INTERVIEW: Rene Russo Talks Just Getting Started

Rene Russo spoke with Cultured Vultures on Saturday afternoon about her new film coming out this Friday, Just Getting Started, her amazing role in Nightcrawler, and whether men or women write better female characters.

Thanks for joining Cultured Vultures today. How are things treating you?
How are things treating me? Well, that’s a big question. I guess it depends on the thing. It’s a little early in the morning for me even though it’s almost noon but other than that, I’m good.

I’m doing great even though it’s Saturday and I have a long day ahead of me watching awards screeners.
I know! You have to work on Saturday like I do. That sucks!

You’ve worked previously with Ron Shelton before in Tin Cup. What drew you to the role of Suzie in Just Getting Started?
Honestly, it was Ron. I didn’t know at the time who the male leads were but because I love Ron and he writes so well for women, I didn’t even have to open up the script. I was just like, oh well, it’s Ron—he’s a great writer. I love his comedy and he’s an amazing director. I don’t think I ever had more fun on Tin Cup so I was in. I just love him. I love Ron and he puts all of who he is into his films. He’s a complex, amazing guy. He knows people and I think that’s what I love about him. He understands the complexities of the human condition and I love that about him.

Have you noticed a difference in how men write female characters compared to how a female writer might tackle those characters in a script?
Yeah.  Oddly enough, I do. I think with Ron, even though Ron is a guy’s guy and a man’s man, he loves women. He’s got an incredible wife and he pays attention to women. He’s interested in women. I think he gets women. I don’t know if everyone gets women just like I don’t think if everyone gets a man. He seems to understand both and the differences between them and similarities. I really think he gets it, definitely.

After taking a break from acting a few years ago, you came back strong with two Thor films and then blew the world away with your amazing performance as Nina Romina in Nightcrawler? How often do you get the opportunity to take on such a role which I believe –and still do– should have been nominated for an Oscar?
You are such a sweetheart. I would give you a big hug if I could reach through the phone. You’re so darling. I appreciate that, thank you. Look, my husband wrote the film. I probably would not have been up for that film. I’m telling you honestly had I not threatened my husband with divorce if he did not give it to me (Laughs). I’m joking, I’m joking. I was just fortunate. He’s such a good writer and I just really lucked out on it. I don’t think I would have been considered for that role. I was just, really, really, really grateful for it and really thankful for it because I never had the opportunity to play a part like that so that’s always challenging. I don’t work a lot because I just feel that there’s so many scripts out there –at least the ones that I’m sent– that just aren’t really challenging and I don’t want to do a watered-down version of things I’ve already done. There are things that I really love doing but that one, I never tackled anything like that so I had a really good time. Thank you for your lovely words. I really appreciate it.

No problem. I was just talking to a friend of mine the other day. Even they were talking about how that role should have received more awards love.
Aww, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Credit: Lewis Jacobs / Broad Green Pictures

What was it like working with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones on the set?
You can imagine walking into the room with not one king but two. That’s kind of who they are. They’re bigger-than-life personalities. They are just contrasting. Their presence – they’re both these huge sort of (inaudible). I was intimidated. I’m not usually intimidated by working with an actor. I was with Clint Eastwood a little bit. But I definitely walked in and thought, ooh, I’ve got to be on my game here – these guys with personalities.  They were gracious and lovely. I have to say in rehearsals I was a little bit nervous. You do have to be on their game. They’re fast – they were really quick.

I knew Tommy Lee had a reputation of being kind of gruff. You wouldn’t want to mess with Tommy Lee. Let’s put it that way. This is his reputation. The truth is he is like –for me what I thought– this really sensitive beautiful heart. He’s the most complicated, complex person I’ve ever met. The most interesting person I’ve ever met in my life. He knows everything about everything, which is so crazy. There wasn’t any topic he was not sort of versed in. I remember standing in the desert thinking, god, is there anything he doesn’t know. I thought, ooh, let me talk about this native flower. He knew what the native flower was called. He knew the name of the flower. I’m like, wait a minute, this is my territory. Are you kidding me? You even know the name of the flower! It was crazy!

Morgan is Morgan. He’s the most charming man on the planet. He’s amazing. He would serenade us in the desert. He’s got a gorgeous voice. It was a beautiful time. It really was. It was wonderful.

I think sometimes being an actress is more about what happens off the screen than on because so much is just waiting around. There’s so little screen time, really, when you think about it. The action and cut are just moments. For this film, what’s so great about it was the people. Getting to meet both Tommy and Morgan and all the other wonderful actors. It was a cool shoot for sure.

It was interesting watching a holiday movie set in the desert.
Yeah. Where are you from?

I’m born and raised in Kentucky but currently living in Chicago.
So you know the cold in Chicago.  Whoa, it’s cold there. I remember being in Chicago –this was way back when, probably 30 years ago– I was walking down Michigan Avenue and honestly I’ve never felt so cold like that. I’m a California girl so I’m used to those kinds of Christmases. We’re in kind of a summit desert up here and I’m used to it. When I met my husband who’s from New York, I had some of my first snow Christmases, which are really wonderful and beautiful, I have to say. It’s great to have snow on Christmas Eve. There were a couple of amazing storms that came in and that was beautiful. But yes, I’m used to looking at what people are looking at on the screen because I’m a California girl. It was more unusual for me to see snow at Christmas.

With no car here, I don’t mind the snow as long as it’s plowed and shoveled.
(Laughs) Why? Did you have to shovel a lot of snow?

Back home in Kentucky, it was pretty much the only way to get out of the driveway. In Chicago, I live in an apartment so I don’t have to worry about the shoveling.
Absolutely. I’ve never been to Kentucky. It’s a cool place so I’d like to go to Kentucky some time.

You’ve never been to the Derby?
Can you believe that? Can you believe that? No, I haven’t. I didn’t get a hat or anything. I think one time I was invited and I didn’t get to go. That was a real disappointment. You know what? There’s still time to have a Mint Julep, right? Do you miss it?

Yeah, I miss it. At least living in Chicago, indie films are treated so much better.
Oh yeah, I’m sure. That makes sense. I love Chicago and I’ve been there a few times. I love the food. I do. I really like Chicago. You enjoy living there? How old are you? You sound like you’re 19.

Really?! Thirty-three but since starting hormones and everything after coming out, so many people think I’m in my 20s!
You know what it is—when you’re older, anyone from 19-40 look really young and they all sound really young. My daughter’s 24 and you sound like you’re around there.

Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your kind words and I’ll think of you if I ever make it to Kentucky.

Broad Green Pictures opens Just Getting Started in theaters on December 8, 2017.

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