Isabella was born and raised in Rome, Santa Marinella, and Paris. At the age of
13, she was diagnosed with scoliosis. In order to correct it, Isabella had to
undergo an 18 month ordeal of painful stretchings, body casts, surgery on her
spine using pieces of one of her shin bones (used to add supports for the
individual vertebrae without risking foreign body rejection issues), and a
recovery from that surgery. Consequently, she has permanent incision scars on
her back and shin. Incidentally, her daughter, Elettra, also developed scoliosis
when she was a child.
At the age of 19, Isabella Rossellini came to New York, where she worked as a translator and a RAI television reporter. Isabella also appeared intermittently on Roberto Benigni's Italian comedy show, "The Other Sunday." However, she did not decide to stay full time in New York until her marriage to Martin Scorsese (1979-1982). After her marriage to Scorsese, she married Jon Wiedemann (1983-1986), a German model (now a Microsoft executive), and gave birth to a daughter, Elettra. Later, she dated David Lynch, Gary Oldman, and Gregory Mosher.
At the age of 28, Isabella Rossellini's 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, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Her image has appeared on such magazines as Marie Claire, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and ELLE. Furthermore, 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.
Isabella's modeling career led her into the world of cosmetics, when she became the exclusive spokes model for the international cosmetics brand Lancôme in 1982, replacing Nancy Duteil in the United States and Carol Alt in Europe. While there, in 1990, Isabella Rossellini was involved in product development for Lancôme's fragrance Trésor. Later, in 1995, she worked with the Coty Group and developed her own brand of cosmetics, Isabella Rossellini's Manifesto. However, in 1996, after 14 years with the company, she was infamously removed as the face of Lancôme for being "too old", since she was in her 40s at the time.
Isabella made her film debut with a brief appearance as a nun opposite her mother in the 1976 film A Matter of Time. However, Isabella Rossellini did not truly begin acting until the 1979 film Il Prato. She did not become successful with acting until after her mother's death in 1982, when she was cast in her first American film, White Nights (1985). Nonetheless, she is probably best known for her pivotal role as the nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Some other notable film roles include her work in Cousins, Death Becomes Her, Immortal Beloved, and Fearless.
Beginning in 2003 Isabella had a recurring role 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 as the High Priestess Thar in the Sci Fi Channel miniseries Legend of Earthsea. In addition, she acted in an Off-Broadway production of The Stendhal Syndrome.
In 2006, Isabella was on television for several documentaries. First, she narrated a two-hour television special on Italy for the Discovery Channel's Discovery Atlas series, in order to show a glimpse of present-day Italy. In addition, on an episode of the Sundance Channel series Iconoclasts, which also featured the Segway PT inventor Dean Kamen, she told about her past and in what she is currently involved.
Isabella received a 1987 Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead for her role in Blue Velvet. In 1997, she received two notable award nominations. 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.
Outside of acting, modeling, and cosmetics, Isabella is involved in conservation efforts. Isabella Rossellini is a board member of the Wildlife Conservation Network. In addition, she is the president and director of the Howard Gilman Foundation, a leading institution focused on the preservation of wildlife, arts, photography and dance. In fact, Disney gave $100,000 to her to help with her conservation efforts in those two organizations. She has also helped with the Central Park Conservancy.
Isabella is also involved in training guide dogs for the blind. In addition, she is a former trustee of the George Eastman House and a 1997 George Eastman Award honoree for her support of film preservation. She is also a National Ambassador for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Isabella has written three books. In 1997, her self-described fictional memoir, Some of Me, was published. In 2002, Isabella Rossellini released her second book, Looking at Me (on pictures and photographers). In 2006, In the name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini was published and was accompanied by the Guy Maddin-directed short film My Dad Is 100 Years Old (both the film and the book are tributes to her father). In the film, she played almost every role, including David Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock, and her mother Ingrid Bergman.
Trivia for Isabella Rossellini
She closely resembles her mother and performed an eerily accurate parody of Bergman's character Ilsa Lund from Casablanca in a Robert Zemeckis-directed episode of Tales from the Crypt called "You, Murderer." In this episode, she plays the scheming wife of a Humphrey Bogart character. This episode is best known for the fact that Humphrey Bogart and Alfred Hitchcock were digitally inserted using old video clips and CGI.
In 1997, Isabella provided voice acting for the video game Ceremony of Innocence, together with Paul McGann and Ben Kingsley. She also provided her voice for the 1996 video game Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland.
She performed the live narration for Guy Maddin's silent film The Brand Upon the Brain at the New York Film Festival on October 15, 2006.
In an episode of the The Simpsons where Homer was selling Springfield's maps for celebrities' homes, she was the only actual celebrity listed, since all of the other people listed were regular characters of the show.
She was mentioned during the description of an alien in the Tool song "Rosetta Stoned" on the album 10,000 Days.
She appeared in Madonna's infamous 1992 book S--.
In the popular television series Grey's Anatomy, Addison Shepherd is disparagingly compared to Isabella Rossellini by Meredith Grey.
Isabella Rossellini has a daughter, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann (born 1983), and an adopted son, Roberto (born 1993).
Theatre credits for Isabella Rossellini
The Stendhal Syndrome (2004) (off-Broadway)
Television credits for Isabella Rossellini
"The Tracey Ullman Show" (1989-1990) (3 episodes)
Ivory Hunters (1990)
Lies Of The Twins (1991)
"Fallen Angels" (1993) (1 episode)
The Gift (1994)
"Tales from the Crypt" (1995) (1 episode)
"Friends" (1996) (1 episode)
Crime of the Century (1996)
"Chicago Hope" (1997) (2 episodes)
The Odyssey (1997)
"The Simpsons" (1999) (1 episode)
Don Quixote (2000)
Monte Walsh (2003)
"Alias" (2004-2005) (5 episodes)
Filthy Gorgeous (2006)
"Discovery Atlas": Italy Revealed (2006)
"30 Rock" (2007) (1 episode)
Film List for Isabella Rossellini
A Matter of Time (1976)
Il Prato (The Meadow) (1979, directed by Paolo & Vittorio Taviani)
Il Pap'occhio (1980)
White Nights (1985)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Oci Ciornie (1987)
Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)
Zelly And Me (1988)
Red Riding Hood (1989)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Dames Galantes (1990)
Caccia Alla Vedova (1991)
Death Becomes Her (1992)
The Pickle (1993)
The Innocent (1993)
Wyatt Earp (1994)
Immortal Beloved (1994)
Croce e delizia (1995)
Big Night (1996)
The Funeral (1996)
Left Luggage (1998)
The Impostors (1998)
Il Cielo cade (2000)
Roger Dodger (2002)
The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 1: The Moab Story (2003)
The Saddest Music in the World (2003)
The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part 2: Vaux to the Sea (2004)
King of the Corner (2004)
La Fiesta Del Chivo (2005)
My Dad Is 100 Years Old (2005)
The Architect (2006)
The Accidental Husband (2007)
My Dog Tulip (2008)
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