Rena Riffel

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Rena Riffel
Rena Riffel at 7th Annual WeHo Awards 3.jpg
Rena Riffel at 7th Annual WeHo Awards, 2008
Rena Lynn Riffel

(1969-03-05) March 5, 1969 (age 50)[1]
Los Angeles, California, United States
OccupationActress, dancer, singer, model, director, producer, writer, composer
Years active1988–present

Rena Riffel (born March 5, 1969) is an American actress, singer, dancer, model, writer, producer, and director. She is known for her supporting roles in films such as Showgirls, Striptease, and Mulholland Drive.


Riffel landed her breakthrough role in the 1995 film Showgirls starring Elizabeth Berkley, Gina Gershon, and Kyle MacLachlan. Initially reading for the lead role of Cristal Connors, Riffel was cast in the supporting role of Penny/Hope after director Paul Verhoeven decided that she was too young to play an aging showgirl.

While on the set of Showgirls, Riffel approached the music supervisor with a song she recorded, "Deep Kiss". The music supervisor tested the song on the production office (without telling them it had been written by one of the actresses) to determine if it was suitable for the film. Director Paul Verhoeven listened to the song and decided to include it in the lap dance scene at the Cheetah strip club.

Although an initial box office failure, Showgirls enjoyed success in the home video market, generating more than $100 million in video rentals and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time best sellers.

For the 2004 re-release as a DVD limited edition box set, Riffel, along with cast members Lin Tucci and Patrick Bristow, had their hand prints and names put in cement in front of the Hollywood Vista Theater at the red carpet event where they were also interviewed by Access Hollywood. Riffel and Bristow were also special guests at Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass midnight screening of Showgirls in 2008 in San Francisco, California. They were interviewed on stage after the live performance of the Goddess volcano dance performed by drag queens in gold lamé and featuring Peaches Christ as Goddess.

When asked if she expected Showgirls to produce such a cult legacy, Riffel replied, "No. I went into it thinking it would be a really erotic, serious, shocking exposé. People would be sitting on the edge of their seats from suspense. [... But] some people were trying to play straight comedy – I played my character with comedy; I was hoping to get a laugh – but no one was acting with tongue in cheek. I know that everyone went into it thinking it would be like Basic Instinct. [...] Maybe it's Verhoeven. Even [Basic Instinct] seems kind of campy now [...] I think it's something with European filmmakers. I think – and this is my theory – [...] that there's something that European filmmakers have, a punched-up, extreme vibe. Everything's extreme."[2]

She is also quoted as saying, "Showgirls just keeps getting more and more popular, it's a total phenomenon. I don't think a film could even try to have this afterlife happen to it. This cult status and celebration is all created by the fans and the people who saw something special in the film. I seem to be one of the only actors that represents and gets involved with the cult status. I think Elizabeth (Berkley) is still upset about how the film was received initially. I think she is brilliant in her role and she should have won best actress at some film festivals, and I think Joe Eszterhas's writing is remarkably brilliant. I suspect because the way they marketed the film, that is what led to the backlash. The marketing campaign was misleading. But at the end of the day, it all worked out for the best."[3]

Entertainment Weekly's July 23, 2010 issue announced a sequel to Showgirls. Rena Riffel wrote, directed, and starred in the film, released in 2011. Initially entitled Showgirl, it was later renamed Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven.


Following her role in Showgirls, Riffel was cast in Striptease with Demi Moore and Burt Reynolds. Showgirls was generally disliked and the filmmakers feared people would pre-judge Striptease for that reason. To avoid any association between the two films, advèrtisements projected Striptease as more comedic than Showgirls, which had been marketed as a drama. Aside from a common context, Striptease and Showgirls shared two notable connections: Marguerite Derricks choreographed both films, and Rena Riffel played a prominent role in each.

Widely considered a box office failure, Striptease lacked the momentum that Showgirls gained in its cult status and has subsequently been referred to as one of the worst movies ever made.

Mulholland Drive[edit]

In 2001, Riffel appeared in the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive. When interviewed about the film and if she “got it”, Riffel replied, “See…I can’t remember. No, I guess it still doesn’t make sense to me. It’s been a while – I’d like to watch it again….one website put a lot of clarity on it with their theories.”[4]

Czechsploitation, erotica and horror[edit]

After Striptease, Riffel accepted minor roles on the television series Married... with Children in 1997, and Clueless as well as the HBO movie Breast Men before making a string of films with European director Lloyd Simandl. These movies, referred to by some[who?] as “Czechsploitation” films, include Dark Confessions, Bound Cargo, Caligula’s Spawn, and No Escape. These films, coupled with Riffel’s roles in Showgirls and Striptease opened the door for her to be cast in a handful of erotic/thriller films such as The Pornographer and Scandalous Behavior (with Shannon Tweed).

In 1999, Riffel appeared in Citizens of Perpetual Indulgence, a gay-themed comedy/drama/art film. Riffel also appeared in several horror/thriller movies including Candyman 3: Day of the Dead, Unstable Minds, and Dark Reel starring Edward Furlong and Tony Todd.

Musical work and other projects[edit]

According to the text trivia track on the 2010 Blu-ray release of Showgirls, one of the songs played during the film's lap-dance sequence was co-written by Riffel.

In 2004, Riffel’s song "Geisha Girl" was featured in Oliver Robbins film Wild Roomies. She also sang the theme song for 2007 E! Entertainment's series, Billionaire Heiresses, called "Livin' in the Fast Lane". In 2008, she starred in Coheed and Cambria's music video for "Feathers" playing the 1950s character, Judy Feathers. Judy Feathers is the perfect housewife with a secret of being a cannibal, killing then serving the milkman, postman, sailor, and a boyscout for dinner. It won Best Video in 2008 in the UK for the Kerrang! Awards and Rena appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on March 5, 2008 with the band.

In 2008, Riffel directed/produced/wrote and starred in the movie Trasharella, a comedy/crime/fantasy musical. She edited the film herself and her production company, Rena Riffel Films, released the film on DVD through in 2009.

When asked to describe Trasharella, Riffel stated, "It is a satire on B-movie horror films... I went against the grain and instead of trying to make this slick Hollywood film, I just let things be as they were and made it into a really bad grindhouse style exploitation film.'s not a dumb film, it's just 'bad'... in a good way. Mae West said: 'When I'm good I'm good, but when I'm bad I'm better.' And we use her quote in Trasharella."[3]

Riffel developed a musical based on Showgirls, titled Showgirls! The Musical and also wrote and directed a sequel to Showgirls. The film had its first screening in October 27, 2011, at the Laemmle Theatre's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood, California. It played to a packed house who enjoyed the epic, which had a duration of 2 hours and 24 minutes. The film, now titled Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven received excellent reviews, with references made to David Lynch's Inland Empire by and LA Weekly. Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven was screened in arthouse theatres across the country and announced further surprise screenings on the movie website,[citation needed]

Riffel is featured on the Velvet Revolver album Contraband.[5]



Year Film Role Notes
1990 Satan's Princess Erica Dunn a.k.a. Malediction (UK: video title)
1992 Sinatra (TV) May Britt
1994 Art Deco Detective Julie/Meg Hudson
Gunmen Loomis' Bride
1995 Undercover Heat Rain
Showgirls Penny/Hope
1996 Striptease Tiffany
1997 Breast Men (HBO) Swimming Pool Girl
1998 Dark Confessions Erica a.k.a. Chained Heat III: No Holds Barred (UK: video title)
Shark in a Bottle Receptionist
MP Da Last Don Dancer
1999 The Pornographer Tiffany
Candyman: Day of the Dead Lena a.k.a. Candyman 3: Day of the Dead
Goat on Fire and Smiling Fish Party Girl #2 a.k.a. Smiling Fish & Goat on Fire (USA: new title)
Singapore Sling Michelle Drake a.k.a. Scandalous Behavior (USA)
Citizens of Perpetual Indulgence Uncredited
2000 Between Christmas and New Year’s Blue
2001 Mulholland Drive Laney
2002 Unstable Minds Pamela
2003 Lady Killers Fantasy Girl (uncredited) a.k.a. Gold Diggers (USA); a.k.a. National Lampoon's Gold Diggers (USA: new title); a.k.a. National Lampoon's Lady Killers (USA: complete title)
Bound Cargo Widow a.k.a. White Slave Virgins
Welcome to the Real Hollywood Rena
2004 Roomies Female Caller a.k.a. Wild Roomies (USA: new title)
2008 One, Two, Many Tiffany
Caligula’s Spawn Druscilla
Dark Reel Detective LaRue
No Escape Brandt
2009 Trasharella Trasharella/Helena Beestrom
The Making of Gnome Killer 2 Detective LaRue/Gnome Queen
The Gertrude Stein Mystery Agent Agnes Goddard
2010 Sickle Penny
Eerie, PA Condi
2011 Spreading Darkness Elle production
Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven Penny Slot/Helga also director, producer, writer and editor
2013 The Trouble with Barry Pussy Johnson
2016 Astrid's Auto Portrait Astrid Von Star feature


  • Paradise (a.k.a. Guns of Paradise) episode "Childhood's End" as Teenage Prostitute (1988)
  • Freshman Dorm episode "My Boyfriend’s Back" as Lisa (1992)
  • Land's End episode "Land's End: Part 1" as Taffi Bishop (1995)
  • Land's End episode "Land's End: Part 2" as Taffi Bishop (1995)
  • Minor Adjustments episode "The Model Wife" as Leslie (1996)
  • Married... with Children episode "How to Marry a Moron" as Stripper #1 (1997)
  • Clueless episode "Sharing Cher" as Second Masseuse (1997)
  • The Pretender episode "Cold Dick" as Mona Jeffries (2000)
  • The X Show episode dated 26 January 2000 as Herself (2000)
  • Spyder Games episode "Episode #1.56" as Lydia (2001)
  • Spyder Games episode "Episode #1.58" as Lydia (2001)
  • Dante's Cove episode "In the Beginning" as Tina (2005)
  • Dante's Cove episode "Then There Was Darkness" as Tina (2005)
  • Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew episode "Sex and Trauma" as Herself (2008)


  • Between Christmas and New Year’s (2000) (associate producer)
  • Trasharella (2009) (producer)
  • The Making of Gnome Killer 2 (2009) (associate producer)
  • The Gertrude Stein Mystery (2009) (associate producer)
  • Trasharella Ultra Vixen (2011) (Producer)
  • Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven (2012) (Producer)
  • Astrid's Auto Portrait (2016) (Producer)



  • Showgirls (1995) (writer and performer: "Deep Kiss")
  • Roomies (2004) (performer: "Geisha Girl")
  • Forbes 20 Billionaire Heiresses: Young, Fabulous and Incredibly Rich (2007) (performer: "Livin' in the Fast Lane" – theme song)
  • Trasharella (2009)



  • Trasharella (2009) (screenplay) (story)
  • Showgirls 2: Penny's from Heaven (2012)
  • Astrid's Auto Portrait (2016)

Costume and wardrobe[edit]


  • Trasharella (2009)
  • Trasharella Ultra Vixen (2011)
  • ShowGirls2: Penny's from Heaven (2012)
  • Astrid's Auto Portrait (2016)


  1. ^ "Rena Riffel". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  2. ^ "Interview: Rena Riffel Talks to Mondo Celluloid – Part 1". Mondo Celluloid. 2009-03-17. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  3. ^ a b "Interview with Dark Reel star Rena Riffel - Feature Article". Eat My Brains!. 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  4. ^ Connie Lynn says: (2009-03-17). "Interview: Rena Riffel talks to Mondo Celluloid – Part 2". Mondo Celluloid. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  5. ^ Rena Riffel on IMDb

External links[edit]