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She Was A 90s Bombshell, 20 Years Later Lori Petty Is Almost Unrecognizable

Jimmy Keith Jun 11, 2017
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By the time Lori Petty showed up in Point Break, the ’80s were over. Pat Benatar was a footnote. So why was this pixie-hairdoed vixen pulling on my heartstrings? The eyes. Those limpid pools of azure crystal were something to get lost in. Petty was a tulip amongst the onions in the surfer action flick, a tomboy alternative to the picture perfect looks of the supermodel-ruled 1990s.

Petty is a great actress, fearless, funny, – yes attractive, but her talent goes beyond that – and was lucky enough to be cast in some iconic roles. Who can forget seeing A League Of Their Own, it may have starred Geena Davis and Tom Hanks, but the movie was really only made possible by Petty’s performance. You know you’re good when you’re more talked about than Madonna, who at the time was in her prime.

There are many theories out there as to where exactly Petty disappeared to, or even if she disappeared at all. One thing is for sure though, her career took a hard turn when she was cast as Tank Girl.

The movie was a comic book movie before comic book movies were a license to print money, to make matters worse it was also very misunderstood. While the movie was supposed to be an action/comedy, many people just assumed they were laughing at the movie, not laughing with the movie. It was much like Petty herself, brave, odd, and sometimes a little tough to take.

It effectively put her career on hold.

Not to say Petty stopped acting, (although I remember at the time buying groceries and seeing a cashier named Lori who could have been Petty’s reflection), she didn’t know it at the time Petty was actually laying the groundwork for the biggest movie star Hollywood had seen in decades.

After Tank Girl Lori Petty continued to act, but instead of trying to force her way into big budget movies that used to be her’s for the asking, she chose indie movies that critics loved and audiences avoided. She spent the next 10 years like this.

In an interview Petty explained:

“I was thirty-something and I hadn’t married my agent or any guy co-stars. I never wanted to be a bombshell, I wanted to be an actor,” she said. Hollywood is famously tough on aging actresses, and despite her talent, Petty found her roles drying up.


She loved the movies, and was a student of film. She worked with some of the best female directors in the business, like Katheryn Bigelow on Point Break, and used them as motivation to try her hand at directing.

In 2008 Petty directed a movie based on her life called The Poker House. The movie, about 3 sisters growing up in a brothel, is an often times brutal retelling of Petty’s own upbringing. The role of Agnes, based on Petty herself, went to a previously unknown actress named Jennifer Lawrence.

Few people saw the movie, but those that did loved it. Writer Director Debra Granik saw it and loved Lawrence, casting her in a project called Winter’s Bone, which launched Lawrence to stardom.

“I cast her in her first film,” gloats Petty. “She deserves 100 percent of her success, but I think I passed along 25 years worth of experience of being an actress to her.”

Petty clearly has an eye for talent, because a young Chloe Grace Moretz was also cast in The Poker House.

Nowadays Petty is back on the screen, if only the small one. She was cast in Netflix’s hit Orange Is The New Black which debuts a new season early this summer. It’s enough to get Petty’s name back in everyone’s mind, so now if you hear someone say “what ever happened to Lori Petty?” you can feel free to tell them all about it.