After returning to Santa Monica in 2009 (she now lives only a few blocks away from where she first moved after high school), Wright embarked on a new phase of both her life and career. She hired her first-ever manager, Michael Sugar, who has helped her land such challenging roles as Erika Berger, a character who’s both strong and driven and that Sugar knew was perfect for Wright. “He went to [the film’s director] David Fincher and said, ‘Hey, would you ever think about Robin for the role?’ Once he told me I was going in to meet with Fincher, who’s the best, I sat down and watched the Swedish versions of the movies and read the books,” she says.
Wright claims that her favorite roles are ones in which she gets to play someone entirely unlike herself, like Maureen Murphy Quinn, the unstable love interest of both John Travolta and Sean Penn in the 1997 drama She’s So Lovely; or Starr, a former stripper, recovering addict and born-again Christian in 2002’s female-driven White Oleander. “Picking a role for me is gut-first,” she says, standing up briefly to close the nearby balcony door. “Do I feel something? Am I responding to it? It’s so much more enriching than when people say, ‘Oh, you’re perfect for this role because you play the tortured, quiet, introverted soulful mother well.’ Great,” she says, rolling her eyes slightly. “I can’t wait to play that again.”
Both on-screen and off, though, it’s the emotional risk-taking that seems to attract her most. She tells me that son Hopper is leaving in a few days for Haiti, where he’s going to be working for his dad’s organization, J/P HRO, which dedicates its efforts to helping save lives and build better futures for the Haitian people. With her son’s transition (“He graduated high school!” she whispers again), that leaves Wright open to embark on her own human rights mission: helping to spread the word about, document and assist female victims of rape and mutilation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of her first stops? Europe, to speak on a panel as part of the Enough Project, which aims to end genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, Congo and other parts of Africa. While there, she also hopes to make connections with veterans, doctors and documentarians that may lead to producing her own documentary exposing the African country’s ongoing horrors against women. This desire to immerse herself in cultural aid has always been a part of her. In a 2006 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Wright said that she never meant to be an actress — she instead dreamed of being an aid worker for a humanitarian organization. After being a mom for 20 years, now’s her chance.
“Hopper’s leaving, and I don’t have anything planned at the moment until next year — I’ve got at least three months to go and explore. I don’t have to be back by Tuesday,” she muses. Then, smiling, she looks at me and says, “It’s like I just graduated college and am like, ‘OK. Now what are you going to do?’ ”
Laura Kiniry, a regulator contributor to American Way, lives in San Francisco, where she writes frequently about food and drink, the arts and travel.