Lisa Banes was a versatile star of stage, television and film whose work spanned decades with more than 80 appearances in cinema and on the small screen – from the stressed wife of Malcolm McDowell’s angry man to Tom Cruise’s one-time lover in Cocktail.
Starting in 1980, in the off-Broadway play Look Back in Anger, she was perhaps best known for playing Marybeth Elliot, the devastated and furious mother of Rosamund Pike’s missing Amy Dunne in 2014’s Gone Girl.
Banes was born in 1955 in Chagrin Falls, Cleveland, Ohio to her father, Ken, who worked in advertising and her mother, Mary Lou, who was a model. Banes grew up in Colorado Springs, attended Cheyenne Mountain High School and knew from a young age she wanted to be an actor. She told Colorado Springs Gazette in 2014 that her first job, at the age of 15, was as a cast member at a dinner theatre.
“They served liquor,” she told The Gazette. “I’m pretty sure I lied about my age because I was only 15 and you had to be 16.”
A childhood friend, Lisa Riegel, whom Banes remained close to, told the newspaper in 2014 that she “knew she’d be a star from the time we were in grade school. She was in a play in grade school – a solo performance of Charlie Chaplin. She brought the house down”.
Banes would go on to attend the prestigious Juilliard performing arts school in Manhattan before coming to prominence on the New York stage in the Eighties. She won a Theatre World Award for her off-Broadway performance as Alison Porter in Look Back in Anger. She portrayed the burdened wife of Jimmy Porter, played by Malcolm McDowell.
The Broadway critic Walter Kerr, writing about the performance for The New York Times, said: “Lisa Banes has a remarkably effective final scene, on her knees in anguish, face stained with failure, arms awkwardly searching for shape and for rest.”
Banes then went on to earn a nomination for a Drama Desk Award for Best Featured Actress in 1984 for her role in Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy Isn’t It Romantic?.
Her first big movie role came in 1988, when she starred alongside Tom Cruise in Cocktail, the story of two bartenders and their drinking and bedroom adventures in Jamaica. Banes plays Bonnie, a (brief) love interest for Cruise’s Brian Flanagan.
She is, however, best known for her role as Marybeth Elliot in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, the mother of the missing Amy Dunne. It was a role Banes relished, revealing in an interview that Marybeth was a “good Wasp” (White Angle-Saxon Protestant) and that was something she could really get stuck into.
“Working with David Fincher is as good as it gets,” she said about the film to YouTube channel ScreenSlam in 2014. “I’ve got some friends in the cast, and we all had way too good a time.”
It was in that same year that Banes also met the woman she would later marry. Kathryn Kranhold, 61, is a contributing reporter for the Centre for Public Integrity, and previously wrote for The Wall Street Journal. The pair lived in Los Angeles and mostly kept their relationship out of the spotlight. They were married in 2017.
Following the success of Gone Girl, Banes also became known for her role as Hollis in 2016’s A Cure for Wellness alongside Dane DeHaan and Celia Imrie.
As well as her movie and stage performances, the LA-based actor made many TV appearances, mostly single-episode roles in programmes such as Desperate Housewives, Masters of Sex, and most recently in Nashville and Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville. Her last role was in the horror series Them.
After the news broke of Banes’s death, MacFarlane wrote: “Her stage presence, magnetism, skill and talent were matched only by her unwavering kindness and graciousness toward all of us.”
Banes continued appearing on Broadway throughout her career, with one of her most recent appearances being in 2018 in Boston where she played one of the two lead roles in Jordan Boatman’s The Niceties.
Banes had been on her way to meet her wife for a dinner party at the Lincoln Centre when she was struck by a motorised scooter. On the news of her death, her partner tweeted an image of Banes and the words “love and light”, and appealed for help in catching the person who caused Banes’s death.
Lisa Banes, actor, born 9 July 1955, died 14 June 2021