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Isabella Rossellini

Isabella Rossellini

Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini (born 18 June 1952)[1][2][3] is an Italian actress, filmmaker, author, philanthropist, and model. The daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and Italian neorealist film director Roberto Rossellini, she is noted for her successful tenure as a Lancôme model, and for her roles in films such as Blue Velvet (1986) and Death Becomes Her (1992). Rossellini also received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance in Crime of the Century (1996).

Isabella Rossellini
Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini

(1952-06-18)18 June 1952
Rome, Italy
ResidenceNew York City, New York, United States
  • Italy
  • United States
  • Actress
  • filmmaker
  • author
  • model
  • philanthropist
Years active1976–present
  • Martin Scorsese
    (m. 1979;div. 1982)
  • Jonathan Wiedemann
    (m. 1983;div. 1986)
  • David Lynch (1986–1991)
  • Gary Oldman (1994–1996)
Children2, including Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann
  • Roberto Rossellini
  • Ingrid Bergman
  • Pia Lindström (maternal half-sister)
  • Renzo Rossellini (paternal half-brother)
  • Isotta Rossellini (sister)
  • Raffaella Rossellini (paternal half-sister)

Early life

Rossellini was born in Rome, the daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, who was of Swedish and German descent, and Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who was born in Rome from a family originally from Pisa, Tuscany. She has three siblings from her mother: her fraternal twin sister Isotta Rossellini, who is an adjunct professor of Italian literature; a brother, Robertino Ingmar Rossellini;[4] and a half-sister, Pia Lindström, who formerly worked on television and is from her mother's first marriage with Petter Lindström. She has four other siblings from her father's two other marriages: Romano (who died at age nine), Renzo, Gil, and Raffaella.[5]

Rossellini was raised in Rome, as well as in Santa Marinella and Paris. She underwent an operation for appendicitis at the age of five.[6] At 11, she was diagnosed with scoliosis.[7] In order to correct it, she had to undergo an 18-month ordeal of painful stretchings, body casts, and surgery on her spine using pieces of one of her shin bones. Consequently, she has incision scars on her back and shin.

At 19, she went to New York City, where she attended Finch College, while working as a translator and a RAI television reporter.[8] She also appeared intermittently on L'altra Domenica (The Other Sunday), a TV show featuring Roberto Benigni. However, she did not decide to stay full-time in New York until her marriage to Martin Scorsese (1979–1982), whom she met when she interviewed him for RAI.[9]



At the age of 28, her modeling career began, when she was photographed by Bruce Weber for British Vogue and by Bill King for American Vogue. During her career, she has also worked with many other renowned photographers, including Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton, Peter Lindbergh, Norman Parkinson, Eve Arnold, Francesco Scavullo, Annie Leibovitz, Denis Piel, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Her image has appeared on such magazines as Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and ELLE. In March 1988, an exhibition dedicated to photographs of her, called Portrait of a Woman, was held at the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris.

Rossellini's modeling career led her into the world of cosmetics, when she became the exclusive spokesmodel for the French cosmetics brand Lancôme in 1982, replacing Nancy Dutiel in the United States and Carol Alt in Europe. At Lancôme, in 1990, she was involved in product development for the fragrance Trésor. In 1996, when she was 43, she was removed as the face of Lancôme for being "too old." In 2016, at the age of 63, she was rehired by Lancôme's new female CEO, Francoise Lehmann, as a global brand ambassador for the company.[10]

In October 1992, Rossellini modelled for Madonna's controversial book Sex. Rossellini also appeared in Madonna's music video for her successful Top 5 hit song "Erotica", released in the autumn/fall of 1992.[11]

Rossellini was the inaugural brand ambassador for the Italian Silversea Cruises company in 2004, and she appeared in print ads and on their website. Barbara Muckermann, the senior vice-president of worldwide marketing and communications in 2004, said at the time of the announcement, "Isabella is the ideal personification of Silversea's exclusive standard of elegance, glamour and sophistication."[12][13]

Film and television

Rossellini on location at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in 1992 to shoot some scenes for the film The Innocent

Rossellini on location at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in 1992 to shoot some scenes for the film The Innocent

Rossellini (left) worked on Green Porno with Jody Shapiro (right).

Rossellini (left) worked on Green Porno with Jody Shapiro (right).

Rossellini at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

Rossellini at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival

Rossellini made her film debut with a brief appearance as a nun opposite her mother in the 1976 film A Matter of Time. Her first role was the 1979 film Il Prato, and then in 1980 she appeared in Renzo Arbore's film Il pap'occhio with Martin Scorsese.

Following her mother's death in 1982, Rossellini was cast in her first American film, White Nights (1985). This was followed by her notable role as the tortured nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in the David Lynch film Blue Velvet, in which she also contributed her own singing. Other significant film roles during this period include her work in Cousins (1989), Death Becomes Her (1992), Fearless (1993), and Immortal Beloved (1994). In 1996, she appeared as herself in an episode of the TV series Friends called "The One With Frank Jr."

In 2003, Rossellini was a recurring character on the television series Alias. In that same year, she also appeared in the Canadian film The Saddest Music in the World, directed by Guy Maddin. In 2004, she played the High Priestess Thar in the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries Legend of Earthsea, and director Robert Lieberman stated that Rossellini "brings a very big persona to the screen. She carries a great deal of beauty. We needed someone who had a feeling of authority to be this kind of mother superior type and at the same time not be totally dour and unattractive."[14]

In 2006, Rossellini appeared in several television documentaries. First, she narrated a two-hour television special on Italy for the Discovery Channel's Discovery Atlas series. Then, alongside Segway PT inventor Dean Kamen, she spoke about her past and current activities on an episode of Iconoclasts, a series that featured on the Sundance Channel (known as SundanceTV from 2014 onwards), an independent film network founded by film industry veteran Robert Redford.[15] The Sundance Channel then purchased the 2006 Guy Maddin-directed short film My Dad Is 100 Years Old,[16] a tribute that Rossellini created for her father. In the film, she played almost every role, including Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, and her mother Ingrid Bergman. Rossellini's twin sister, Isotta Ingrid,[17] criticized the short film, calling it an "inappropriate" tribute.[18]

In 2007, Rossellini guest starred on two episodes of the television show 30 Rock, playing Alec Baldwin's character's ex-wife.[19] Around the same time, Rossellini enrolled at Hunter College in New York, US to study Animal Behavior, and the Sundance Channel commissioned her to contribute a short-film project to the environmental program The Green.[16] Rossellini explained in a 2013 interview:

They contacted me again when they had allocated some money to experiment in making a web series. At first, I thought I didn't know what to say, I didn't know what to write and then thought it might be really fun to do little short films about animals. This is how the first three episodes of Green Porno came about. When I showed them the pilot, Sundance commissioned eight more. It was a huge hit![16]

Debuting in 2008, the first series of Green Porno garnered over 4 million views on YouTube and two further seasons were produced; there is a total of 18 episodes in the series. Rossellini worked with a small budget for Green Porno and she was responsible for the scripts, helped to design the creatures, directed the episodes, and is the primary actor in the series. In each of the episodes Rossellini acts out the mating rituals and reproductive behaviour of various animals while commentary is concurrently played.[20]

Green Porno was followed by two other animal-themed television productions: Seduce Me: The Spawn of Green Porno and Mammas. Seduce Me: The Spawn of Green Porno is a five-episode online series that premiered in mid-2010 and explores the topic of animal courtship—as with Green Porno, Rossellini wrote, directed, and acted in the series (she is also a producer of the series). Rossellini explained in 2010, " I always wanted to make films about animals-- there's not an enormous audience, but there's an enormous audience for sex."[21]

Mammas debuted in the United States on 12 May 2013, Mother's Day weekend, and is a celebration of the maternal aspects of the animal world. Rossellini is again the primary actor and plays the maternal versions of animals such as spiders and hamsters.[22] Rossellini explained in a 2013 interview part of the research process for Mammas: "First of all it's about diversity. When talking about motherhood, I would find examples of ten different species that either don't get pregnant in the belly but in the mouth or back. Or species that abandon their children all-together so that I don't tell ten stories that are too similar."[16]

After the completion of her Green Porno productions, Rossellini acted in the film Enemy, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, which was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Rossellini praised the film during a TIFF interview: "I love the subtlety of the film. It reminded me of Kafka. It's very metaphysical, but yet it's also a solid thriller. It made me leap up out of my seat at the end." Rossellini also played silent film actor Rudolph Valentino's mother[23] in Vlad Kozlov's Silent Life, a feature-length version of the director's silent, black-and-white short film Daydreams of Rudolph Valentino.[24] Kozlov's film was due for release in 2012, but, as of February 2014, the film has not been officially released.[25]

Rossellini was the President of the Jury for the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in 2011.[26] In April 2015 she was announced as the President of the Jury for the Un Certain Regard section of the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.[27]

In 2016, Rossellini was cast as Rita Marks, the matriarch of the Marks crime family in the Hulu original series, Shut Eye.


Rossellini has written three books: her self-described fictional memoir, Some of Me (1997), Looking at Me (2002), and In the name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini (2006). In the name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini was published as a written tribute alongside the short film, My Dad Is 100 Years Old, and used the script from the short film as its basis.[28]

As an accompaniment to the third series of Green Porno, Rossellini produced a multimedia collection that contains a book and DVD, both of which serve as additional information for the series' third season, that was released in 2008.[29]

Stage and live performance

In 2004, Rossellini acted in an Off-Broadway production of Terrence McNally's The Stendhal Syndrome, alongside Richard Thomas.[30]

Rossellini's friend Carole Bouquet, also a model who later became an actress, suggested that Green Porno could be transformed into a lecture format with a longer duration. Bouquet then introduced Rossellini to French filmmaker and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière, and the pair created a 70-minute-long monologue that expands upon the Green Porno films. The structure of the performance is in accordance with the types of reproductive systems:

Some animals reproduce with male and female; some animals change sex – they start female and they end male or vice-versa. Some fish do that. Some animals are hermaphrodites – they don't need anybody, they have both vaginas and penises. Then we have animals that don't need sex at all, they just clone themselves.[20]

In the live show, Rossellini explores the topics of homosexuality ("I think society has made the mistake of seeing the act of making love or mating as an act of reproduction, when actually it is used for other things, too. Animals use it for social events, bonding, solving conflict and so on.") and maternal instincts, and has explained that her research has influenced her perspective on societal notions of beauty: "If you look at nature, there is no perfection. Everything is always evolving and adapting according to whatever the environmental pressure. The more diversity there is, the more things are going to survive."[20]

Rossellini debuted the live version of Green Porno at the Adelaide Festival of Arts on 15 March 2014 and was warmly received by the audience. The show was the first of the 2014 program to sell out.[31]

Rossellini's "smallest circus in the world," a stage play exploring the ability of animals to think, was premiered in May 2018, at the Jerome Robbins Theater of the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The play "addresses the scientific discoveries about animal minds, intelligence, and emotions. Joined onstage by various animals portrayed by Pan, her trained dog, Rossellini transforms herself into Aristotle, Descartes, F.S. Skinner, Charles Darwin, and more, to deliver a vivid monologue about the brilliance of the animal kingdom."[32]

Rossellini performed "Link Link Circus" as a benefit for The Gateway Performing Arts Center of Suffolk County, in Bellport, New York, the south shore Long Island village where she is a local organic farmer. "Link Link Circus" is performed by Rossellini in a black and red ringmaster's tailcoat, with the assistance of her dog, Peter Pan, who performs a few tricks and is costumed as other animals including a chicken and a dinosaur. In addition to Rossellini and Pan, the production includes puppets, handled by puppeteer Schuyler Beeman, and still photos, home movies, animation and excerpts from her "Green Porno" film series projected on a large screen behind the set decorated with Rossellini's childhood toys, including a marionette stage and a toy upright piano, which Rossellini plays in the show. The set was designed by Andy Byers, who is also the Costume Designer and Composer for the show. In promoting the show, which was performed twice at The Gateway, Rossellini was featured in Long Island's Newsday.[33] Proceeds from The Gateway production of "Link Link Circus" also benefited The Plaza Cinema & Media Arts Center, a nonprofit located near Rossellini's Bellport home in Patchogue, New York.


Rossellini is involved in conservation efforts. She is the president and director of the Howard Gilman Foundation—a leading institution focused on the preservation of wildlife, arts, photography and dance[34][35]—and she has been a board member of the Wildlife Conservation Network.[36] She received US$100,000 from Disney to help with her conservation efforts in those two organizations.[37] She has also helped with the Central Park Conservancy,[38] and is a major benefactor of the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society of Bellport, Long Island, where she is a part-time resident.[39]

Rossellini is involved in training guide dogs for the blind.[40][41] She is a former trustee of the George Eastman House and a 1997 George Eastman Award honoree for her support of film preservation.[42] She is also a National Ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.[43]


Rossellini received a 1987 Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for her role in Blue Velvet. In 1997, she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV for her role in Crime of the Century and an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her work on the television series Chicago Hope. Also in 1997, Rossellini was awarded The George Eastman Award.[44] In 1998, she received an Honourable Mention at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival for her role in the film Left Luggage.[45] In 2013, she was awarded with the Berlinale Camera at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.[46] In 2016, she was granted an honorary doctorate by the Université du Québec à Montréal.[47]

Personal life

Rossellini with David Lynch at the Cannes Film Festival (1990)

Rossellini with David Lynch at the Cannes Film Festival (1990)

Rossellini holds dual Italian and United States citizenship.[12][48]

She was married to Martin Scorsese from 1979 to 1982.[49] After her marriage to Scorsese ended, she married Jon Wiedemann (1983–1986), a Harvard-educated former fashion model from Texas (now a Microsoft design manager).[50]

She has a daughter, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann[13] (born 1983) and an adopted son, Roberto Rossellini (born 1993).[51]

She has always lived near her twin sister Isotta Ingrid,[17] while growing up in Rome, Italy or residing in New York City.



1976A Matter of TimeSister Pia
1979The MeadowEugenia
1980In the Pope's EyeIsabella
1985White NightsDarya Greenwood
1986Blue VelvetDorothy VallensIndependent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead
1987Tough Guys Don't DanceMadeleine RegencyNominated—Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress
1987SiestaMarieNominated—Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress
1988Zelly and MeMademoiselle Zelly
1989Red Riding HoodLady Jean
1990Wild at HeartPerdita Durango
1990Dames GalantesVictoire
1991Caccia Alla Vedova
1992Death Becomes HerLisle von RhomanSaturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
1993The PicklePlanet Cleveland WomanUncredited
1993The InnocentMaria
1993FearlessLaura Klein
1994Wyatt EarpBig Nose Kate
1994Immortal BelovedAnne Marie
1995Croce e deliziaHenriette
1996Big NightGabriella
1996The FuneralClara
1998Left LuggageMrs. Kalman
1998The ImpostorsThe Veiled Queen
2000Il Cielo cadeKathcen
2002EmpireLa Colombiana
2002Roger DodgerJoyce
2003The Tulse Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab StoryMme. Moitessier
2003The Saddest Music in the WorldLady Helen Port-Huntley
2004The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vauz to the SeaMme. Moitessier
2004King of the CornerRachel Spivak
2005La Fiesta Del ChivoUrania
2005My Dad Is 100 Years OldHerself
2006The ArchitectJulia Walters
2006InfamousMarella Agnelli
2007The Last of Jews of Libya
2008The Accidental HusbandMrs. Bollenbecker
2009Two LoversRuth Kladitor
2009My Dog TulipMs. CaveneniniVoice
2010The Solitude of Prime NumbersAdele
2011Chicken with PlumsParvine
2011Silent LifeGabriella
2011Late BloomersMary
2013EnemyAdam's mother
2014The Zigzag KidLola
2015Closet MonsterBuffyVoice
2018Incredibles 2Ambassador Henrietta SelickVoice
2018Vita and VirginiaLady SackvillePost-production


1989–1990The Tracey Ullman ShowMae3 episodes
1990Ivory HuntersMaria DiContiTelevision movie
1991Lies of the TwinsRachel MarksTelevision movie
1993Fallen AngelsBabe LonsdaleEpisode: "The Frightening Frammis"
1994The GiftTelevision movie
1995Tales from the CryptBetty SpinelliEpisode: "You, Murderer"
1996FriendsHerselfEpisode: "The One with Frank Jr."
1996Crime of the CenturyAnna HauptmannTelevision movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
1997Chicago HopeProfessor Marina Giannini2 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series
1997The OdysseyAthenaMiniseries; 2 episodes
1998MerlinNimueMiniseries; 2 episodes
1999The SimpsonsAstrid Weller (voice)Episode: "Mom and Pop Art"
2000Don QuixoteThe DuchessTelevision movie
2002NapoléonJoséphine de Beauharnais4 episodes
2003Monte WalshCountess MartineTelevision movie
2004EarthseaTharMiniseries; 2 episodes
2004–2005AliasKatya Derevko5 episodes
2006InfectedCarla PlumeTelevision movie
2006Filthy GorgeousAntoniaTelevision movie
200730 RockBianca Donaghy2 episodes
2008–2009Green PornoVarious animals and insects18 episodes
2009The PhantomDr. Bella Lithia2 episodes
2012TremeTheresaEpisode: "I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say"
2013The BlacklistFloriana CampoEpisode: "The Freelancer"
2016–2017Shut EyeRita20 episodes

Video game

1996Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorlandLady CadaverVoice role

Music videos



Citation Linkwww.nytimes.com"Isabella Rossellini". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.magnumphotos.com"18th June, Isabella Rossellini at 60 – The 60th birthday of Isabella Rossellini". Magnum Photos. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
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Citation Linktrovacinema.repubblica.it"Isabella Rossellini". la Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 11 February 2014.
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Citation Linkguide.supereva.itMocci, Alessia (18 June 2010). "Isabella Rossellini: Happy Birthday!!! 18 giugno 2010". SuperEva.it. Retrieved 14 May 2011.
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Citation Linkfilm.guardian.co.ukMacNab, Geoffrey (6 September 2004). "Like Father..." Guardian Unlimited. London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
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Citation Linknews.google.com"Ingrid and Daughter have Tearful Reunion". The Miami News. 8 July 1957.
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comRossellini, Isabella (1997). "Deformity". Some of Me. Random House. ISBN 978-0-679-45252-2.
Sep 29, 2019, 4:28 AM
Citation Linkbooks.google.comMartone, Eric (2016). Italian Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ABC-CLIO. p. 291. ISBN 9781610699952. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
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Citation Linkbooks.google.comWolf, William (9 August 1982). "Heiress to Greatness". New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
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Citation Linkbrandchannel.com"Lancôme Celebrates Timeless Beauty With Isabella Rossellini". brandchannel. 23 February 2018. Retrieved 23 March 2018.
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Citation Linkwww.dailymotion.com"Madonna - Erotica - Vidéo dailymotion". Dailymotion.
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Citation Linkwww.cruisecritic.com"News: Actress Isabella Rossellini Joins Silversea". Cruise Critic News: Cruise Reviews and News. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 9 February 2007.
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Citation Linkwww.marketingweek.co.uk"Silversea Cruises signs up Isabella Rossellini". Marketing Week. Centaur Media plc. 21 October 2004. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.tdtnews.com"Isabella Rossellini brings her legendary looks to Sci Fi Channel's 'Earthsea' fantasy miniseries". Temple Daily Telegram. 12 December 2004. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.sundancechannel.com"Episode 4: Isabella Rossellini + Dean Kamen". Iconoclasts: change the way you see celebrity. Sundance Channel L.L.C. Archived from the original on 9 November 2006. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
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Citation Linkwww.papermag.comLuigi Tadini (8 May 2013). "ISABELLA ROSSELLINI ON HER NEW MOTHERHOOD WEB SERIES, MAMMAS". Paper Mag. Paper Mag. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkthefilmexperience.net"Twins: Isabella & Isotta Ingrid". The Film Experience. Nathaniel Rogers. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comCaryn James (8 May 2006). "Isabella Rossellini's Tribute to Her Father, Cinema's Great Neorealist Talking Belly". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkfeaturesblogs.chicagotribune.comMaureen Ryan (30 January 2007). "Pee-wee, Isabella Rossellini and Pete's temptation: This week's '30 Rock'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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Citation Linkwww.au.timeout.comDee Jefferson (4 February 2014). "Green Porno: Isabella Rossellini". Time Out Melbourne. Time Out Group Ltd. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
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