Isabella Fiorella Elettra Giovanna Rossellini (born 18 June 1952) is an Italian actress, filmmaker, author, philanthropist, and model. Rossellini is noted for her 14-year tenure as a Lancôme model, and for her roles in films such as Blue Velvet and Death Becomes Her.
Rossellini is the daughter of Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman and the Italian director Roberto Rossellini. She has three siblings from her mother: her twin sister Isotta Ingrid Rossellini, who is an adjunct professor of Italian literature; a brother, Roberto Ingmar Rossellini, who works in finance; and a half-sister, Pia Lindström, who formerly worked on television and is from her mother’s first marriage. She has four other siblings from her father’s two other marriages: Romano (died at age 9), Renzo, Gil, and Raffaella.
Rossellini was born in Rome, and raised there, as well as in 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.
At the age of 19, she went to New York, where she attended Finch College while working as a translator, a ringmaster at circuses and a RAI television reporter. She 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 Harvard-educated model from Texas (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, 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. 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.
Rossellini’s modeling career led her into the world of cosmetics, when she became the exclusive spokesmodel for the international cosmetics brand Lancôme in 1982, replacing Nancy Dutiel in the United States and Carol Alt in Europe. While there, in 1990, she 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. She is signed to Trump Model Management.
On location at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin to shoot some scenes for the movie “The Innocent” Rossellini made her film debut with a brief appearance as a nun opposite her mother in the 1976 film A Matter of Time. However, she 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.
In 2003, Rossellini 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. Furthermore, she became an ambassador for the Silversea Cruise Line, which has her appearing in print ads and on their website.
In 2006, Rossellini 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 what activities she is currently involved in. In 2007, Rossellini guest starred on two episodes of the television show 30 Rock, playing Alec Baldwin’s ex-wife.
In 2008, Rossellini toured the festival circuit, including the Sundance Film Festival, with a series of short films entitled Green Porno, which she wrote and co-directed with Jody Shapiro. Each Green Porno film is two minutes long, and has Rossellini reenacting the mating rituals of various animals.
Rossellini 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, Rossellini is involved in conservation efforts. She 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. 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. Furthermore, Rossellini is considered a major benefactor of the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society of Bellport, Long Island, where she is a part-time resident.
Rossellini 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.
Rossellini has written three books. In 1997, her self-described fictional memoir, Some of Me, was published. In 2002, she 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.
Isabella Rossellini holds dual United States and Italian citizenship. She has a daughter, Elettra Rossellini Wiedemann (born 1983), and an adopted son, Roberto (born 1992).