“David Lynch came out of it a genius, and I came out of it a fat girl. I’m sorry that the only comment I get about the part is the way I look.” Isabella Rossellini on the critics’ response to her performance in Blue Velvet
A former TV journalist and translator, successful model and film star of Italian and Swedish descent Isabella Rossellini has built an impressive career as both a model and actress. Daughter of film icons Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, Rossellini, with her eye-catching beauty and début as a cover model for Vogue, initially came to prominence and is best known for her modeling contract as the official ”face” of the Lancome cosmetics empire. While her modeling career was in full swing, the Italian-born beauty found herself becoming a movie star when she starred as Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch’s acclaimed film Blue Velvet (1986), where she nabbed an Independent Spirit award. Since then, Rossellini has made a name for herself as an accomplished film actor with her virtuoso performances in such films as Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her (1992, won a Saturn award) and the independent drama Left Luggage (1998, won a Berlin International Film Festival award). Her earlier significant accomplishments have included an Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists award that the actress won for her brilliant starring turn as Eugenia in the Taviani brothers’ The Meadow (1980).
Recently playing supporting role Gloria Guinness, opposite Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig and Gwyneth Paltrow, in Douglas McGrath’s Infamous (2006), Rossellini will soon star with Anthony LaPaglia and Viola Davis in writer/director Matt Tauber’s All Fall Down (2006).
Isabella Rossellini was one of People Magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1990 and 1991, and was one of Empire magazine’s “100 Sexiest Stars in Film History” in 1995. When not modeling or acting, she sits in front of her desk writing books. So far, she has released two books, an autobiography titled “Some of Me” (1994) and “Looking at Me” (2002). As for her private life, the actress/model has been married twice. She first married director Martin Scorsese in 1979, but the couple divorced three years later. She then tied the knot with model Jonathan Wiedemann, and has one daughter with him. The relationship, however, also ended up in divorce. Rossellini also gained notoriety for her glamorous personal life with director/screenwriter David Lynch (together from 1986 to 1991), Gregory Mosher (dated 1996-1997) and actor Gary Oldman (engaged to be married as of July 1994; reportedly broke up in 1996).
Childhood and Family:
In Rome, Italy, Isabella Fiorella Eleta Giovanna Rossellini was born on June 18, 1952. Her father was Roberto Rossellini, a director, and her mother was Ingrid Bergman, an actress. She has a fraternal twin sister, Ingrid Aborne, and an older brother, Roberto Ingmar Rossellini (born in 1950), and is the younger half-sister to Pia Lindstrom, a film and theater critic.
Isabella grew up with serious health problems and suffered from scoliosis, which led to surgery when she was 13. At age 19, she moved to New York, where she taught Italian at the New School for Social Research. Before modeling and acting, Isabella took jobs as a translator for the Italian News Bureau and was a TV journalist for RAI-TV in Italy.
Isabella Rossellini was married to director Martin Scorsese (born on November 17) in September 1979, but they later divorced in November 1982. After the separation, she tied the knot with model Jonathan Wiedemann, with whom she shares a daughter, Elettra-Ingrid Wiedemann (born in 1985). Unfortunately, this marriage also ended in divorce. Isabella also has an adopted son named Roberto Rossellini.
The offspring of screen legend Ingrid Bergman and master director Roberto Rossellini, Isabella Rossellini, who once worked as a translator and TV correspondent, was first recognized as a model before establishing a reputation for herself as a movie star. Raised by celebrity parents, Rossellini had her first exposure to filmmaking at age 24, when she appeared with her mother in the Vincente Minnelli’s best-forgotten A Matter of Time (1976). Her second movie, as well as her first starring role, arrived three years later when the Taviani brothers tapped her to play Eugenia in the Italian-produced film The Meadow. For her bright performance in the film, Rossellini was garnered a 1980 Silver Ribbon for Best New Actress at the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists.
Despite the award-winning performance, 28-year-old Rossellini turned her attention to modeling and began her career by doing photo shoots with photographer Bruce Weber for British Vogue and Bill King for American Vogue. She was soon on the fast track, working with such famous photographers as Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe, and appearing on the covers of popular magazines like Vanity Fair, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar.
Rossellini’s big breakthrough as a model arrived in 1982 when she signed a 14-year contract with Lancome cosmetics as their international spokesperson and primary model. Soon after, Rossellini became a renowned model worldwide.
Lured by the success of her modeling career, Rossellini broke into the Hollywood scene in 1985 with a supporting part in director Taylor Hackford’s White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Her acting career took flight in the following year when Rossellini was cast in the starring role of Dorothy Vallens, the abused, abstracted chanteuse in David Lynch’s acclaimed film Blue Velvet. Rossellini’s virtuoso performance was critically applauded, and she was handed a 1987 Independent Spirit for Best Female Lead.
Following the victory, Rossellini’s profile increased dramatically, landing more film roles in such projects as Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1987), Siesta (1987), Zelly and Me (1988), Cousins (1989), Red Riding Hood (1989), David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), Romantic Ladies (1990) and The Siege of Venice (1991). She also made her TV movie acting debut in Ivory Hunters (1990) and starred in the made-for-television film Lies of the Twins (1991). Rossellini further confirmed her rising star status in 1992 when she won a Saturn for Best Supporting Actress in the Robert Zemeckis-helmed Death Becomes Her, playing Lisle Von Rhoman. The comedy-fantasy film starred Meryl Streep and Bruce Willis.
The beautiful actress went on to make an impact in the subsequent years. She offered her best performance to date as Jeff Bridges’ wife Laura Klein in the drama Fearless (1993), and followed that up with performances in Wyatt Earp (1994), Immortal Beloved (1994), Big Night (1996), Abel Ferrara’s The Funeral (1996) and Stanley Tucci’s The Impostors (1998). However, it was the independent drama Left Luggage (1998) that won her critical-acclaim as the timid Hassidic wife Mrs. Kalman, opposite Laura Fraser and Adam Monty. As a result, Rossellini took home a Berlin International Film Festival award. In addition, Rossellini had an impressive career on TV. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV in 1997 for her fine performance in Crime of the Century (1996) and had a notable recurring role, as Professor Marina Giannini, in the series “Chicago Hope” (1997), in which she received an Emmy nomination. She added the made-for-TV movies The Odyssey (1997) and Merlin (1998) to her acting resume and rounded out the decade with voice over work in the popular series ”The Simpsons.” As a model, Rossellini was elected Vice President to the Lancaster Group in 1995 and developed her own brand of cosmetics and fragrances with the Lancaster group called Isabella Rossellini’s Manifesto.
In the new millennium, Rossellini maintained her work in modeling, although she concentrated on her film career. She starred in such films as Don Quixote (2000, TV), The Sky Will Fall (2000), Empire (2002), the critically hailed Roger Dodger (2002), Monte Walsh (2003, TV), The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story (2003), The Saddest Music in the World (2003, starred as Lady Port-Huntley, a beer baroness who organizes a contest to find the saddest music in the world), Heights (2004, opposite Glenn Close, James Marsden and Jesse Bradford), King of the Corner (2004) and Legend of Earthsea (2004, TV), and played Josephine in the European miniseries “Napoleon” (2002). In 2005, she joined the cast of the television series ”Alias” in the recurring role of Sydney’s aunt Yekaterina ‘Katya’ Derevko, and had a leading role in The Feast of the Goat.
The 54-year-old actress recently played the supporting role of Gloria Guinness in the biopic film Infamous (2006), directed by Douglas McGrath. Among her costars were Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig and Gwyneth Paltrow. She also made (together with director Guy Maddin) a short film about her father Roberto Rossellini, titled My Dad is 100 Years Old (2006, portrayed her mother Ingrid Bergman). Rossellini is scheduled to star opposite Anthony LaPaglia and Viola Davis in the upcoming All Fall Down (2006), for writer/director Matt Tauber.
- Berlin International Film Festival: Special Mention, Left Luggage, 1998
- Saturn Award: Best Supporting Actress, Death Becomes Her, 1993
- Independent Spirit: Best Female Lead, Blue Velvet, 1987
- Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists: Silver Ribbon, Best New Actress, The Meadow, 1980