What became of … Nancy Allen?

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“There is nothing more uncomfortable than wearing black underwear,” he joked last April. Nancy allen during an interview prior to the screening at the Ebertfest (festival dedicated to the memory of the film critic Roger Ebert) from ‘Dressed to Kill’ (1980), one of the four films she starred in under the command of her then husband, Brian de Palma. Allen was referring to one of the most memorable scenes in the film, when his character (a prostitute named Liz Blake) seduces a psychiatrist played by Michael Caine. Those of you who remember the film will know that there was much more at stake in that scene than a femme fatale trying to excite a man. In fact, for those who never saw in Allen the typical naive and young actress who had gotten into the bag of a mature director, the interpreter represented thanks to titles such as ‘Dressed to kill’ or ‘Impact’ a certain modernization of the stereotype feminine in the cinema, that of an intelligent and sexy woman who does not necessarily use her gifts for malicious purposes. “I do not think of those films with a general sense, nor trying to see what they meant for the cinema,” Allen acknowledges: “It was simply, at each moment, to understand what each character required. Although there is something that never changes: clothes Black interior, or any type of lingerie, still has the same effect on men, “he jokes.


Allen had the performance in the pores of her skin since, as a child, her mother enrolled her in dance classes to overcome her shyness. Debuting in the cinema at the age of 23 in a brief scene in which he had to give the reply to, nothing more and nothing less, than Jack Nicholson, is something that cures anyone. It was in ‘The Last Duty’ (Hal Ashby, 1973), although its revelation on the big screen would come from the hand of Brian De Palma. Allen auditioned to play Carrie in the self-titled film, but the director cast her as the ruthless bully Chris Hargensen. They fell in love while filming and were married three years later. The second half of the 70s and the beginning of the 80s was undoubtedly her best moment as an actress: she worked on three other films of her husband (‘A crazy family’, ‘Dressed to kill’ and ‘Impact’), as well as for directors like Robert Zemeckis (‘Crazy about them’) or Steven Spielberg (‘1941’).


Apparently De Palma was subjected to enormous pressure during the filming of ‘The Price of Power’ (1983) which would end up splashing his marriage with Allen, from which he would divorce in 1984. Many believed that the actress would have it complicated in the cinema without the endorsement of her husband, but the most popular character of her career was yet to come. In 1987 Paul verhoeven He thought of her for his Hollywood debut after the first choice for the role of Anne Lewis in ‘RoboCop’ left the project. “I remember when I heard that another actress had been chosen for the role I thought: No, no, no, no, that’s wrong,” recalls Allen, who knew immediately, already on set, that he was shooting a great movie : “You breathe in the environment when you are doing something great and important.”

“Robocop” was a success that would lead to two sequels, less successful, in which Allen reprized his role. “Many girls wrote to me to say: Wow! I did not know that a woman could do that or could be that,” recalls the actress. And it is that Anne Lewis, an effective, implacable and tremendously confident police officer helped Hollywood conceive that women could also be of arms to take in the literal sense of the phrase. Curiously, that was the last really relevant character in Allen’s career, who in the 90s was increasingly spacing his roles in film and television to end up disappearing with the entry of the new century.


There was no real reason for this beyond the animosity Hollywood seems to feel for actresses over 50. But Allen has not wasted, far from it, his time. An environmental activist, in 2010 she was chosen as executive director of the Wespark Center, a non-profit foundation that helps women with breast cancer and founded by her friend (and co-star in ‘Crazy about them’) Wendie Jo Sperber, who died in 2005 due to the disease. “It has become a passion for me, and it is what I dedicate my time to,” says Allen, who nevertheless still has an agent in Hollywood reading the scripts that come to him. “If the check is too big to reject, I will go back to the movies,” concludes the interpreter, whose last appearance, in an episode of ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ was 18 years ago.

nancy allen, circa 1980 photo by art zelingetty images

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