“Because of being in Hollywood's backyard, there were little girls when I was growing up going, ‘Oooh, I just did a commercial!' and I just wanted to slap them, they were so pretentious and horrible. God, I never wanted to be an actress because they were such little snots.” Theresa Russell (on her initial opinion of acting and Hollywood)
Actress Theresa Russell has acted in a number of films since making her debut at the age of 19 in Elia Kazan's “The Last Tycoon” (1976). She took home a Mystfest Award for her starring turn in “Track 29” (1988) and a Method Fest Award for her supporting performance in “16 to Life” (2009). Her other film credits include “Straight Time” (1978), “Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession” (1980), “Eureka” (1983), “The Razor's Edge” (1984), “Insignificance” (1985), “Black Widow” (1987) and “Impulse” (1990). In addition, she acted in “Whore” (1991), “Kafka” (1991), “Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets” (1995), “Wild Things” (1998), “The Believer” (2001), “Spider-Man 3” (2007), “Jolene” (2008), “Rid of Me” (2011) and “Born to Ride” (2011). On the small screen, Russell had a regular role on the short lived series “Glory Days” (The WB, 2002) and has guest starred in such TV series as “Nash Bridges,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Cold Case.” She has also appeared in several television films. Russell ranked No. 58 in Empire magazine list of “100 Sexiest Stars” in film in 1995. She has worked several times with her former husband, director Nicolas Roeg.
Russell currently lives in Los Angeles and has two sons.
Childhood and Family:
Theresa Russell was born Theresa Paup on March 20, 1957, in San Diego, California, to Carole Platt and Jerry Russell Paup. She attended Burbank High School in Burbank, California, but later quit school and moved in with her then-boyfriend, who was a primal therapist. She trained at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Hollywood.
In 1982, Theresa married English film director Nicolas Roeg (born August 15, 1928). The couple later divorced. The marriage produced two sons, Statten Roeg (born 1983) and Maxim Roeg (born 1985).
16 to Life
Theresa Russell began modeling when she was 12 years old. Her feature acting debut came at age 19 when she was cast as Cecilia Brady in the Elia Kazan dramatic film “The Last Tycoon” (1976), in which she costarred with Robert De Niro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jack Nicholson, Donald Pleasence and Jeanne Moreau. She followed it up with a starring role opposite Dustin Hoffman in Ulu Grosbard's “Straight Time” (1978). In 1979, she made her TV miniseries debut as Maureen Dean in the CBS Emmy Award nominated drama “Blind Ambition.”
Russell continued to land various film roles during the 1980s. She starred as Milena Flaherty in the British film “Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession” (1980), which was directed by her future husband, Nicolas Roeg, and was reunited with Reog for the thriller “Eureka” (1983), where she was cast as Gene Hackman's daughter. She then portrayed the prostitute Sophia in the remake of “The Razor's Edge” (1984), a role played by Gene Tierney in the 1946 film version, appeared in the dramatic comedy “Insignificance” (1985), a reunion with her director husband, Nicolas Roeg, and starred as Catherine in the neo-noir film “Black Widow” (1987), opposite Debra Winger. After playing King Zog in Roeg's short “Un ballo in maschera,” which was included in the 1987 British film “Aria,” Russell was handed the Best Actress Award at the 1998 Mystfest thanks to her turn as Linda Henry in the film “Track 29” (1988), which was also directed by her husband. She closed out the decade with a starring role opposite Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty in the thriller “Physical Evidence” (1989).
In 1990, Russell offered a strong performance as a narcotics officer named Lottie Mason in the Sondra Locke directed thriller “Impulse.” She next starred in Ken Russell's “Whore” (1991), played Jeremy Iron's co-worker in the Steven Soderbergh film “Kafka” (1991) and was cast with Mark Harmon and James Russo in Roeg's “Cold Heaven” (1991). In 1993, Russell acted in the three part series “A Woman's Guide to Adultery,” opposite Ingrid Lacey and Julie Peasgood. She followed it up with another lead role in the television thriller “Thicker Than Water” (1994), opposite Jonathan Pryce and Robert Pugh. Also in 1994, she narrated the film “Being Human,” which was written and directed by Bill Forsyth and starred Robin Williams.
The rest of the decade saw roles in such films as John-Paul Davidson's “Gentlemen Don't Eat Poets” (1995, with Alan Bates), “The Flight of the Dove” (1996, with Scott Glenn and Lane Smith), “A Young Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court” (1996, opposite Michael York and Nick Mancuso), “The Proposition” (1997, opposite Patrick Bergin and Richard Lynch), “Running Woman” (1998, with Andrew Robinson and Anthony Crivello) and John McNaughton's “Wild Things” (1998, as Denise Richards' mother, Sandra Van Ryan). In addition, she appeared in the short film “Hotel Paradise” (1995), portrayed Jackie Daniels in the TV film “Trade-Off” (1995), starred as Kate 'Ma' Barker in the video release “Public Enemies” (1996), and worked with Jacqueline Bisset, Mimi Kennedy, Celeste Holm and Richard Doyle in the Warner Bros. television thriller “Once You Meet a Stranger” (1996). She also guest starred in an episode of “Good vs Evil” called “To Be or Not to Be Evil” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Russell appeared in the episode “Jackpot” of “Nash Bridges” (2000), had a supporting role in the dramatic film “Luckytown” (2000), starring Kirsten Dunst, James Caan and Vincent Kartheiser, and was cast as Lina Moebius in the controversial film “The Believer” (2001), which was written by Henry Bean and Mark Jacobson, directed by Henry Bean and starred Ryan Gosling. She next portrayed Trixie Grillo in the television thriller “Earth vs. the Spider” (2001), Helen Schmidt in Joey Travolta's film “The House Next Door” (2002), Dr. Nancy Burnham in the TV film “ Project Viper” (2002), which was directed by Jim Wynorski, Lois Vargas in the comedy film “Passionada” (2002), opposite Jason Isaacs, Sofia Milos, Emmy Rossum and Seymour Cassel, and Dori Wilson in “Now & Forever” (2002), a film directed by Bob Clark that starred Mia Kirshner, Adam Beach and Gordon Tootoosis.
Still in 2002, Russell played the reoccurring role of the town tramp, Hazel Walker, in the WB comedy series “Glory Days.” Costars of the series included Eddie Cahill, Poppy Montgomery and Jay R. Ferguson. Russell went on to appear in such TV films as “Chasing Alice” (2003), “Love Comes Softly” (2003) and “Blind Injustice” (2005) and the HBO miniseries “Empire Falls” (2005, as Charlene). Meanwhile on the big screen, she played Jackie O'Connor in the film “Water Under the Bridge” and Dora Baker in “The Box,” opposite James Russo, who also directed, wrote and produced the film (both 2003).
2006 found Russell making a guest appearance as Regina Reid in an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” called “On Fire.” In 2007, she had a recurring role in “American Heiress.” The same year, she also played the wife of Flint Marko, Emma, in “Spider-Man 3” and Diane in the dramatic film “On the Doll,” the first feature written and directed by music video director Thomas Mignone. During 2008 and 2009, Russell appeared in such films as “Dark World,” “I Am Somebody: No Chance in Hell,” “Jolene” and the comedy “16 to Life,” in which she won a Method Fest for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Louise. She also made guest appearances in “Fringe” (2009) and “Cold Case” (2010).
Recently, in 2011, Russell had a small role in the James Westby comedy “Rid of Me,” starring Katie O'Grady, John Keyser and Storm Large, and costarred with Casper Van Dien, Patrick Muldoon and William Forsythe in the action movie “Born to Ride” (2011), directed by James Fargo. She has a supporting role in the upcoming dramatic film “Street,” which is set to be released in 2011. She will also portray Nethiah's mother in the upcoming action adventure movie “The Legends of Nethiah” and Helen Roig in the action comedy “The Stone Pony” (2012), opposite Scott Caan, James Woods and Thomas Ian Nicholas.
Method Fest: Best Supporting Actress, Feature Film, “16 to Life,” 2009
Mystfest: Best Actress, “Track 29,” 1988