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Keri Russell On Jane Austen, Russian Spies, and Why She Can't Be Wonder Woman

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 13, 2013 at 1:28PM

Central to "Austenland"'s success is actress Keri Russell, who at 37 is having a fabulous year. She is in her prime, as Miss Jean Brodie would say.
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Keri Russell
Keri Russell
"Austenland"
"Austenland"

Jane Austen fans, do not be afraid of "Austenland." With the 200th anniversary of "Pride and Prejudice" approaching, screenwriter-turned-director Jerusha Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite") worked with novelist Shannon Hale to bring her book "Austenland" to the screen. This movie about a mousy Austen escapist who plunks her hard-earned money on a getaway to the English countryside where actors pretend to be part of a real-life Regency romance is hilarious. (No mobiles allowed.) And it functions as a sharply observed comedy of manners. 

Central to "Austenland"'s success is actress Keri Russell, who at 37 is having a fabulous year. She is in her prime, as Miss Jean Brodie would say.  

Keri Russell in FX's 'The Americans'
Keri Russell in FX's 'The Americans'

For one thing, the actress, who broke out in J.J. Abrams' "Felicity" in 1998, is fussy about the parts she does. This is why you're more likely to see her in a tiny indie than a big bad studio rom-com. She is at her best in the late Adrienne Shelly's "Waitress" and FX's "The Americans," which was unaccountably overlooked at the Emmys. Russell almost turned it down--much like costar Noah Emmerich--but her management team talked her into it. Thankfully. 

Her role as a ruthless and utterly committed Russian spy undercover in 80s Washington, D.C. is a gift. What movie would ever let her play a kick-ass spy who's thrown into new action and drama every week at the same time that the real story is whether or not she loves her arranged spouse, another spy (Brit Matthew Rhys), with whom she has two unsuspecting kids?  She had a blast working on both films. Still to come: she stars opposite Jason Clarke in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." 

While she once voiced Wonder Woman on a toon, I suggested that she'd make great casting for the stuck-in-limbo DC project. She explains why she couldn't rock the costume in our flipcam interview below. 

This article is related to: Keri Russell, TV Interviews, TV, TV Videos, Austenland, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews, Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.