Lena Olin is a Swedish actress who might be best known for playing Sydney Bristow’s scheming mother. Before she was a super-spy, she stared in The Unbearable Lightness of Being with Juliette Binoche back in 1988. She was wonderful as the carefree lover Sabina, but she showed a much darker side with her next role as Mona Demarko in the 1993 movie Romeo is Bleeding.
It was her role as Mona Demarko that inspired J.J. Abrams to cast her as Sydney’s KGB mother. In Romeo is Bleeding, Gary Oldman plays a cop named Jack that is sent to deal with the dangerous assassin Demarko. However, he is unable to kill her. Instead, he ends up sleeping with her and ends up being played. He gets a second chance to kill her, but fails at that too. Demarko cuts off her own arm to fake her death and escapes. Jack is implicated in a number of murders that Demarko conned him into committing for her. They are arguing on the way to the courthouse, where he is to be tried and he finally ends up shooting her. He is cleared of the charges and ends up living alone in a desert town.
This film was all but forgotten by many, but it is important in the origins of Irina Derevko. Anyway, before she took on the role of sleeper KGB spy turned free-lance villain, she was Claire Danes’s mother in A Polish Wedding. She played the unfaithful matriarch of a large polish family in Michigan named Jadzia. Though she loves her husband, she’s been having an affair for along time with a man named Roman. She eventually ends her affair. Her daughter Hala is just out of high school and ends up pregnant by a local cop. Jadzia and family pressure the cop to marry Hala.
From there Olin played roles in The Ninth Gate with Johnny Depp and Chocolat with both Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She was also in Casanova with Heath Ledger and The Queen of the Damned with Aaliyah. Though you may not recognize her immediately when you see her, she does get around!
From 2002 to 2005 she made many guest appearance on the TV show Alias as Sydney Bristow’s Mom. At the end of the first season it is revealed that Irina faked her own death and returned to Russia. Sydney has been on her trail through her connections at SD-6. In the season finale she is captured and discovers it is her mother who has captured her. Sydney escapes, but is shot in the arm. Later, Irina turns herself in. After gaining the intelligence she desired, Irina escapes again. Irina goes into hiding and is in and out of Sydney’s life until the finale, when Irina chooses Rimbaldi over her daughter and plunges to her death.
After taking a few more odds and ends film roles, Lena Olin has returned to TV in the show Welcome to Sweden. Since it is a show that airs in Sweden, I have not seen it, but it sounds good. She plays the mother of the main character.
Olin has been acting since the 1970s, but is still not well known to many outside of Sweden. She is wonderful actress that I find to be both beautiful, strong and diverse in her abilities. Olin can play both the victim and victimize—the lover and the killer. She can be angry and she can be vulnerable. In any case, I hope to see her in more movies!