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Lisa Banes, film and stage actress, dies at 65

Ms. Banes
Ms. BanesVictoria Will/Victoria Will/Invision/AP

Lisa Banes, a versatile actress who came to prominence on the New York stage in the 1980s and went on to a busy career that also included roles on television and in the films “Cocktail” and “Gone Girl,” died Monday of head injuries she sustained 10 days earlier when she was struck by a scooter in Manhattan. She was 65.

Her death, at Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, was confirmed by the New York Police Department, which said she had been struck by the scooter June 4 as she was crossing Amsterdam Avenue near West 64th Street in Manhattan.

The operator of the scooter had driven through a red light before crashing into Ms. Banes and then fled, said Sgt. Edward Riley, a police spokesperson. Riley said Tuesday that no arrests had been made.

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Ms. Banes lived in Los Angeles and had been in New York visiting friends, her wife, Kathryn Kranhold, said.

Known for her wry humor and confident, elegant presence, Ms. Banes appeared in more than 80 TV and film roles, as well as in many stage productions, including on Broadway.

She found quick success in the theater after coming east from Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the mid-1970s and studying at The Juilliard School, in New York.

In 1980, when the Roundabout Theater revived John Osborne’s “Look Back in Anger,” with Malcolm McDowell in the lead role as the angry Jimmy Porter, she played his overstressed wife.

“Lisa Banes has a remarkably effective final scene,” Walter Kerr wrote in The New York Times, “on her knees in anguish, face stained with failure, arms awkwardly searching for shape and for rest.”

The next year, at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, she was in a production of James Barrie's comedy “The Admirable Crichton,” playing a daughter in an upper-crust British family that becomes shipwrecked on a deserted island.

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“As Lady Mary,” Mel Gussow of The Times wrote in his review, “Lisa Banes has a regal disdain. Gracefully, she plays the grande dame, and with matching agility she becomes a kind of Jane of the jungle, swimming rivers and swinging on vines — a rather far-fetched transformation, brought off with panache by this striking young actress.”

Off-Broadway roles kept coming. Later in 1981, she and Elizabeth McGovern had the lead roles in Wendy Kesselman’s “My Sister in This House” at Second Stage Theater. In 1982, at Manhattan Theater Club, she was sister Olga in Chekhov’s “Three Sisters,” part of a starry cast that included Dianne Wiest, Mia Dillon, Jeff Daniels, Christine Ebersol and Sam Waterston.

In 1984, when Ms. Banes was in the midst of a run in Wendy Wasserstein’s comedy “Isn’t It Romantic” at Playwrights Horizons, The Times named her one of 15 stage actresses to watch. She was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for her performance in that play.

Her Broadway debut came in the 1988 Neil Simon comedy “Rumors,” and she returned to Broadway in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia” (1995), the Cole Porter musical “High Society” (1998) and a revival of Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter” (2010).

One of her most recent stage appearances was in 2018 at the Huntington Theater Company in Boston, where she played one of the two lead roles in the premiere of Eleanor Burgess’ “The Niceties,” a drama that pitted her seemingly progressive lesbian professor against a young Black college student, played by Jordan Boatman.

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Don Aucoin, reviewing the production in The Boston Globe, praised their performances, saying that “both find the nuances in their characters, conveying the occasional cracks within their seeming certitude.”

As Ms. Banes established herself in the theater, Hollywood also came calling. Her first film role was in 1984 in “The Hotel New Hampshire,” Tony Richardson’s adaptation of the John Irving novel, and she began turning up frequently on television, including in regular roles on “The Trials of Rosie O’Neill” in the early 1990s and, more recently, “Royal Pains,” “Nashville” and the outer space comedy “The Orville.”

“Her stage presence, magnetism, skill and talent were matched only by her unwavering kindness and graciousness,” Seth MacFarlane, creator and star of “The Orville,” said on Twitter.

On the movie screen, she played Tom Cruise’s arrogant older girlfriend in “Cocktail” in 1988 and the acerbic mother of a missing woman in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” (2014), with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Lisa Lou Banes was born July 9, 1955, in Cleveland. Her father, Ken, worked in advertising, and her mother, Mary Lou (Shalenhamer) Banes, was a model.

Lisa grew up in Colorado Springs, where she focused on acting early. Her first paying job, she told The Gazette of Colorado Springs in 2014, was as a cast member at a dinner theater in nearby Manitou Springs.

“They served liquor,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I lied about my age because I was only 15 and you had to be 16.”

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In addition to Kranhold, Banes is survived by a brother, Evan Sinclair, and her stepmother, Joan Banes.

In the 10 days after her accident, actors and playwrights who had worked with Banes expressed their support and shock at what happened.

Burgess, who wrote “The Niceties,” said she had been with Ms. Banes shortly before she was struck by the scooter and described her as a “brilliant, vibrant, wonderful woman.”