Paging Rene Russo

Posted by · 4:11 pm · May 4th, 2010

Honestly, the last time the name “Rene Russo” crossed my mind, I was still wearing school uniform and Bill Clinton was still president of the United States. Even then, it was only fleetingly: if you want the last time she was in a film that actually merited a second thought, we’re looking more at the year my voice broke. (Yes, that’d be “Tin Cup.”) How time flies.

Of course, film history is littered with the swiftly curtailed careers of briefly ubiquitous stars — women in particular, given the regrettable age-40 sell-by date the industry still applies to many actresses. Hey, remember Madeleine Stowe? Andie MacDowell? Penelope Ann Miller? I can’t say Russo’s big-screen absence struck me as especially conspicuous, but Telegraph arts editor Sarah Crompton clearly thinks otherwise.

Crompton takes the casting of Russo in Kenneth Branagh’s Marvel comic adaptation “Thor” — her first film role in over five years — as occasion for a valentine to the actress, holding her up as a 1990s ideal of “the woman every woman wanted to be,” and mourning a larger absence in the process.

She writes:

I miss her. But it’s not just Russo who has vanished from the cinema. It is women like her. The forceful appearance of Vera Farmiga playing a character with moral ambiguity and a fully-realised life in Up in the Air makes you realise just how rare these richly drawn characters are nowadays. She, like Russo in her prime, is a proper counter-weight to her male co-star, a rival to George Clooney’s shiny charisma and not a make-weight love interest to add to his gloss.

I’m not convinced that even Russo’s best roles were as richly drawn as all that — her résumé is heavy on decorative-but-feisty subsidiaries to male protagonists — nor that the outlook for spiky women in Hollywood is that much bleaker than it was in, say, 1996. Vera Farmiga is an apt example, but she hardly stands alone: I’d say the disparate likes of Marion Cotillard, Catherine Keener and Ellen Page have held up their end of the bargain too.

Still, it’s refreshing to read someone tackling the gender question without resorting to distant Kate Hepburn nostalgia. Have you missed Russo, or anyone else of her generation?

→ 25 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 5-04-2010 at 4:26 pm

    Erik 815 said...

    The Thomas Crown Affair merits more second thoughts than Tin Cup. That was just 5 movies ago. Anyway, what ever happened to Debra Winger’s comeback?

  • 2 5-04-2010 at 4:33 pm

    Murtada said...

    I miss Stowe, she was such a vital presence in movies like Stakeout and The Last of the Mohicans. And where is Barbra Hershey?

  • 3 5-04-2010 at 4:58 pm

    Mr. F said...

    She seriously needs to come back, along with Geena Davis

  • 4 5-04-2010 at 5:07 pm

    Fitz said...

    Thomas Crown Affair comes to mind first when I hear her name, but I also really like that film.

    Another actress that seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth is Elizabeth Hurley.

  • 5 5-04-2010 at 5:07 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    Yes to a Geena Davis comeback…and also Winona Ryder.

  • 6 5-04-2010 at 5:53 pm

    R.J. said...

    Aren’t Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder both in “Black Swan”? It’ll be good to see them, Ryder especially, I hope this means she’s finally getting over the embarrassment of her shoplifting ordeal.

  • 7 5-04-2010 at 6:58 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    Rene Russo is in THOR. Let’s think about that for a second. That cast is so strange, though not necessarily in a bad way.

  • 8 5-04-2010 at 7:19 pm

    Todd said...

    She’s not gone, but I miss Angela Bassett…..

  • 9 5-04-2010 at 7:26 pm

    mark kratina said...

    Anne Archer and Margaret Colin.

    Where have you gone?

  • 10 5-04-2010 at 9:36 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Huge fan of Tin Cup. Guilty.

  • 11 5-04-2010 at 11:00 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    “Tin Cup” is terrific. Had no idea the “Thomas Crown Affair” retread had such fans, though.

  • 12 5-05-2010 at 2:04 am

    timr said...

    Count me as one of the biggest. It’s actually her best work, lovely though she is in Tin Cup also. She has Crown completely in her pocket, and would (seriously!) have made my actress shortlist for that year — I was hoping the sequel would work out just so we could get to see her again…

    I actually just emailed Sarah (my boss) to say how much I thoroughly agreed with the missing-Rene sentiment!

    It’s nice to hear names like Colin, Hershey and Winger thrown about in this context too. (Andie MacDowell, less so…)

  • 13 5-05-2010 at 2:33 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Oh, the Andie MacDowell mention wasn’t made wistfully (though I must always cut her some slack for “sex, lies and videotape”). I’m merely curious how she managed to fall so swiftly after elbowing her way into such key films of the early 90s. “Short Cuts,” “Four Weddings,” “Groundhog Day” … she must have had the most incredible agent. Perhaps the same guy who fixed her this apparently intractable deal with L’Oreal, despite the fact that she looks more undead with each passing ad.

  • 14 5-05-2010 at 2:53 am

    timr said...

    I have some time for her in Short Cuts too… but from then on she’s a perfect liability. Which is why I’m so quick to leap to Rene’s defence! Bracket her not with the MacDowell! She’s in no way generically feisty shoulder-candy. Even when she’s basically there as a sparring partner, she’s an unusually strong-jawed and smart one, with a charming weariness about male foibles. I’d say her scenes with Eastwood in Line of Fire are at least as good as those Clooney/Vera ones, and she’s interestingly bitter in Ransom too. Cruel that she peaked with Crown only to fall right off a cliff: I will stick up for nothing from 2000 onwards. Talk about needing a new agent!

  • 15 5-05-2010 at 3:15 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m not taking the position of Andie MacDowell’s defence attorney, but I just remembered thinking she wasn’t bad in “Unstrung Heroes.” Sorry!

    Anyway, you’ve all inspired me to take another look at “The Thomas Crown Affair,” which didn’t do much for me at the time. The original is a (lovely) bauble, of course, but without Michel Legrand and the op-art designs to embellish it, I thought the remake fell rather short.

  • 16 5-05-2010 at 3:24 am

    timr said...

    It’s not infallible — the Bill Conti score is all kinds of wrong, and Pierce overdoes smug in all the ways you probably remember. But the finale with Sinner Man is a doozy, and Rene and Denis Leary are great, and did I mention Rene is great? She’s great, you know. Way better than Faye in the first one.

    I haven’t seen Unstrung Heroes, so no need to apologise! At least I’ve heard of it, unlike most MacMovies this decade…

  • 17 5-05-2010 at 4:12 am

    Hero said...

    I’ll tell you what happened to a lot of women of a certain age–they’re doing great work and winning awards…for TV shows.

  • 18 5-05-2010 at 6:03 am

    Mark Kratina said...

    Love the Thomas Crown Affair remake. When I think of Rene Russo, I think of TCA more than Tin Cup. Great soundtrack for TCA, too.

  • 19 5-05-2010 at 6:08 am

    Nick Davis said...

    I still need to follow up on seeing Crown, and I like the first one a lot, so I suspect I’ll enjoy the revisit. Otherwise, I have tended to find Russo’s career pretty full of Blind Side perfomances, i.e., very charismatic screen presence and well matched to her costars, but not high on my meter of acting. A recent trip back to In the Line of Fire paid fewer rewards than I had hoped. I really like the article, but seeing Russo’s name next to Farmiga’s is as jarring to me on the opposite end as seeing it next to MacDowell’s.

  • 20 5-05-2010 at 6:41 am

    timr said...

    Fair call, but isn’t she commenting more on the particular character/presence/emerging stardom of Vera in Up in the Air, rather than their relative acting skills? I can totally see Rene being cast in that part ten years ago, even if she’s not technically close to Vera’s equal, and has certainly never shown the chops for a Down to the Bone or something…

  • 21 5-05-2010 at 6:53 am

    timr said...

    PS. Do you mean you haven’t seen the Crown remake before, or are looking forward to seeing it again?

  • 22 5-06-2010 at 2:32 am

    mark said...

    Some actresses just seem to fall by the wayside,some pick the wrong projects,some get older,some need new agents,some simply have had their fill.

    interesting to note whom people will feel that about in 10 years – “where did she go”

    rachel mcadams seems the most obvious to me,naomi watts and jennifer connelly,charlize theron or hilary swank,famous even oscar winners but not b/office those types!!!

  • 23 5-06-2010 at 2:37 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I’m predicting Hilary Swank’s career will continue its remarkable resemblance to that of Sally Field, and that she’ll eventually find a niche in television.

  • 24 5-06-2010 at 3:53 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    Also, some actresses destroy themselves by having terrible plastic surgery (I’m talking about you, Jessica Lange). Film is a visual medium, and if you look like an alien, it might hurt your marketability.

  • 25 5-07-2010 at 1:06 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “I’m predicting Hilary Swank’s career will continue its remarkable resemblance to that of Sally Field, and that she’ll eventually find a niche in television.”

    Sally Field is a better actress — I don’t care if they’re even with the number of Oscar wins, nods, and category — Field earned hers both fair and sqaure — while Swank’s 2nd was a split vote affair for the other superior nominees that year.