The 75-year-old actress landed her first big screen role in the 1967 film The Happening, before shooting to stardom after starring opposite Warren Beatty in Bonnie & Clyde, which was released a few months later that same year.
"When I was discovered, everything happened like Dominoes," recalls Dunaway. "I don't know how to talk about it now because it’s mind blowing. It's so unreal yet it's real. I'm grateful for it but I guess part of that is missing it — when one grows older."
Dunaway is perhaps best known for portraying actress Joan Crawford in 1981's Mommie Dearest. The cult classic was based off the 1978 autobiography written by Joan Crawford's adopted daughter, Christina.
Despite becoming one of Dunaway's most memorable characters, the Oscar winner looks back at the role with regret.
"I think it turned my career in a direction where people would irretrievably have the wrong impression of me -- and that's an awful hard thing to beat," says Dunaway. "I should have known better, but sometimes you're vulnerable and you don't realize what you're getting into."
The film, chronicling Crawford's abusive relationship with her adopted daughter, was panned by critics but went on to gross $39 million at the box office.
Still, Dunaway doesn't understand why the movie was even made.
"It's unfortunate they feel they had make this kind of movie," adds the screen icon. "But you can’t be ashamed of the work you’ve done. You make a decision, and then you have to live with the consequences."
Dunaway is enjoying a quieter life these days, though she hasn't retired from acting. The Florida native, who appears in the upcoming horror flick, Bye Bye Man, shared her admiration for friends like Jane Fonda. At 78, Fonda has etched out a new space for older actresses thanks to the Netflix series Grace & Frankie. "It's not age that makes life," says Dunaway. "It’s what you do with it."
Watch the video below for Fonda’s thoughts on Hollywood's "women of a certain age" label.