She Put Her Disease In Us: The Wonderful Weirdness of Isabella Rossellini

What is it about Rossellini? No matter how weird or nonsensical she reveals herself to be, there is something about said “quirkiness” that somehow makes her even more endearing. As the daughter of Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman, Rossellini was immediately destined for an offbeat lifestyle and persona. This undeniable prophecy from the moment of her birth led her into such roles as Dorothy Vallens in Blue Velvet and Perdita Durango in Wild at Heart, as well as a five year relationship with the director of said films, David Lynch.

Rossellini with Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
Rossellini with Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet
With film and Italian heritage running through her veins, it only made sense that Rossellini’s first marriage would be to Martin Scorsese, a betrothal that lasted from 1979 to 1982. After appearing on a show with fellow Italian Roberto Benigni for RAI, Rossellini began modeling, posing for renowned fashion photographers like Robert Mapplethorpe, Steven Meisel, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon.
Rossellini and Lynch, photographed by Avedon
Rossellini and Lynch, photographed by Avedon
In addition to modeling and acting, Rossellini also became the spokesperson for Lancome in 1982, a gig she would have until 1996–well into her forties. Rossellini also posed in Madonna’s notorious 1992 coffee table book, Sex. Perhaps largely because Steven Meisel was the photographer for the book, Rossellini was amenable to being a part of the project, though she later stated she didn’t agree with Madonna’s “moralistic” message.
Posing with Madonna in the Sex book
Posing with Madonna in the Sex book
Rossellini continued to work steadily in the 90s with films like Death Becomes Her (a cult classic, to be sure), The Innocent and Immortal Beloved. She also had a memorable cameo on Friends as the celebrity Ross waffles between putting on his “freebie” list. It wasn’t until the awkward and unprecedented Green Porno series on IFC in 2008 that Rossellini unveiled a new apex of delightful campiness.
The quintessential Rossellini line from Blue Velvet
The quintessential Rossellini line from Blue Velvet
Although, of late, Rossellini has taken minimalist parts in films like Enemy, it’s doubtful we’ve seen the last of this prolific Italian in terms of her returning to the screen in a starring role.

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