1989: When Valeria Golino Was Indie Royalty in Cannes
Golino returns to the Croisette this year as a jury member who will help select the Palme d'Or winner at the festival.
Before American audiences first came to know Valeria Golino as the alluring trapeze artist who stole Pee-wee Herman's heart in 1988's Big Top Pee-wee, the actress was a staple of European cinema.
Born to an Italian father and German mother, Golino spent her early years in Naples and Athens, where she pursued modeling at age 14. A chance meeting with director Lina Wertmuller landed Golino a role in 1983's A Joke of Destiny and launched her acting career. (She played the feminist daughter of an Italian politician who gets locked inside his armored limousine.)
With a Golden Globe for best breakthrough actress under her belt (she won for turns in two Italian films from 1985: My Dearest Son and Little Flames), Golino started flirting with Hollywood. The same year she made her U.S. debut in Big Top, she appeared in her best-known American role: playing Tom Cruise's love interest in Rain Man.
In 1989, Golino starred as a lusty pastry-shop girl in the 1840s-set drama Torrents of Spring, an adaptation of the Ivan Turgenev novel. The film competed for the Palme d'Or that year — it lost to Sex, Lies and Videotape — and earned only $112,000 at the box office.
The next few years saw Golino's Tinseltown stock plummet. After losing both leading roles in 1990's Pretty Woman and Flatliners to Julia Roberts — "My accent was charming, but when it came to be between Julia Roberts and me, she was American," she later said — the Italian star nabbed parts in 1991's Hot Shots! opposite Charlie Sheen and, that same year, The Indian Runner, a Nebraska-set period crime drama directed and written by Sean Penn.
As the Hollywood roles dried up, a deeper connection to the European art house compelled Golino to leave.
"I came to Hollywood, and I loved it. It was a great time, but in my head, I was still elsewhere, in Europe," Golino told THR in 2014. And in Europe, she has remained active for nearly two decades, focusing on Italian and French dramas. (Next up is Ivano De Matteo's La Vita Possibile.)
After screening her directorial debut, Honey, at Cannes in 2013, Golino, 50, returns to the Croisette this year as a jury member who will help select the Palme d'Or winner at the festival, where entries from Roberts (Money Monster) and Penn (The Last Face) also premiere.