Theresa Lynn Russell is a seasoned American actor with a career spanning over 4 decades. She began her career as a model at age 12 after being discovered by a photographer. Eventually, she got introduced to film producer Sam Spiegel. This led her to make her film debut with Elia Kazan's ‘The Last Tycoon,’ starring Robert De Niro. What followed was a string of starring roles in films before the turn of the new millennium. Some of her notable films were ‘Straight Time,’ with Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates; ‘Black Widow,’ with Debra Winger; and Steven Soderbergh's ‘Kafka,’ with Jeremy Irons. She also starred in six Nicolas Roeg films, namely, ‘Bad Timing,’ ‘Aria,’ ‘Cold Heaven,’ ‘Track 29,’ ‘Insignificance,’ and ‘Eureka.’ Later, she also featured in the blockbuster hit superhero film ‘Spider-Man 3’ and in many other films such as ‘Jolene,’ ‘Now & Forever,’ and ‘The Box.’ Her TV works include TV movies such as ‘Thicker than Water’ and ‘Earth vs. the Spider, the series ‘Glory Days’ and ‘American Heiress,’ and the miniseries ‘Empire Falls.’ She was married to Roeg for a few years and has two sons.
Childhood & Early Life
Theresa Lynn Russell was born Theresa Lynn Paup, on March 20, 1957, in San Diego, California, US, to Carole Platt (née Mall) and Jerry Russell Paup. She was 5 when her parents divorced, following which she moved to Burbank with her mother and her stepfather. There, she grew up with five younger siblings. She once mentioned that her family suffered from poverty and survived on food stamps.
She studied at the ‘Burbank High School’ but dropped out at age 16, before graduating. She then moved in with her 28-year-old boyfriend, who was a primal scream therapist. At 17, she started attending the ‘Lee Strasberg Institute’ in West Hollywood, where she studied acting.
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Theresa began her career as a model at 12 after she was spotted by a photographer. While in her teens, Theresa became acquainted with photographer Peter Douglas, who later introduced her to film producer Sam Spiegel. On the recommendation of the latter, Theresa earned her debut role of ‘Cecilia Brady’ in the Elia Kazan-directed and Robert De Niro-starrer 1976 American drama film ‘The Last Tycoon.’
She then starred along with Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates in the 1978 American crime drama ‘Straight Time.’ The following year, she appeared in an episode of the ‘CBS’-aired four-part miniseries ‘Blind Ambition.’
She played ‘Milena Flaherty’ in the Nicolas Roeg-directed British psychological thriller film ‘Bad Timing’ (1980). The film was first screened at the ‘Berlin International Film Festival’ in February 1980 and at the ‘Toronto International Film Festival’ on September 12, 1980. The film created controversy upon its release but garnered Theresa immense critical acclaim. It marked the first of the six films featuring her under Roeg’s direction. The others were ‘Eureka’ (1983), ‘Insignificance’ (1985), ‘Aria’ (1987), ‘Track 29’ (1988) and ‘Cold Heaven’ (1991).
She was the subject of the photo collage ‘Nude 17th June 1984 #10’ by David Hockney.
She earned critical acclaim for playing serial killer ‘Catharine Peterson’ in the blockbuster hit 1987 film noir thriller ‘Black Widow,’ which also starred Debra Winger. She also earned praises from critics for her performances in the films ‘The Razor's Edge’ (1984), ‘Impulse’ (1990), and ‘Whore’ (1991).
She featured as ‘Gabriela,’ one of the leading characters in the Steven Soderbergh-directed French–American mystery-thriller film ‘Kafka’ (1991). The film was a black-and-white surrealist adaptation of the stories of Franz Kafka.
She contributed as a narrator in the Robin Williams-starrer 1994 British–Japanese comedy–drama film ‘Being Human.’ In the ensuing years, she starred in films such as ‘Wild Things’ (1998), ‘The Believer’ (2001), ‘Water Under the Bridge’ (2003), ‘Jolene’ (2008), and ‘16 to Life’ (2009). She also appeared in ‘Luckytown’ (2000) and ‘Passionada’ (2002). She played the role of ‘Emma Marko,’ the wife of ‘Flint Marko’ (essayed by Thomas Haden Church) in the sensational hit superhero film ‘Spider-Man 3’ in 2007.
In the early 1990s, she began playing starring roles in many TV films. Some such films are the Welsh thriller ‘Thicker than Water’ (1993), the thriller ‘Once You Meet a Stranger’ (1996), the science-fiction horror ‘Earth vs. the Spider’ (2001), the science-fiction thriller ‘Project Viper’ (2002), and the Christian drama ‘Love Comes Softly’ (2003). She played Elizabeth Taylor’s mother, Sara Taylor, in the biographical TV film ‘Liz & Dick’ (2012).
She essayed the main role of ‘Hazel Walker’ in the horror/mystery TV series ‘Glory Days’ (2002) and the recurring role of ‘Jordan Wakefield’ in the telenovela ‘American Heiress’ (2007). The two-part ‘HBO’ TV miniseries ‘Empire Falls’ (2005) featured her in the role of ‘Charlene.’ She played ‘Fiona’ in the miniseries ‘Delete’ (2012–2013).
She found a place on film magazine ‘Empire’s list of the "100 sexiest stars in film history.”
Family & Personal Life
On February 22, 1986, she married English director and cinematographer Nicolas Roeg in Westminster, London. They had two sons, Statten, born in 1983, and Maximillian, born in 1985. The marriage later ended in a divorce.