found her," ''Starlet" director Sean Baker told The Times on Tuesday. "She was absolutely wonderful, breathtaking in the film."
The character's crustiness was worlds apart from Johnson's sweet nature.
After an abrasive scene, Johnson "would turn to Dree and apologize for the way she was acting," Baker said. "It was so sweet."
Beatrice Vivian Divic was born in Detroit but moved to Los Angeles as a teenager to pursue a modeling career. In the 1960s, she began using Besedka as her first name, taking the name of a dress shop she owned. In her 30s, she took acting lessons for fun but said she never expected to get a professional job.
In addition to son Jim Johnson, she is survived by sons Marc Johnson and Lloyd Johnson, and two granddaughters.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com