Cutting remarks

Six years later, the star of TV’s Felicity is still hearing about that fateful haircut
New Kevin Costner movie The Upside of Anger returns Keri Russell to spotlight

From: The Toronto Star March 8, 2005
by: Sean Daly

BEVERLY HILLS-It’s one of those stories that never really seems to go away. Like Milli Vanilli lip-syncing, or O.J.’s search for “the real killer.”

So Keri Russell wasn’t at all surprised that the first question today was about her hair.

Or to be more precise, the controversial decision to clip off those flowing brown locks six years ago during the second season of her TV drama Felicity .

“It was fascinating at the time and it still fascinates me,” she says of the worldwide fuss over her infamous ‘do. “People would come up to me and say `I can’t believe you did that!’ There was even one lady who came up to me in a mall and said, `You were so pretty before you cut your hair.'”

For the record, Russell insists that chopping orders were handed down directly from the show’s executive producers.

“I had no choice,” the former Mouseketeer says. She had no problem with doing it – but surprisingly, after Felicity was cancelled in 2002 it was beginning to look like Russell might not do much of anything else for a while.

After appearing with Mel Gibson in the movie We Were Soldiers , the green-eyed beauty put showbiz on the back burner and headed to New York City in search of a more “normal” life. “I took a well needed break where I didn’t read movies, I didn’t audition, I didn’t do anything,” she says. “I just hung out with friends and read books. I really needed to regroup.”

Now 28 and happily single, Russell is back in The Upside of Anger , a new drama from director Mike Binder which opens in Toronto next week. The premise: a woman (Joan Allen) is abandoned by her husband and struggles to raise her four headstrong daughters (Russell, Erika Christensen, Alicia Witt and Evan Rachel Wood) until a washed-up baseball player (Kevin Costner) becomes her drinking buddy and an unofficial member of her dysfunctional family.

Russell’s own home life was a bit simpler. She was born in Fountain Valley, Calif. and raised in Arizona and Colorado with older brother Todd and younger sister Julie. Her father David is an automobile executive. Mother Stephanie, a homemaker.

In junior high school, she studied ballet and jazz and toured the U.S. with a dance and drill team before launching a modeling career at 14.

When her photo caught the eye of casting scouts for The All New Mickey Mouse Club – one called her “a brunette Michelle Pfeiffer” – Russell landed side by side with four future pop stars (see sidebar). But it was up-and-comer Tony Lucca who immediately caught her eye. The two young actors dated on and off for years and even shared an apartment in 1997.

Along the way, Russell slowly made a name for herself in Hollywood. She appeared in Disney’s Honey I Blew Up The Kids , the TV movie The Babysitter’s Seduction , and the indie flop Eight Days A Week.

Then came Felicity , a syrupy teen soap about a college student looking for love in New York. The younger viewers love it. Critics were not so kind.

“Our heart goes out to her,” wrote Eric Mink of the New York Daily News , while CNN dubbed the show Flopcity . But the series survived, and earned Russell a Golden Globe award in 1999.

Nowadays, Russell hopes to find similar success with the CBS movie The Magic of Ordinary Days and Steven Spielberg’s cable mini-series Into the West , which airs this summer.

By then, she will be likely on to an even bigger project: remodeling her new Manhattan apartment.

“I have to redo the kitchen and bathrooms … I don’t even know how it is going to be decorate yet,” she confesses. “I tend to like things that are very clean looking, very sparse. My ideal would be a minimalist, contemporary cabin.”

And her ideal man? The single actress says “I want a guy’s guy” – just not an actor.

“This is a really competitive business, so I want someone separate from all that. It is so tricky dating someone in the business … because it can be a really insecure world. I’d rather date someone who can build a house.”

Or someone who isn’t all hung up on hair.