Written and directed by Ron Shelton, the comedy Just Getting Started follows Duke (Morgan Freeman), the manager with a mysterious past who is making the luxury Palm Springs resort known as Villa Capri a fun, non-stop party place for its residents. But when ex-military man Leo (Tommy Lee Jones) shows up and makes eyes at the newly arrived Suzie (Rene Russo), it triggers a competition between the two men that has both hilarious and dangerous consequences.
At the film’s press day, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actress Rene Russo, who talked about why she likes working with filmmaker Ron Shelton (Tin Cup, Bull Durham), what sets his brand of comedy apart, what she most enjoyed about this character, working with Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones, and her dog co-star. She also talked about what she looks for in a project and character, why she enjoys working with her husband, filmmaker Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler), and whether she’d ever consider doing a TV series.
Collider: You’ve talked about how Ron Shelton understands women and the female psyche, so he writes great female characters. What do you like about the way that he writes for women, and what did you enjoy about this specific character?
RENE RUSSO: I think he writes really strong women, but he always gives them a flavor. I think he likes just a little bit of unpredictability. They’re totally together, but I love that he says they’re either hanging by a thread, or there’s a problem they’re trying to get through, so you get to see them get through it. It’s always exciting because it’s not one-dimensional. I love that about Ron. He’s so good. He’s such a good romantic comedy writer, and I love that he writes complicated women. We’re not always all together. We go through hard times, where we don’t know if we’re going to be able to do it, and that’s part of the fun of watching his characters. He’s wonderful. I love him!
What do you think it is that sets his brand of comedy apart from other filmmakers?
RUSSO: He’s easy breezy. It’s not self-conscious. I think he loves actors. You’ve got Tommy Lee and Morgan, who are just so natural. His comedy doesn’t seem forced to me. He cast two kings. It was so interesting to watch these men somehow become like children. I was looking at Morgan thinking, “Oh, my god, I’m watching you, as an 8-year-old!” That’s not easy to do, and that’s what he wanted. I think he cast the parts perfectly. Without being mean and nasty, it can be great and it can be funny. There’s all kinds of comedy, but he still manages to keep it in the ‘40s tradition of romantic comedy and the banter, which I love.
This is a woman who starts off seeming one way, before we learn who she really is and what she’s doing. What did you most enjoy about getting to play that duality?
RUSSO: It’s fun that she started out thinking, “I’m going to come and investigate these unsavory business practices and get to the bottom of it.” Her ass is on the line with her job. She knows that she’s messed up a few times and she has to get it together, but these total children have somehow changed her mind and brought the kid out in her, in some ways. Suzie just unravels, and that was fun.