Robert Altman: It’s true that I dreamed [3 Women], but it was not the content of the film or any emotion in it, just that it was about personality theft. I had a film cancelled on me at Warner Brothers. I needed to make a film badly, and then my wife Kathryn got very sick. We took her to the emergency hospital at four in the morning, and it seemed very serious at the time, though it all turned out fine in the end. But I returned to my house on the beach in Malibu and went to bed feeling kind of desperate, and I dreamed I was making this film. I dreamed the title, the location and that there were three women, and I knew two of the cast, Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. Part of the dream was that I kept waking up and writing these things down on a notepad. And then I told two of my production people, Tommy Thompson and Bob Eggenweiler, to check out Palm Springs. When I really woke up, there was sand in the bed, because my son Matthew, who was eleven then, had joined me, and he was spending all of his time on the beach. So that’s probably where the desert location came from… I had no story at that point, just the ambience and an atmosphere.
Sissy Spacek: I remember he told us about his dream. I did little drawings, little sketches about his dream. Bob would get the seed of an idea and he would let the people he was working with become a part of that… He told me everything he knew about my character, Pinky, and then it was like he would give actors a track, a blueprint. ‘Now work within these parameters and put yourself into it.’ He didn’t need to have all the answers. He didn’t have that disease where as a director you have to know everything. There was a lot of improvisational stuff. He would give us a scene in the morning and then it would grow. It was so freeing working with him after having worked with other directors. The way he works is all very naturalistic. Everything is natural and the sets are happy and relaxed and he seemed to always be the happiest and the most relaxed. I don’t think I ever knew what the film was about. I remember Bob would say, ‘Well, if you confuse people enough in the first twenty minutes they’ll give up trying to figure out what it’s about and they’ll just go with it and enjoy it.’
Shelley Duvall: I wrote all my own monologues. Bob would say, ‘Why don’t you write a monologue just in case we can use it?’ And we’d use it. He knows I always do my homework. I had been reading Apartment Life, Redbook, Readers Digest, and Woman’s Day. It’s easy to write. Monologues just came out in 15 minutes. Well, I put a lot of myself in, but I’m not a consumer like Millie. I played her like a Lubitsch comedy—people taking themselves very seriously. It is great fun to watch, as long as it isn’t you.