Penelope Ann Miller.
If ever there was a Hollywood name from my youth that evoked a sense of excitement anytime I saw her name attached to the marquee of a particular project, it would have to be that of Penelope Ann Miller who was everywhere in the late 1980s and very early 90s. Her time in the extreme spotlight of A-list actors and celebrities ran short but resounded deeply in such films as Biloxi Blues, The Freshman, Awakenings, Chaplin and Carlito’s Way. She was the Generation X rendition of the sorts of actors that they just don’t make any more of: Donna Reed, Claudette Colbert, Judy Garland and Teresa Wright come immediately to mind. As she stood on screen going round after round with such fellow acting heavyweights as Robert De Niro, Matthew Broderick, Al Pacino, Sean Penn and Robin Williams it was easy enough indeed to think that her incredible streak of high-profile box office hits would never cease to be. Accept that, one day, the well seemingly ran dry and suddenly Ms. Miller was handed off to other endeavors both in and out of the film world and we, the movie-going public, were less for her diminished presence on the big screen.
We’ve all seen the phenomenon of those actors who all but set up a residence at our local movie theaters – appearing on a dance card of many movies in a short span of time that would make Jesse Owens winded – only to vanish like a tantalizing mirage. Jude Law, Christian Slater, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kyle Chandler have all pulled the same frustrating vanishing act, leaving us to cherish even more our dog-eared DVD and Blu-ray copies of Road to Perdition and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle as if they were a fragment of the Golden Menorah or the Shroud of Turin even as we question just where in the world these brilliant artists dematerialized to. My fellow journalist Tad Friend famously called this phenomenon “vagabond disease”; actors who – transient in nature – affect our movie-going lives narrowly yet profoundly before moving on to greener pastures. It may even take us some time before we realize that, like some beautiful fever dream, our cinematic compadres have lit out to fresher territories, leaving us questioning what an actor of Ms. Miller’s caliber could have done with even just one of the many great parts that accomplished thespian Kate Winslet has landed.
Penelope Ann miller, it turns out, never really went anywhere: She’s worked solidly and steadily as an accomplished journeyman actor lo these many years later in projects ranging from 2011’s Oscar winning film The Artist to such critically lauded and commercially successful television endeavors as Riverdale and Gaslight. And now, per our peerless peers over at The Hollywood Reporter, Ms. Miller has been elected as First Lady Nancy Reagan in an upcoming Ronald Reagan biopic.
The upcoming look at our 40th president is being directed by talented powerhouse Sean McNamara who hit at least a double with his popular film Soul Surfer and now is looking to turn that modest play into a genuine home-run. And, with a cast that includes Penelope Ann Miller, Dennis Quad (as Ronald Reagan), Jon Voight and Robert Davi, this ballpark prognosticator is willing to bet all the way on McNamara.
The film, which is currently in production in Oklahoma, is a drama from the stable of Rawhide Pictures and producer Mark Joseph. Also along for the producing ride is X-Men producer Ralph Winter, making this film a pedigree of the highest order. Scribes Howard Klausner and Jonas McCord batted out the script for the film which itself is a loose adaptation of the popular books The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life, written by author Paul Kengor.
And once again, much like in the hazy late 80s and early 90s, an entire battalion of admirers of Penelope Ann Miller feel that sense of excitement and anticipation as the woman who once was – and in our heart of hearts always will be – Daisy Hannigan, all USO aglow and ready to assume her hallowed space on the nose of a World War Two era bomber, prepares to expertly slide back onto the silver screen to entertain us for an hour and some change. Somehow it just seems…right.