Nationality: American. Born: Burbank, California, 17 February 1954. Family: Married Danny Gilroy (a screenwriter), 1992; daughter: Rose. Career: Discovered at age 16 at a Rolling Stones concert; model; played Eden Kendell, Sable TV series, 1987; started film career, 1989. Address: Progressive Artists Agency, 400 S. Beverly Drive, Suite 216, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Major League (Ward) (as Lynn Wells)
Mr. Destiny (Orr) (as Cindy Jo)
One Good Cop (Gould) (as Rita Lewis)
Lethal Weapon 3 (Donner) (as Lorna Cole); Freejack (Murphy) (as Julie Redlund)
In the Line of Fire (Petersen) (as Lilly Raines)
Major League II (Ward) (as Lynn, uncredited)
Get Shorty (Sonnenfeld) (as Karen Flores); Outbreak (Petersen) (as Dr. Roberta "Robby" Keough)
Ransom (Howard) (as Kate Mullen); Tin Cup (Shelton) (as Dr. Molly Griswold)
Buddy (Thompson) (as Trudy Lintz)
Lethal Weapon 4 (Donner) (as Lorna Cole)
The Thomas Crown Affair (McTiernan) (as Catherine Banning)
The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (McAnuff) (as Natasha Fatale)
Ebert, Roger, "Lethal Weapon 3," in The Chicago Sun-Times , 15 May 1992.
Gerston, Jill, "Always the Girlfriend, But Never the Moll," in The New York Times , 11 August 1996.
Maslin, Janet, "When Golf Is Life and Life a Game," in The New York Times , 16 August 1996.
Maslin, Janet, "Vigilante Dad Vs. Kidnappers," in The New York Times , 8 November 1996.
Ressner, Jeffrey, "The Lady and the Champs," in Time , 9 August 1999.
Travers, Peter, "The Thomas Crown Affair," in Rolling Stone , 2 September 1999.
* * *
At a time when the media were increasingly complaining about Hollywood's tendency to pair increasingly older leading men with increasingly younger female costars (Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder , Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment ), along came the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair (1999), starring the incredibly sexy Rene Russo, who was less than two years younger than costar Pierce Brosnan. While other actresses and most models go to great lengths to conceal their true age, this actress-turned-model has never been shy about mentioning hers (45 when Thomas Crown premiered), most likely because she is relying less and less on her looks and more and more on her burgeoning acting ability.
Many descriptions of Russo's storybook entry into modeling don't quite have the facts correct. She wasn't at a Rolling Stones concert but was, in fact, walking home from the concert when Hollywood talent agent John Crosby spotted her, stopped his car and asked her if she acted or modeled. Russo had heard that line before, but the fact that Crosby was with his wife at the time and asked her to come to his office with her mother led her to think he might be serious. Within weeks she had signed a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency and was being photographed by internationally known photographer Richard Avedon, and within months she was on the cover of Vogue , among other magazines. But as she entered her thirties and the assignments dwindled, she dropped out of modeling completely and began studying Christian theology. According to Russo, God appeared to her in a vision and showed her there was nothing to be afraid of, including her long-felt desire to be an actress. Crosby, still her agent to this day, got her roles in such films as Major League (1989), Mr. Destiny (1990), One Good Cop (1991) and Freejack (1992), but it wasn't until Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) that she really began to shine, playing not just Mel Gibson's love interest but a sergeant from Internal Affairs who keeps right up with Gibson and Glover in delivering the series' trademark wisecracks. In his review for the Chicago Sun-Times , Roger Ebert complained about the film lacking the inventiveness that brightened the first two installments, but singled out Russo as one of the element that made the film "worth seeing, and that set it aside from the routine movies in this genre."
Her reviews in her next film, the Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire (1993), were even more glowing. The New York Times said Russo "works terrifically well with Mr. Eastwood. Their scenes have some of the caustic spirit of the material Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin used to write for Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. They are genuinely funny lovers." In 1995 she starred in Outbreak , playing a virologist who joins ex-husband Dustin Hoffman in tracking down a deadly virus, and in Get Shorty , playing a B-movie actress who specializes in screaming.
But her two roles in 1996 demonstrated that she could play much more than tough competent professional women. In Tin Cup she played Dr. Molly Griswold, a flaky psychologist caught between rival golfers played by Kevin Costner and Don Johnson. According to Russo, "I've played all these confident, together, get-the-job-done women, but Molly's really the closest to me. She's searching. One minute she's strong and the next she doesn't know what the heck she's doing." Tin Cup director Ron Shelton called her "that rarity of rarities: an unvain beautiful woman." In Ransom (again opposite Mel Gibson) she had her greatest challenge, playing a mother whose son has been kidnapped. It would have been easier to continually show hysteria, but she gives a modulated performance that shows her at times turning against her husband and at times just stopping to collect herself.
Her role as Catherine Banning in The Thomas Crown Affair may have been less challenging, but showed her to be totally fearless, with sizzling star power. Rolling Stone said of her performance, "Russo gives off enough carnal heat to singe the screen. Topless on the beach, torrid on the dance floor and a tiger between the sheets, Catherine is fantasy made flesh. That she's played, with a tough core of intelligence and wit, by a forty-five-year-old actress is some kind of miracle in Hollywood, a place where most women lose their babe status as soon as they're old enough to vote." Her acting ability will most likely enable her to make the transition to 'older' parts, but at this rate that necessity may be a long way off.