Wednesday, May 23, 2012

149: The Self-Empowered Woman: Madeleine Stowe

Dear Followers,

Wednesday night's season finale of Revenge will leave TV viewers hungry to see more of Madeleine Stowe's complicated character Victoria Grayson. Just when her career was at it's peak after The Last of The Mohicans movie, Stowe decided to turn her back on the entertainment business and move with her husband (Brian Benben) to a 400 acre cattle ranch in Fredrickburg, Texas (14: Selective Disassociation).

Fortunately, the 53 year old actress is more than just another pretty face. And much of what makes her a substantial talent is the challenging childhood she faced in Eagle Rock (a working class neighborhood in LA). Stowe's mother was from an wealthy, aristocratic Costa Rican family, while her father came from a lower-class family in Oregon. He was prone to anger-management issues, and the situation escalated when--at age 28--he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; a self-taught civil engineer, he was forced to retire due to health issues when Stowe was only six years old (1: No Paternal Safety Net).

Because the disease took both his mobility and his memory, Stowe and her brother essentially wound up helping to provide full-time care to an uncommunicative father who spoke in one word sound bites, and spent his time watching one TV station and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. Stowe recently told More magazine that as a young girl, she would stay near him with water in case his cigarettes might start a fire (12: Hard Times).

This type of a complicated home life caused a number of difficulties for Stowe while growing up. In addition to her anxiety and heightened sense of responsibility, she was also unable to have a normal social life as a schoolgirl. Because of what was going on at home, she was never able to invite other children to visit. In her words "I was always afraid of being deeply humiliated...I always had a recessive quality. i could never come out of the shadows too well" (5: Life is Not A Popularity Contest).

The one safety valve she had as a youngster came from her piano lessons with the Russian pianist Sergei Tarnowsky, who had taught the young Vladimir Horowitz; their lessons took place in a room that had two grand piano's placed side by side (9: Music). The other escape for Stowe was the movies, and during college she worked as an usher at a playhouse in Beverly Hills. While handing out programs one night, the pretty teenager was asked by legendary agent Meyer Mishkin if she'd ever thought about becoming an actress. Several months later, however, she signed with him--even though he primarily represented male stars like Charles Bronson, Richard Dreyfuss and Lee Marvin. He is credited with guiding her career and landing roles for her opposite Kevin Costner, Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson and James Purefoy (4: Supportive Someone).

For years, Stowe has worked to bring a movie about the abductions of settlers' children by Native Americans in the wild west to the big screen. The script (Unbound Captives) tells the story of a woman whose children are kidnapped by the Comanches in the 1860's, and for close to a decade Stowe has been determined to bring it to production and to act in it as well. Nine years ago, 20th Century Fox offered her $5 million for the script, but stipulated that there was no role for Stowe; she rejected their offer "without a moment's thought" (11: Risk Addiction).

But the project has been close to her heart for so long that by the time she turned 50, she'd had an epiphany. Because she was now too old to play the leading role of the mother, she decided she would direct the movie instead. Now in development, Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz have signed on, and Stowe admits that "I'm on fire with this idea of what I want this film to be." (8: Turning No Into Yes).

In 2008, Stowe's other passion emerged when she went to Haiti and met with Father Rick Frechette who heads the Saint Luke Foundation for Haiti. Ever since then she has frequently flown to Haiti and even participated in grim chores like processing dead bodies out of the Port-au-Prince public morgue. In addition to her on the ground work in Haiti she has also endeavored to raise money and interest in the work that needs to be done for the island's hardest hit (7: Magnificent Obsession).

Looking forward to your comments...

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