Onscreen and off, Karen Allen means business

TORONTO -- Forget your mom's advice to have a Plan B in case being an actor doesn't pay the bills. You might want to try Karen Allen's philosophy. "I didn't want anything to fall back on -- I might fall back," the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Animal House star told WalletPop. "I might lose my courage, my passion, to do something. Everybody comes up against obstacles and rejection and you have to push through it."

Allen, 58, later built a business outside of show business as a knitwear designer, but all the organic fibers in the world wouldn't have stopped her from signing on for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). The movie made nearly $787 million worldwide, jump-starting a screen comeback for Allen. She plays a mother trying to protect her sons from their boozing pop in the new movie White Irish Drinkers. The indie premiered at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, giving WalletPop the chance to sit down with Allen for a catch-up. I'm happy to report that her megawatt smile can still brighten a room. She also gets budget-mindful props for joining me in crashing an executives buffet across the hall at a local hotel.

Allen became a model of how to leave show business instead of it leaving her. Wanting to raise her son in a stable environment during his formative years, Allen, a single mom, stopped acting nearly altogether and opened a studio in 2003 to design her knitting creations. By 2005, Karen Allen-Fiber Arts had a store in Great Barrington, Mass., with 25 retailers across the country carrying her hand-woven merchandise.

Now Allen could be considered an Oscar nominee for best downsize. She began the process before the recession hit, namely when Steven Spielberg called her and asked if she wanted to reprise her role as Indy's feisty gal Marion for Crystal Skull. A four-month filming commitment forced her to shrink her operation. Employees scattered. With a few more films under belt, including this year's Hallmark Christmas movie November Christmas, she's still in business but on a drastically reduced scale.

"It's nice to be able to lock the studio door and go off and work on something and not have to worry about it," she said. "I'm trying to figure out how to juggle all this stuff."

Asked for her advice on personal finance, Allen replied, "If you want to grow a business, you have to make an effort in a different direction than I'm going."

She's still trying to figure it all out, but it's a dilemma that many of us might welcome. "How can I keep it an interesting, viable business and make it work side by side in my life with everything else I want to do?" she asked. "That's a big challenge right now, trying to figure out on what scale it can exist without it becoming a financial liability."
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