I believe in New Year’s.
By that I mean, like many Americans, I believe in pausing at the end of each year to reflect on the triumphs and sorrows of the previous one, consider where I could do better, and map out goals for the next year.
But what struck me tonight – the first night of 2018 – is not how well 2017 went for me (and it did) but rather how well it went for actress Robin Wright.
Robin Wright’s long been underrated.
After her iconic portrayal of Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride 30 years ago, screenwriter William Goldman stated in his book Which Lie Did I Tell? Further Adventures in the Screen Trade that he thought she’d become one of the best and most popular actresses of her generation.
Curiously, she did not.
I have no insight into what was going on in her personal life during the late ‘80s and most of the ‘90s – except that:
- She married actor Sean Penn; and
- She seemed to resurface only every few years, but in bombshell roles.
Steady supporting work
Some examples of her roles throughout the last two decades:
- Jenny in Forrest Gump (1994). Jenny was Forrest Gump’s childhood friend, and later his wife and the mother of his son before her premature death.
- Theresa in Message in a Bottle (1999). A researcher for The Chicago Tribune, Theresa falls for the Kevin Costner’s Garrett, the silent, broken fisherman who writes letters to his dead wife.
- Anne in State of Play (2009). Anne is Congressman Stephen Collins’ (Ben Affleck’s) ex-wife and the former lover of journalist Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe) in this political thriller.
- Sharon in Moneyball (2011). Sharon is the ex-wife of protagonist Billy Beane – the Oakland A’s general manager played by Brad Pitt.
Not that Robin Wright wasn’t working steadily in these intervening years – she simply never really achieved the A-list stardom for which she seemed destined following The Princess Bride.
House of Cards
Then, in 2013 she had a career renaissance that began with her winning the starring role of Claire Underwood in Netflix’s political drama House of Cards.
Over five seasons so far, Wright has shined as the ruthlessly ambitious wife of Kevin Spacey’s power-hungry politician Frank Underwood. Wright’s portrayal has established Claire as a sort of modern day Lady Macbeth, and garnered her multiple award nominations.
Or, sometimes it takes 30 years.
This year, Robin Wright vaulted onto the A-list of Hollywood actresses with key supporting turns in Wonder Woman and Blade Runner 2049.
In addition, revelations of Kevin Spacey’s sexual misconduct with underage boys led to his career implosion.
Not only was Spacey fired from House of Cards, but he was also replaced by actor Christopher Plummer in the J. Paul Getty biopic All the Money in the World.
This was a historic move by director Ridley Scott, who replaced Kevin Spacey in post-production just six weeks before the film was released. Plummer’s casting was announced on Nov. 8 and filming ran from Nov. 20-29 prior to the film’s release on Dec. 25.
The re-casting so late in the process that a trailer featuring Kevin Spacey as oil baron J. Paul Getty had already been released.
For its part, producer Netflix fired Kevin Spacey from House of Cards, later announcing that the series’ sixth and final season would focus on Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood character alone.
Second acts are rare in Hollywood, particularly second acts that occur decades after the first.
But as each of us takes these first few days of 2018 to reflect on the last year and consider where we want to go in this one, we could do a lot worse than hope for the kind of resurgence Robin Wright experienced in 2017.
As her incredible career last year demonstrated, patience and consistent hard work nearly always win out.