She was 19. She had been auditioning for only six months. And seemingly out of nowhere (Austria, actually), Rebecca DeMornay scored the role of Lana, a call girl who seduces an enterprising teenager (Tom Cruise) and lends new meaning to mass transit in 1983’s Risky Business. Flash forward to early 1996, where DeMornay is a criminal psychologist who makes love against a mesh fence, among other places, to Antonio Banderas in the erotic thriller Never Talk to Strangers, and you may sense a pattern.
”I was incredibly lucky very quickly,” says DeMornay, 33. But her luck ran out just as rapidly with her next big at bat, a Neil Simon strikeout called The Slugger’s Wife. ”It was good training on the reality of the world and career rhythms,” she says. ”In the span of a year I faced extreme success and extreme failure.”
Eleven years and 16 TV and feature films after Risky Business, DeMornay scored again, this time as the deranged nanny who employed breast-feeding as a weapon in The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. ”Rebecca has that blond angelic look, but she can also turn those eyes cold,” says Cradle director Curtis Hanson. ”She’s able to project vulnerability and ferocity at the same time.”
She also knows what she wants, which is why she was gratified to executive-produce Strangers and thrilled to make her directorial debut last year with an episode of Showtime’s The Outer Limits. DeMornay is now considering a starring role in Stephen King’s TV-miniseries adaptation of The Shining, which she says will be more faithful to the novel than the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film was.
A California native, DeMornay spent most of her childhood in Europe with her mother and half brother; her father is the ultraconservative L.A. talk-show host Wally George. After graduating from an Austrian high school, she headed to L.A. and ”stumbled into” the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute. She’s mum about a boyfriend (a relationship with songwriter Leonard Cohen ended two years ago), but her voice is that of a woman happy with her choices. ”One of the reasons I was intrigued by Strangers is that for a time I wanted to be a psychologist,” she says. ”But I don’t think it could have been quite as much fun or lucrative.” And anyway, how many shrinks get to experience chain link with Antonio Banderas?