Childhood & Early Life
Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini was born on June 18, 1952, in Rome, Italy. Her mother, Ingrid Bergman, was a Swedish actress who had won the Oscar thrice and her father, Roberto Rossellin,i was an Italian director.
Isabella has a twin sister Isotta Ingrid Rossellini, who is now a professor of Italian literature, and a brother named Robertino Ingmar Rossellini. She also has many half-siblings from her parents’ other relationships.
Rossellini spent her childhood in Rome, Santa Marinella, and Paris. When she was five, she was operated for appendicitis. At the age of 11, she was diagnosed with scoliosis which led to 18 months of grueling treatment. She was in a full body cast for a year, and underwent a surgery on her spine which left scars on her back.
When she was 19, she moved to New York City and attended Finch College. At the same time, she also worked as a translator and the US correspondent at Italy’s RAI television. Around this period, she was featured on ‘L'altra Domenica,’ a TV show, which was her first experience in the entertainment industry.
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Isabella Rossellini debuted in films in 1976, when she played a brief role as a nun opposite her mother in ‘A Matter of Time’. Next, she was featured in the 1979 film ‘Il Prato’, followed by Renzo Arbore's film ‘Il pap'occhio.’
She started modeling when she was 28. Bruce Weber first photographed her for ‘British Vogue’ and later Bill King photographed her for ‘American Vogue.’ She modeled for renowned magazines like ‘Marie Claire,’ ‘Harper's Bazaar,’ ‘Vanity Fair,’ and ‘ELLE,’ and has worked with many well-known photographers. An exhibition of her photographs called ‘Portrait of a Woman’ was held in Paris in 1988.
In 1982, she became the exclusive spokesmodel for the international cosmetics brand Lancôme, a position which she held for 14 years. In 1996, she was removed as the face of Lancôme but was rehired as a global brand ambassador for the company when she was 63.
In 1985, she appeared in her first American film, ‘White Nights’, followed by her breakthrough role as the abused nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens in the film ‘Blue Velvet’, directed by David Lynch. She also contributed her vocals to the film’s soundtrack.
In 1989, she played a significant role in the film ‘Cousins,’ followed by the big-budget Hollywood films ‘Death Becomes Her’ in 1992 and ‘Immortal Beloved’ in 1994. She appeared as herself in an episode of the TV series ‘Friends’ in 1996.
In 1992, she modeled for Madonna's book ‘Sex’, and appeared in her music video for her hit song ‘Erotica’.
In 1995, Isabella was cast in the hit film ‘Big Night’, in which her performance was critically acclaimed. It was followed by a couple of offbeat films like Abel Ferrara's ‘The Funeral’ in 1996, the Dutch film ‘Left Luggage’ in 1998, and the comedy ‘The Impostors’ in the same year.
Her performance in the 1996 HBO television film ‘Crime of the Century’ earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for TV. She also earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her performance on the television series ‘Chicago Hope’.
In 1997, she released her fictional memoir, ‘Some of Me’, followed by ‘Looking at Me’ in 2002, and ‘In the Name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirits: Remembering Roberto Rossellini’ in 2006.
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In 2003, she did a recurring role in the television series ‘Alias’. In that year, she did a Canadian film ‘The Saddest Music in the World’. The following year, she was featured in the miniseries ‘Legend of Earthsea’.
In 2004, she acted in ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’, an Off-Broadway production by Terrence McNally.
In 2006, she was seen in several television documentaries. She narrated a two-hour television special for the ‘Discovery Atlas’ series on the Discovery Channel. She spoke about her past and current activities in an episode of ‘Iconoclasts’. She also created a short film as a tribute to her father called ‘My Dad is 100 Years Old’.
In 2007, she made a short film on the environment called ‘The Green’ for the Sundance Channel. The channel gave her another assignment of making a web series, which she named ‘Green Porno’. The series, consisting of 18 episodes, became a huge hit. She not only wrote and directed the series but also acted in it herself. ‘Green Porno’ was followed by ‘Seduce Me: The Spawn of Green Porno and Mammas’, and ‘Seduce Me: The Spawn of Green Porno’. She wrote, directed, and acted in both the series.
In 2011, she was cast opposite William Hurt in the French film, ‘Late Bloomers’, directed by Julie Gavras. The film premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.
Her thriller film ‘Enemy’ was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. In 2014, she portrayed the silent film actor Rudolph Valentino's mother in the film ‘Silent Life’. In the same year, she appeared as Lola in ‘Zigzag Kid’, a Dutch-Belgian adventure film, directed by Vincent Bal. In 2016, she played Rita Marks in the series ‘Shut Eye’.
In 2018, she gave her voice to the film ‘Incredibles 2’, as The Ambassador, a foreign official who supports the legalization of superheroes’ status. In the same year, she was cast in ‘Vita and Virginia’, an upcoming British biographical drama film, directed by Chanya Button. The film is currently in post-production stage.
Isabella Rossellini holds dual citizenship—Italian and American. In 1979, she got married to American director, producer, screenwriter, and film historian Martin Scorsese. She was his third wife. In 1982, the couple was divorced.
In 1983, she married former fashion model Jon Wiedemann, but they parted ways in 1986. Their daughter Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann was born in 1983. Elettra was also a Lancome Cosmetics spokesmodel for some time. Isabella also adopted a son, Roberto Rossellini, who was born in 1993.
In 2007, she started attending Hunter College in New York to study animal behavior.
She is a supporter of conservation, and has served as the president and director of the Howard Gilman Foundation, which works on the preservation of wildlife, arts, photography and dance. She was also a board member of the Wildlife Conservation Network. Disney had granted US$100,000 to her for her conservation projects in these organizations. She has also supported the Central Park Conservancy.