Rene Russo as Nina the News Shark in ‘Nightcrawler.’

Monday, November 3, 2014

Veteran actress Rene Russo has been working in film for quite awhile, gracing the big screen with her talent in a number of widely beloved movies such as ‘Get Shorty,’ ‘Tin Cup’ and many others. But suddenly back in 2005 she decided to take a break from it all, completely dropping out of the film world to pursue other avenues to her heart’s content. It wasn’t until she was presented the opportunity to be a part of ‘Thor’ that she finally returned to the fold of the film industry, and in a big way.



Now it’s been a couple years since Russo decided to emerge back on the scene, and multiple roles have been thrown her way since that point, but there was a special one that really caught her attention. A particular script about competitive news coverage came from none other than her husband and filmmaker Dan Gilroy. Originally he approached Russo with the script for ‘Nightcrawler,’ claiming that she would be perfect for the role of the Nina. All because Russo is married to Gilroy doesn’t mean she’ll accept any role he passes along, but it took a little bit of convincing for her to commit to the role.

Did you get a chance to talk with any news anchors, or news women, about this kind of hanging on that your character seems to be trying to do?

 I don’t usually do that, as an actress… when I played an epidemiologist, I spoke to an epidemiologist, but I didn’t really get that much from it. So I didn’t really have Nina for a long time, and it wasn’t because I didn’t know a news anchor, it’s because I didn’t know who she was. If I can’t use my own colors and life experiences, then I don’t know where to go. And I’m naturally just a hard-ass bitch, who is going to get what she wants at any cost. I’m not that. I don’t know how I necessarily would play that, but I have been desperate, and I have crossed moral boundaries in my desperation, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to understand Nina. She’s older. She could lose her health insurance. I’ve always had health insurance, thank God, but to be alone, to be older, to be on the lowest rung possible, in your career, knowing you could get shipped off, God knows where. I didn’t want to judge Nina for any of that. Just like I wouldn’t want to be judged for any of the moral boundaries. They’ve always been because I’m scared to death, really. Some people do it out of greed, some do it out of fear, and some maybe out of both, but for me, I kind of had to find Nina in that desperate place.



Having said that, it’s not like she didn’t slip into that comfortably. Once you cross that boundary, and she made the pact with the devil, out of possible desperation, to suddenly go further and further down that road. I still didn’t necessarily want to judge her for that. It’s interesting, talking to people about her character, or about Jake’s character, in that it’s really funny. It’s not always gender and age, I want to make that very clear, because I don’t want to make it out like we’re bashing men. I have heard in Europe, where the guys will sit down and go, “Man, she was a hardboiled bitch!” Okay. And the women are like, “No she wasn’t. She was sympathetic. We get it!” And it was interesting, because some younger people, who maybe haven’t been there at that age, ready to lose something, maybe they would judge her more than an older woman. So far, woman my age have been like, “Yeah, I get that.” Everyone judges Nina or doesn’t, depending on where they are in their life.

When you two first meet, when you and Louis first meet, do you think she consciously realizes what she’s getting into? Do you think she’s aware?

 I think she does. I think she makes that deal right there. I think when he had her, dead to rights; look, she’s a business woman. She’s probably been at many of these board meetings. When he says, “You want to keep your health insurance, you want to be on a rated TV station,” I think she was stunned! There was a moment, like, “You little f–ker!” And she wanted to fight it, and she was going back and forth, but I think he got her. He really got her. She had to pull herself up and go, “This is it.” And this was it. And he was like, “Okay, game on.”
I also don’t think that she’s a victim. If he did not bring the goods to her, then she was not putting out whatever she was putting out. The only thing that I had with my husband, well, two things. One was, when he handed me the script, I went, “Okay, I think the girl needs some work.” The truth is, that not one word was changed. I couldn’t find her. It really wasn’t in his writing, it was that I couldn’t necessarily find her. And the other thing was that I think he always found Nina as more of a victim, and I didn’t. I saw her as she knew what she was doing. She got herself into it. Yes, there is a certain amount of victim, but she also wasn’t going to play the game if he didn’t bring her what she wanted. Overall, for myself, there is a sociopath in all of us, in a way. You look at Jake’s character, and you could judge him, but on the other hand I think Danny always saw [that] it’s a really tough job market out there for the youth, coming out of college. They take internships for nothing. You look at Jake and you go, “Oh, that wasn’t right.” Would I do that? I think that was always really interesting, to Dan, what lines would we cross, whether it would be Nina or Jake.

We get to see Jake’s characters true colors pretty early on, but your character unfolds throughout the film. Did you shoot in order to allow that to happen, or did you have to piece it together day by day?

 We didn’t shoot in order. It’s hard to shoot out of order sometimes. It’s really hard, and there have been many of times where after shooting a scene at the end after shooting ones later or upfront I’m like ‘Ah! That came out different than I thought. I wish I would have known that so I could put that in the end.’

Can you talk about working with Jake (Gyllenhaal)? Also, what’s he like to hang out with? 

 I didn’t hang out with Jake too much, and the reason I didn’t hang out with him is because honestly I’ve worked with a lot of actors… But the way he sort of slipped into this role and this dialog was amazing to watch, and he made it look easy. It was like watching him like he was in labor. That was how intense he was, because it’s very difficult for an actor to walk the tightrope that he had to walk with all of the colors that he had to put in it without you seeing, and he did it seamlessly. He was charming, but he was creepy. Is he a psychopath? I don’t know. Is he not a psychopath? I wanna root for him because life is f–ked up, but then what am I doing? I’m rooting for him? What’s wrong? That’s not easy to do, and Dan wrote those words so beautifully, but he was able to bring them to like and I have to say that I’ve never seen an actor do that with that because that was a really difficult role to do, and like I said he made it look easy. 



It was great when you came back to film – was it just time you took, or what? 

You know, a lot of people ask me that, and I think that… I’ve been telling people that I started ironing at nine years old. [laughs] I really did, and I’ve had a job ever since. There was never any time, and then when I was doing two movies back to back. Look. A lot of people started at nine, and do two movies back to back. I think it’s just your constitution, and for me there were other things that I wanted to do. At a certain point I had to ask myself ‘Well Rene, if you don’t do them, what? Are you just going to keep doing one movie, after another, after another?’ and honestly, there wasn’t anything that I wanted to do in terms of parts either. Look guys, I don’t like getting up at 4:30 in the morning. I don’t like it, and if I’m going to get up at 4:30 in the morning and early to have makeup on my face and a cold  … Now I know I’m sounding like I should really not say this, like I’m totally not grateful for my job, which I am because it’s a great job for a whole lot of different reasons. But unless it’s something that I feel I can share my feelings or my emotions so that I can be a reflection for other people to go ‘Wow. I’d do that!’ or ‘Wouldn’t I?’ or ‘I can relate.’ then it’s just not fun for me. There were just a couple of other things that I wanted to do. 

What did you do? 

What did I do? I Did things that are so boring to talk about. Ok. I worked with the DWP in California to start a garden. So usually I don’t talk about these things but  I just feel like California doesn’t necessarily have a sense of place because people have just ripped everything out of the ground when East came West and brought their water-loving gardens. We’re in a huge drought, so I’ve got in a completely native garden that I spent a lot of time with the designer doing, and I loved it. It’s really an amazingly artistic creative thing to do, and I worked with a genius. I didn’t know anything, but she taught me a little bit, and then I actually started a dairy company.

Nightcrawler’ is in theatres nationwide on October 31, 2014.

Released and distributed by CAPTIVE CINEMA.

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