Rosanna Arquette Biography

Television Actress, Actress, Film Actor/Film Actress, Film Actress (1959–)
Rosanna Arquette is an American actress best known for her role opposite Madonna in the 1985 hit film Desperately Seeking Susan.


Rosanna Arquette is an American actress born on August 10, 1959, in New York, New York. She grew up in a family of actors, and in her mid-teens moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting. After small TV and film roles in the late ‘70s, her big break came in 1982 when she starred in the television drama The Executioner’s Song, for which she earned an Emmy nomination. Arquette’s fame grew when she starred opposite Madonna in the 1985 hit film Desperately Seeking Susan. The actress also appeared in the blockbuster films Pulp Fiction (1994) and Crash (1997).

Early Life

Actress, director and producer Rosanna Arquette was born on August 10, 1959, in New York City. She grew up in an acting family—both of her parents worked in the entertainment industry. Her father even had a recurring role on the popular family drama The Waltons in late 1970s and early 1980s. Her mother was also a writer and activist.

The oldest of five children, Arquette spent some of her teen years living in Virginia with her family in an artists’ commune. She left home during her mid-teens and spent some time traveling before moving to Los Angeles. There Arquette pursued a career as an actress. After small roles in the television movie Zuma Beach (1978) and the feature film More American Graffiti (1979), she joined the cast of the dramatic comedy series Shirley starring veteran performer Shirley Jones. On the short-lived series, Arquette played Jones’s teenage daughter.

Film Roles

In 1982, Arquette got her first substantial dramatic role. She starred opposite Tommy Lee Jones in The Executioner’s Song, an adaptation of Norman Mailer’s best seller on convicted killer Gary Gilmore. She earned many accolades for her portrayal of Gilmore’s girlfriend Nicole Baker, including an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or a Special.

Working with director John Sayles, Arquette earned rave reviews for her portrayal of an ambitious young woman in Baby It’s You (1983). The 1960s-era drama follows her character’s transition from high school to college and her relationship with a slick, Frank Sinatra-obsessed young man known as the Shiek (Vincent Spano). Critic Robert Ebert described Arquette as “a natural actress . . . she is able to appear on screen with such an unaffected natural quality.” Despite some positive reviews, the film failed to attract much of an audience, grossing only $1.8 million overall.

Arquette had her first box office hit in 1985, starring opposite Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. She played Roberta, a frustrated New Jersey housewife, who trades places with a New York City nightlife character named Susan (Madonna) through a case of mistaken identity. That same year, Arquette appeared as Griffin Dunne’s love interest in the dark comedy After Hours (1985) directed by Martin Scorsese. She later teamed up with Scorsese again for his segment in the 1989 film New York Stories, which comprised of three different stories by three different directors.

Working steadily, Arquette appeared in a string of films with mixed results. She starred in The Linguini Incident (1991) with rocker David Bowie, which garnered negative reviews. But her supporting role in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994) made Arquette part of a pop-culture phenomenon. She then delved into disturbing territory with David Cronenberg’s Crash (1997), which explores a form of eroticism related to car accidents.

Recent Work

Showing her range, Arquette worked on a number of comedies and dramas. She had a starring role in the independent crime drama Hell’s Kitchen (1999) with William Forsythe and Angelina Jolie and then moved on to a supporting role in the hit comedy The Whole Nine Yards (2000) with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry. Around the time she was working on Big Bad Love (2002) with Arliss Howard and Debra Winger, Arquette was tackling another project of her own. She directed and produced the 2003 documentary Searching for Debra Winger, in which she interviewed many of Hollywood’s top female stars about the challenges facing actresses as they age.

Arquette created another documentary, All We Are Saying (2005), in which she interviewed such diverse musical artists as Chrissie Hynde, Andre 3000 of Outkast, Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel about their music and the music industry at large. The following year, Arquette returned to series television in the prime-time drama What About Brian. She played the title character’s sister, a record company executive who wanted to start a family with her husband, who is an Italian actor. The show, however, was cancelled in 2007.

Since then, Arquette has made several guest appearances on television. She guest starred on crime drama Medium, which stars her younger sister Patricia. She then appeared on the tabloid journalism series Dirt, which starred her sister-in-law Courteney Cox and was produced by her younger brother David. On the big screen, Arquette has a role in the medical drama Inhale.

Twice married and divorced, Arquette has a daughter named Zoe from her second husband John Sidel. She has also been romantically linked to rockers Peter Gabriel and Steve Porcaro of Toto. She is also the inspiration behind Toto’s 1982 hit song, “Rosanna.” Most recently, Arquette has been living with music composer Jonathan Elias.

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