Rene Russo: Teacher Kept Me From “Killing Myself” in High School, Football Players Called Me “Jolly Green Giant”

Rene Russo
Rene Russo gave a rather bizarre, tear-filled speech while accepting an award on Feb. 2, revealing that her 8th grade Spanish teacher prevented her from killing herself in high school. Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images

One loaded speech. Rene Russo gave a bizarre, tear-filled speech while accepting an award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nightcrawler at AARP's 14th Annual Movies For Grownups Awards Gala in Beverly Hills, on Monday, Feb. 2.

The Thomas Crown Affair actress, 60, who looked stunning at the gala in a form-fitting ensemble, took to the stage in utter shock that she had won the honor. "S—!" Russo exclaimed as she wiped tears from her eyes. "I have no idea where I am! I’m so sorry. I'm a virgin recipient, I’ve never won anything in my frickin' life.. This is my first award ever — thank you — unless you count my 1999 Best Screen Kiss Blockbuster Award, which I don't think counts."

Russo went on to thank her mother Shirley Balocca Russo, who was in the audience Monday evening. "She always told me to take time to smell the roses," the star said of her parent while choking up. "Given some of your life challenges, that makes you the best mom in the world. Sorry. I’m just so f—ing nervous! I never win anything!"

The speech then took an interesting turn when Russo harkened back to decades ago, when she was a teenager. "I want to thank my 8th grade Spanish teacher. Hola!" she said. "I’ll skip some decades here, I know it seems like it’ll go on forever, but for navigating me through all those f—ed-up a–hole football players. They called me Jolly Green Giant. You didn’t keep me from dropping out of high school, but you did keep me from killing myself."

The star also expressed gratitude towards her longtime agent John Crosby, whom Russo affectionately referred to as "one of the great guys in my life." She further described him as "a kick-ass, cigar-smoking, Scotch-drinking, kilt-wearing, hot-as-hell for a man who has been my manager for nearly half a century. Thank you for making up for my deadbeat dad, and putting me up for every single movie I was sure I wasn’t good enough to do." (Russo's biological father Nino Russo left the family when the actress was just 2-years-old.)

Finally, Russo thanked the "greatest love" of her life, husband and Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy. "You wrote the most kick-ass movie, it was absolutely perfect, and you fit me into it. You’re the most amazing director and you direct me with love and compassion and kindness and everything that you are, truly, every day. I just thank you so much, thank you just for everything."

Other celebrities to be honored at the annual awards show included Kevin Costner, Julianne Moore, J.K. Simmons, and Theory of Everything costars Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones.

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