Actors and actresses drop out of the limelight all the time, and such is the nature of Hollywood that no one ever really stops, notices, and thinks to hire them. It's depressing and terrifying, to say the least.
The reason I started worrying about Rene Russo is actually quite bizarre. It was thanks to Jennifer Aniston, who didn't pacify my feelings on Pumas by hiring Michael Sucsy to direct her in Goree Girls. Yes, I'm a hypocrite -- one minute I'm railing against her persistent lonely girl rom-coms, and the next I'm all "Aniston as a singing Texas inmate? That's so ridiculous. Who would I cast, though? I don't know. Probably Rene Russo or something." And then it hit me ... what the heck happened to Ms. Russo? I went to IMDB expecting that she had things in pre-production, or had several films languishing in direct-to-DVD land, only to discover she hasn't appeared in a film since 2005. If IMDB is to be believed, she has nothing on her slate. Her message board is full of "Did she retire?" queries. The most recent story on her newsfeed that's actually about her is from January 2009 when she told some red carpet reporters that Jessica Simpson looked pretty.
My imagination tells me that she's left the big screen because there aren't enough parts for women "of a certain age," and she's dissatisfied with the scripts that are sent her way. I really hope it's a personal choice and not that filmmakers have simply stopped hiring her. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle didn't stop anyone from hiring Robert De Niro ever again.
I really wish she would come back. If there was a kickass chick of the 1990s, it was Russo. She occupied that last golden period where actresses were still hired to play Secret Service agents instead of man-hungry pumas -- and damn, did she get the choice picks.
While she was a softer, more feminine action hero than what Sigourney Weaver or Linda Hamilton played (a sign of the changing times), she was an action heroine nonetheless. She played scientists, Secret Service agents, doctors, insurance agents and cops -- and she wasn't just any cop, she was the female Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 3. Was that ridiculous? A little bit, yeah. But watching Lethal Weapon 3 today is like seeing some archaeological artifact thanks to her stuntwork and her scar stories. You never doubt that she's earned every one of her asphalt or shotgun scars, and while the scene is coy and sexy, it wasn't just so the audience could see her breasts. In fact, Mel Gibson strips off further than she does. What a concept!
In the Line of Fire is a similar relic. First she's snubbed by Clint Eastwood's Frank Horrigan for being a woman, then she earns his grudging respect and his romantic interest, but she's never simply The Love Interest. She's a Secret Service agent all the way and while she might stop to make out with him, she never goes off-duty, and she never defers to him. I especially like how she keeps a cool head throughout the movie, whereas Horrigan ends up reassigned because he keeps throwing himself in front of popped balloons. (Yes, I'm being flippant -- of course he ends up being right, but he still needs her help.)
Nowadays, I don't think you'd see these characters in an action film, let alone a "mature" actress like Russo playing them. Secret Service Agent Lilly Raines would be re-imagined into a press secretary, played by a 23-year-old, and be easy romantic pickings for a Secret Service Agent old enough to be her grandfather. Lorna Cole would also be too young to be working in Internal Affairs, and would be stripped to a G-string before anyone could say "No interdepartmental dating!" She would end up kidnapped by the organized criminals instead of roundhouse kicking them. The Thomas Crown Affair would be even more about the make-up and clothes, and less about outwitting an art thief.
So, I don't know if you're still out there, Ms. Russo, but I wish you'd come back. Along with Sigourney Weaver, you were the chick I most wanted to be like when I grew up -- and not just because Martin Riggs fell for you, but because you actually could shoot guns and speak smartly without scaring everyone off. I hope someone out there has got a script that'll pair you with Hamilton and Weaver and involve you all kicking some kind of ass, or curing cancer, or doing something worthy. But hey, if you've chosen to ride into the sunset because you'd rather play a secret service agent than a cougar or a puma, well, that's a statement worthy of thanks all on its own.