If Sally Field nursed a hope of dodging notice at the Whitney Museum of American Art this month, that hope was crushed when she stretched her 5-foot-3-inch frame on an outsize banquette, its cushioned surface an apparent invitation to relax.
It was no such thing, as Ms. Field soon discovered. The outline of her body had left a thermal impression captured in Day-Glo green on a nearby video screen, part of an interactive installation exploring mass surveillance by the artist and filmmaker Laura Poitras.
“This is seriously disturbing,” Ms. Field murmured and moved on. She was pretty well camouflaged for her outing in a well-worn plaid J. Crew shirt and Bottega Veneta black leather jacket, her garb a kind of youthfully understated urban armor.
Ms. Field, who first captivated a mass TV audience in the 1960s in “The Flying Nun,” has been long accustomed to a kind of informal surveillance. Blithely ignoring the gapes of passers-by, she headed toward the museum terrace, a favorite retreat of the actress, who routinely shuttles between her homes in Los Angeles and New York.
And a refuge as well from prying eyes. What do all those strangers make of her?
“I can’t tell,” Ms. Field said evenly. “They don’t treat me like a human being. They’re giving me different energy than if I had just been some older woman sitting next to them on a bus or riding in an elevator.”
Her fame, she said, has left her a bit conflicted. “I’ve known some form of being celebrity my entire life,” said Ms. Field, who was the gamine surfer Gidget on the TV show of that name at 18. “But I still want to go to the market and have my little old lady cart behind me.”
During such routine excursions, “I put blinders on,” she said. “I don’t want people to see me, or to not see me.”
All eyes were on her earlier that week when Ms. Field stepped elastically from her car to attend the premiere of “Hello, My Name Is Doris,” hosted by the Cinema Society at the Metrograph, a new downtown theater on Ludlow Street.
Among the guests were Michael Showalter, the film’s director, and cast members, including Natasha Lyonne and Tyne Daly, as well as Paul Rudd, Emily Mortimer and the columnist Cindy Adams, who flaunted her trademark beehive as she interviewed Ms. Field in a dim corner, scribbling old-school style in a reporter’s notebook.
As the film’s title character, an endearing if slightly unhinged accountant in her 60s, Ms. Field finds herself lusting obsessively over a handsome co-worker decades her junior. Left mostly to her own devices after her mother dies, she is surprised to discover an engagingly eccentric, adventurous side.
Not only is Doris capable of entertaining humid fantasies about a much younger man, but of venturing into uncharted terrain, posing for rock album covers and dancing at subterranean clubs garbed in a garish caution-yellow jumpsuit.
Doris’s exotic escapade is “part of becoming new, of coming-of-age,” Ms. Field said. “But it’s hard to be new and awkward and to open up to your vulnerabilities.”
At 69, she can relate. “I’m moving on to the newest stage of my life, my 70s,” she said gamely. “There are things waiting for me that I couldn’t have found without getting here.”
Including the Harold-and-Maude scenario suggested by Doris? Not out of the question, it seems.
Ms. Field, who has been married twice and had a much chronicled long-term relationship with Burt Reynolds, said on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” recently that she wouldn’t object to acquiring a boy toy.
“If he wants to step forward and say ‘How about me,’ I will judge the situation from that,” she said.
She returned to the topic the other day at the Whitney. “Sex is in everybody’s relationships with everybody,” Ms. Field said, hopping good-naturedly onto her soapbox. “It underlines human beings. It’s part of a package, no matter where in life you are or who you’re with.”
“Sure, society sees as part of that package being very, very young and very, very thin,” she added. “But I don’t think there is an expiration date, like on a carton of milk.”
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of one of the guests at the premiere of “Hello, My Name is Doris.” She is Tyne Daly, not Daily.