Oscar-nominated actress Lorraine Bracco received rave reviews for her portrayal of Karen Hill, the no-nonsense wife of Ray Liotta's mobster character Henry Hill, in Martin Scorsese's “Goodfellas” (1990). She later gained fame on TV as Dr. Jennifer Melfi, the psychiatrist who treated mob boss Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini), on HBO’s hit gangster drama series "The Sopranos" (1999-2007), which earned her multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Actress in a Television Drama, as well as won her a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Meanwhile, the former Wilhelmina model who worked for several years in Europe and began acting in French comedy films, starred in such films as “Someone to Watch Over Me” (1987), “Medicine Man” (1992), “Getting Gotti” (1994; TV), “The Basketball Diaries” (1995), “Lifeline” (1996; TV), “Custody of the Heart” (2000; TV) and “Riding in Cars with Boys” (2001).
More personally, the 5' 8'', feisty intelligent actress was once married to Daniel Guerard (1979-1982), a French beauty salon owner and sometimes actor, Academy Award-nominated actor Harvey Keitel (1982-1993) and Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos (1994-2002). She has been dating former Syracuse Orange basketball star Jason Cipolla (born in 1975) since 2002.
Childhood and Family:
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge, New York, Lorraine Bracco was born on October 2, 1954, to working class parents Sal Bracco, an Italian-American fishmonger, and Sheila Bracco, a British nurse. The middle child of the family, Bracco has one younger sister, Elizabeth Bracco (actress; born in 1959), and one older brother, Sal Bracco Jr. She was raised in Hicksville on Long Island where she attended grade school and was voted the ugliest girl in the 6th grade.
Early in her twenties, Bracco relocated to Europe and spent several years living in France as a fashion model and working in radio, TV commercials and films. She later returned to the U.S. and studied at the Stella Adler and the Actors Studio in New York City.
In January 1979, Bracco married her first husband, Daniel Guerard, a French beauty salon owner and sometimes actor. She has one daughter with him, Margaux Guerard (born in 1978). They divorced in 1982 and Bracco married her second husband, Academy Award-nominated actor Harvey Keitel (born May 13, 1939). They have one daughter together, Stella Keitel (born in 1986). From the time they separated in 1991 (they divorced in 1993), Bracco and Keitel had been engaged in a long-time custody dispute. Bracco, who filed for bankruptcy in June 1999 due to legal fees spent on the custody battle, was finally awarded full custody of their daughter. Bracco has now recovered her finances thanks to the success of the show “The Sopranos.”
On January 28, 1994, one year after her divorce with Keitel, Bracco married Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Edward James Olmos (born on February 24, 1947). This marriage also ended in divorce in March 2002.
Bracco, a personal friend of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, is the owner of Bracco Wines, which were featured on the Season 1 finale of Bravo's show “Top Chef” in 2006. The actress, who has been dealing with clinical depression, is also a spokesperson on behalf of Pfizer's anti-depressant Zoloft. She recently appeared on “Oprah” to talk about her clinical depression and how she dealt with it, as well as to promote her memoir, “On The Couch.”
Voted the ugliest girl in the 6th grade, Lorraine Bracco began modeling in high school and modeled for the Wilhelmina Agency at age 16. She appeared in such teen magazines as “Mademoiselle,” “Seventeen” and “Teen.” In 1974, she moved to France where she became a fashion model for Jean-Paul Gaultier. She was once asked to pose nude for the late, eccentric, Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dalí, but declined the offer.
Spending ten years in Paris, Bracco became fluent in French and found another job as a deejay for Radio Luxembourg. She also worked as a producer for Les Enfants Du Rock for French TV and began to act in films, starting with the French film “Duos sur Canape” (1979), Marc Camoletti's adaptation of his own comedic play. She followed it up with Jan Saint-Hamont's “Mais qu'est-ce que j'ai fait au Bon Dieu pour avoir une femme qui boit dans les cafés avec les hommes?” (1980; aka. “What Did I Ever Do to the Good Lord to Deserve a Wife Who Drinks in Cafes with Men?”) and Paul Boujenah's comic-based film “Fais gaffe à la gaffe” (1981). She also appeared in a September 1980 episode of the cop drama series "Commissaire Moulin" and was cast in Lina Wertmuller mafia thriller film, “Camorra” (1986; aka. “A Complex Film About Women, Alleys and Crimes”), which starred then-husband Harvey Keitel.
Bracco eventually decided to return to her home country and honed in on her acting skills at the Stella Adler and the Actors Studio in New York City. In 1986, she guest starred as Paul Guilfoyle's hostage in the "Hide and Go Thief" episode of NBC’s crime/drama series “Crime Story” and starred opposite Keitel in the Lincoln Center Workshop performance "Goose and Tom." The next year, she made her American feature film debut in the Ridley Scott thriller , “Someone to Watch Over Me,” playing the wife of a detective played by Tom Berenger, and was cast alongside Molly Ringwald, Robert Downey Jr. and Dennis Hopper in writer-director James Toback's romantic comedy “The Pick-up Artist.”
1989 saw her starring in the films “Sing” and “The Dream Team.” She then returned to France to work again with writer/director Lina Wertmüller in her melodrama film, “In una notte di chiaro di luna” (aka. “As Long as It's Love”). She also had a deleted scene in Harold Becker's thriller “Sea of Love,” starring Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin.
In 1990, Bracco landed her breakout film role as Karen Hill, the no-nonsense Jewish wife of Ray Liotta's mobster character Henry Hill, in “Goodfellas,” Martin Scorsese's film adaptation of the true-story book “Wiseguy” by Nicholas Pileggi. Both of Bracco's daughters also play her daughter at different ages in the mob film. For Bracco's brilliant performance, she received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actress, in addition to winning at the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards.
With an Oscar nomination under her belt, Bracco was offered jobs with such prominent actors as Edward James Olmos in Robert M. Young's baseball drama “Talent for the Game” (1991), Ellen Barkin in writer-director Blake Edwards' dark comedy “Switch” (1991) and Sean Connery, playing his assistant colleague and his love interest, in John McTiernan's adventure film “Medicine Man” (1992). She subsequently was involved in a string of big screen projects, including Richard Donner's drama “Radio Flyer” (1992), Andy Wolk's thriller “Traces of Red” (1992), writer-director Bill Forsyth's fantasy comedy “Being Human” (1993; starring Robin Williams) and Gus Van Sant's take on Tom Robbins' novel, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” (1993; starring Uma Thurman).
Afterward, Bracco starred as a female con-artist in the made-for-television movie “Scam” (1993; opposite Christopher Walken) and had a lead role as a female prosecutor who brought down the Mafia's infamous "Teflon Don" in the CBS courtroom drama film “Getting Gotti” (1994). She also portrayed the mother of author and musician Jim Carroll (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) in Scott Kalvert's biopic based on Carroll's 1978 book, “The Basketball Diaries” (1995) and supported Jonny Lee Miller, Angelina Jolie and Jesse Bradford in Iain Softley's crime thriller “Hackers” (1995).
Bracco spent the rest of the 1990s acting in the French-language “Les Menteurs” (1996; aka. “The Liars”), a romantic drama by Elie Chouraqui, and playing the mother of a missing child in the Lifetime TV-movie version of Robert Hopkins' novel, “Lifeline” (1996). She also co-starred with Margot Kidder and Shaun Johnston in Paul Ziller's Canadian movie “Silent Cradle” (1997), teamed with then-husband Edward James Olmos in the crime/thriller TV movie inspired by John Godey's novel, “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” (1998) and acted opposite Molly Parker in Penelope Buitenhuis and Gabriella Cristiani's drama/comedy “Ladies Room” (1999).
In 1999, Bracco landed her most popular TV role to date, that of Dr. Jennifer Melfi in the HBO mob drama series "The Sopranos." She first appeared in the show's pilot episode on January 10, 1999, and made her last appearance in its eighth episode of the sixth season on June 3, 2007. Her solid performance on the show received critical acclaim, garnering multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, adding to her Screen Actors Guild win for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series category in 2000. She was also awarded the American Psycho-Analytical Association award for her portrayal in “The Sopranos.”
During her hefty eight-year stint on "The Sopranos," Bracco portrayed a successful businesswoman suddenly sued for custody of her children in Lifetime's movie based on Barbara Delinsky's book, “Custody of the Heart” (2000) and was cast as Drew Barrymore's mom in Penny Marshall's comedy “Riding in Cars with Boys” (2001), based on the autobiography of the same name by Beverly D'Onofrio. She also played a detective in Jay Lowi's dramatic thriller “Tangled” (2001; with Rachael Leigh Cook and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and appeared as an Enchante R&B Singer No. 2 in Damon Dash's musical comedy “Death of a Dynasty” (2003; starring Ebon Moss-Bachrach).
Lorraine appeared on stage and starred as Mrs. Robinson (November 2002 to March 2003) in Terry Johnson's adaptation of "The Graduate" at the Plymouth Theatre, in New York City,. TV audiences could also catch her in a March 2005 episode of NBC’s crime drama series "Law & Order: Trial by Jury." That same year, she returned to the big screen in writer-director Michael Parness' drama/comedy “My Suicidal Sweetheart” (2005), alongside Natasha Lyonne, David Krumholtz and Tim Blake Nelson.
Screen Actors Guild: Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series, “The Sopranos,” 2000
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards: Best Supporting Actor, “Goodfellas,” 1991
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards: Best Supporting Actress, “Goodfellas,” 1990