"It's not for my blue eyes that I'm working for UNICEF," said Liv Ullmann, flashing her famous electric eyes. "It's for my professional background that people come to see me and that I get to see other people."
Yesterday, the Norwegian actress spoke at the Women's National Democratic Club -- but not about her numerous films, many for Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Instead, she talked about her last year and a half of travel, conducting research on behalf of the refugees -- seeing them in Thailand, on the border of Cambodia: "I went to places where the hungry live, where the refugees live, where 800 million starving people live."
As goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, Ullmann, 42, soon will travel to Africa. She said that she also has been talking to Joan Baez about a movie project on the worldwide problem of refugees. "We need to make a film, but we need someone who is big box office," said Ullmann. "We might approach Jane Fonda about it."
But yesterday, before an audience of several hundred which included Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.), she talked entirely about her travels. "It's been enormously educational for me," she told her audience, "especially coming from this profession where you have to say so many stupid things and give so many meaningless images. I'm very grateful the UNICEF gave me this opportunity."
"So far I've mainly traveled in the Third World," she said. "Then I come back to my world and give some emotional images. Some people are good at giving numbers. I think it's important to give emotional images as well."
Ullmann said after her speech that she still loves acting, but, "After you've done something worth awhile, you try to be selective about what you do, you think of other things you can do."
She has just finished a film in England called "Richard's Things" and is writing another book, she said, called "Tides." "I'm trying to write about ebbs and flows. I'm trying to write about women I've met."
She patiently greeted all of the women who filed up to the head table to have her sign copies of her book "Changing," and chatted with some -- particularly those who expressed interest in UNICEF.
After Christmas, she said she plans to play in Strindberg's "Dance of Death" in New York. She also will be doing a fund-raiser for refugees in San Francisco with Joan Baez.
"She will sing and talk," said Ullmann, "and I will read and talk."