Lesley Ann Warren’s career started out as something of a Cinderella story, filling the glass slipper of Julie Andrews for a remake of the television musical.
Two decades later, Warren and Andrews shared the screen in “Victor/Victoria,” a different kind of Cinderella story that Marc Huestis will screen as a Valentine’s Day celebration at the Castro Theatre, with Warren in attendance.
“The trajectory of my career has been so amazing,” says the one-time musical Scarlett O’Hara and the current go-to cougar mom of television hits such as “In Plain Sight” and “Desperate Housewives.”
Daughter of a nightclub singer who retired to raise her, Warren trained as a ballerina and made her Broadway debut as a different kind of Snookie in 1963’s “110 in the Shade.”
The flop “Drat! The Cat” followed with Warren playing opposite Elliot Gould, who was then married to Barbra Streisand. After “Cinderella” came a spate of good-girl roles for Warren in Disney musicals.
Eager to change her image, she dropped the Ann, married then-hairdresser Jon Peters, joined the cast of “Mission: Impossible” and spent the next decade busy, mostly on television.
The role of brassy floozy Norma Cassady in “Victor/Victoria” was a jolt her career needed. Warren threw herself into creating the role that would win her an Oscar nomination. “When I read it, she was not a blonde, she had no accent and there was no musical number.”
She brainstormed and called to share her ideas with Edwards, who was in London. “His producer Tony Adams told me to just bring my ideas and they’d give me hair, makeup and costume people to work with.”
To hear Warren’s invented backstory, Norma came from a large family on the lower east side and had to scream all the time just to be heard. “She escaped from her dreary life by reading movie magazines, and wanted to be Jean Harlow.” Edwards listened and loved it.
The set was a hotbed of improvisation, according to Warren. “The famous ‘lock the door’ scene between Julie and me was all improvised. If Blake felt like you were good at improvising he’d keep the camera rolling.”
“I so adored Blake,” says Warren, still adjusting to Edwards’ death last December. “He gave me a chance to do something no one thought I could. Even me.”
In addition to the screening and an onstage interview, the evening — emceed by Miss Coco Peru — will include a performance by Matthew Martin, a video tribute to Warren and a post-show autograph session.
If you go
Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Contact: (415) 863-0611 or www.castrotheatre.com
Note: A VIP reception at 6 p.m. precedes the presentation; tickets are $60.