Jennifer Rodger
Wednesday 10 June 1998 23:02 BST

Tough Tootsie: Successful, talented, forty-ish and blonde is a hard role to play in Hollywood. But Jessica Lange does it well. Since her debut reappraising Fay Wray's role in the 1976 remake of King Kong, Hollywood has nominated Lange Best Actress five times. She has picked up the Oscar twice. Apart from a couple of films, the ones which it would have been kinder not to have made (never mind chosen), she has consistently delivered acclaimed performances, particularly in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981), Tootsie (1981) and Blue Sky (1994).

Cover girl: Jessica Lange's first producer, Dino De Laurentiis, did a superb PR job on her modelling credentials. Lange says, "I hated being lumped into that category of model-turned-actress." She has quite a few other credentials for idolisation: she got an art scholarship to university then turned drop-out and travelled the world with her new husband (a Spanish photographer by the name of Paco Grande) in a pick-up truck; she was studying under the famed mime instructor, Etienne DeCroux, and dancing with the Opera Comique but dropped both to wait on tables at the Lion's Head in Greenwich Village; and Lange is the mother of three who has also fostered a handicapped Romanian child.

Natural Born Star: Lange's childhood reads like a play by Arthur Miller. Her father was a salesman, her mother a housewife and her childhood illness was soothed away by acting out Olivia De Havilland's death-bed scene in Gone With the Wind. Her second husband (after Senor Grande) was the Russian defector and ballet king, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and she currently lives on a horse farm in Virginia with the equally elusive Sam Shepard (actor, playwright, bohemian). You couldn't make it up.

Blonde ambition: Lange, however, has made mistakes in her play of the Hollywood star system (and not just allowing herself to cost much less than a 40ft co-star). Think the token women between Tim Roth and Liam Neeson in Rob Roy. Or how it is more likely that contemporaries Michelle Pfeiffer or Meryl Streep are given roles as the lead female. In short, critical acclaim comes to Lange, but she hasn't got (nor seems to want) the Hollywood profile and commercial films. You probably won't see Lange in a cat suit or sharing centre stage with Goldie Hawn and a crew of special effects. Instead, you could have Jessica Lange in the flesh because her next project is rumoured to mean a return to London's West End (where she has previously played Blanche Du Bois in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire).

`A Thousand Acres' is released today.

Jennifer Rodger

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