Lange won an Oscar for her performance in the film, which also starred Dustin Hoffman.
"I turned it down because I had just finished a film called 'Frances,' which was like this huge dramatic role," Lange said today on "Good Morning America."
She went on, "When Sydney Pollack and Dustin came to me about doing 'Tootsie' I thought, 'Oh, it's so lightweight.' So I would just say [to myself 35 years ago], 'Get over it girl. Just do it.' But it was one of the best decisions I ended up ever making because it's a classic film."
Now, Lange is portraying movie star Joan Crawford in the new FX show, "Feud: Bette & Joan."
The series chronicles the infamous rivalry between legends Crawford and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) during the filming of the 1962 thriller, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane."
Despite their bitterness, Lange believes the actresses would have been friends if Hollywood never pinned them against each other.
"I think naturally there was a lot of competition between them and then when they ended up doing this film together, which is only a small part of our series, for publicity for marketing, for all those things, they were kind of set upon each other and it was more than I think it could have been, or should have been," Lange said.
Asked if she thought Joan Crawford would've been happy with her performance, Lange replied, "I tried to do something as honest from my point of view with all the research that I did and everything and everything I learned about her, so I don't know. Hopefully!"
This was a first-time collaboration for Lange and Sarandon. Lange said the pair worked well together.
"There are a lot of actresses of my generation that I haven't had a chance to work with yet that I'd love to, but Susan and I got along great," she said. "It was a long shoot, but it was interesting work. We had a good time."
"Feud: Bette and Joan" airs Sundays on FX.
Jessica Lange Wore a Planned Parenthood Pin to the Late Show
Jessica Lange sported a noticeable accessory when she visited the Late Show Wednesday night—a small Planned Parenthood pin on the right side of her black blazer.
This quiet gesture of activism was also seen on this year’s Oscars red carpet. Best-actress winner Emma Stone wore a small gold pin on her dress, while presenter Dakota Johnson fastened hers to her clutch.
Lange has long been supporting organizations such as Planned Parenthood. In 2004, she performed at an A.C.L.U. benefit at Lincoln Center along with Robin Williams, Paul Simon, and others. In 2008, she attended a Planned Parenthood fund-raiser, where she was photographed with Kathleen Turner and Jane Fonda.
She is currently portraying Joan Crawford in Ryan Murphy’s Feud, where she channels one of the most iconic Old Hollywood personalities—who had a contentious relationship with her Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? co-star Bette Davis.
But in real life, Lange told Colbert she’s involved in another feud—if only in her mind.
“I feud in my head with people. Like now, I’m carrying on a feud with Kellyanne Conway in my head,” she said.
Lange said she imagines the current administration—and Conway’s role in it—like she would a film script.
“You’ve got a scene where you talk about alternative facts? You’ve got a scene where you imagine that, like, the microwave is turning into a camera? You go to the inauguration dressed as a nutcracker . . . Nobody’s gonna take this character seriously; she’s a joke!”
See Why Jessica Lange Is Feuding with Kellyanne Conway (Video)
Jessica Lange just dropped some master shade on Donald Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.
The "Feud" and "American Horror Story" star revealed she's feuding with Conway during an interview with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday night.
"I feud in my head with people. Like now I'm carrying on a feud with Kellyanne Conway, in my head," she revealed when asked if she had any current rivalries.
She went on to liken the advisor to a crazy role in a television show or film.
"If you got a script as an actor and that script came to you. Your agent calls you, 'You've been offered this part. One of the most important women in the government right now. She's a counsel to the president. She's a spokesperson.' And then you pick up the … you read it, and you think, 'They've got to be kidding!" she joked.
"Here you've got a scene where you talk about alternative facts. You've got a scene where you, like, you know, imagine that, like, the microwave is turning into a camera," she continued, making the audience roar with laughter. "I mean, you go to the inauguration dressed as a nutcracker? It's like, you can just see that conversation. Are you kidding me, nobody’s going to take this character seriously, she's a joke!"
"Jessica, nobody does," Colbert deadpanned.