Annabella Sciorra


Actor

About

Also Known As
Annabella Gloria Philomena Sciorra
Birth Place
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Born
March 29, 1960

Biography

Annabella Sciorra briefly achieved leading lady status in the early 1990s, undertaking a dangerous dalliance in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" (1991) and suffering the torments of psycho-nanny Rebecca De Mornay in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992). Coming of age in Brooklyn, NY, Sciorra began earning screen parts in the late 1980s, turning in a comedic performance in the breezy comedy ...

Family & Companions

Joe Petruzzi
Companion
Actor. Separated c. 1992.

Biography

Annabella Sciorra briefly achieved leading lady status in the early 1990s, undertaking a dangerous dalliance in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" (1991) and suffering the torments of psycho-nanny Rebecca De Mornay in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992). Coming of age in Brooklyn, NY, Sciorra began earning screen parts in the late 1980s, turning in a comedic performance in the breezy comedy "True Love" (1989). She would score her big break as the working class Italian-American secretary hooking up with her African-American boss (Wesley Snipes) in Lee's examination of the social dynamics of interracial relationships In "Jungle Fever." It vaulted her to bigger parts in such films as "Whispers in the Dark" (1992) and "The Night We Never Met" (1993), but she would plateau into supporting roles and largely unheralded indie fare, often cast as put-upon paramours in a run of crime films highlighted by "Romeo is Bleeding" (1993) and "Cop Land" (1997). She veered into television in 2001 as an obsessive saleswoman involved with tough-guy Tony Soprano on "The Sopranos" (HBO, 1999-2007), and would go to short TV stints, playing a detective on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-07; USA, 2007-11), and a shrink on "Mental" (Fox, 2009). Throughout the 2000s, Sciorra kept her hand in off-Broadway theater, and made her Broadway debut in 2011 opposite Chris Rock in "The Motherf--ker With the Hat." A disarming beauty, Sciorra proved herself a stalwart of New York's drama scene and a captivating performer in nearly every medium in the trade.

She was born Annabella Gloria Philomena Sciorra on March 29, 1960 or 1964 (sources differ) in Wethersfield, CT, outside Hartford, the daughter of Italian immigrants Enrico and Anna Sciorra. Her father worked as veterinarian; when Annabella was 11, he took a job with the Department of Agriculture's New York City office and moved the family to Brooklyn. Annabella became a self-professed theater geek, dreaming of starring in the Broadway shows she saw as a kid, and at age 13, she began taking acting lessons on weekends at the Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof's HB Studio. She attended Brooklyn's South Shore High School, and after graduating in 1978, was accepted into New York's prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She graduated in 1980 and founded a repertory group, the Brass Ring Theater Company, to stage independent productions, but followed the well-worn path of the struggling actor, waitressing and at one point working as a coat-check girl at a tony French restaurant. By the end of the decade, however, she had landed an auspicious first job opposite Sophia Loren, playing the legend's daughter in the NBC miniseries "The Fortunate Pilgrim" (1988). On a personal front, things continued on an upturn the next year with Sciorra's nuptials to fellow actor Joe Petruzzi; professionally her turn as a flustered, second-guessing bride-to-be in the romantic comedy "True Love" (1989), brought her a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award.

It would open the door to some significant supporting parts in big-budget studio films. She appeared as a young legal eagle in the true crime tale of Klaus and Sunny Von B├╝low, "Reversal of Fortune" (1990), an unfaithful wife sending on-screen husband Tim Robbins on an armed rampage at a seedy car dealership in the Robin Williams vehicle "Cadillac Man" (1990), and the girlfriend of a hardboiled cop (James Woods) beset by a hotshot Hollywood actor (Michael J. Fox) studying him for a part in "The Hard Way" (1991). Fellow Brooklynite Spike Lee would vault Sciorra into the leading lady stratum, casting her in his nervy 1991 film "Jungle Fever," in which he examined the dynamics of interracial relationships in the heated, tribalistic climate of contemporary New York. Sciorra played an Italian-American temp from Bensonhurst who begins a torrid relationship with her married African-American boss (Wesley Snipes) which sends violent ripples through their respective families. Though the film drew mixed reviews over Lee's sometimes disjointed storytelling, Rolling Stone cited Sciorra's "luminous performance," infusing her character with "a poignancy that pierces the heart." Her star ascendant, she would win leads again in a pair of psychological thrillers, Curtis Hanson's "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992), a dark horse hit in which she played one-half of seemingly idyllic couple who discover their new nanny (De Mornay) to be a scheming psychopath, and "Whispers In the Dark" (1992), which saw her as a psychiatrist caught in an amorous (and murderous) triangle.

She also won some romantic comedy leads in 1993, starring opposite Matthew Broderick in "The Night We Never Met" and Matt Dillon in "Mr. Wonderful." Back in a supporting role, she played the long-suffering wife of a wildly corrupt cop (Gary Oldman) in the neo-noir thriller "Romeo is Bleeding" (1993). She and Petruzzi would divorce in 1993, and also that year, she landed a high-profile off-Broadway job in celebrated playwright David Rabe's "Those the River Keeps," though it would be greeted with bad reviews. In 1995, Sciorra signed on with indie director Abel Ferrara for his gritty vampire yarn "The Addiction," which spun vampirism as a seedy underworld equivalent to drug culture, and she helped produce and starred in his follow-up, the mob drama "The Funeral" (1996), both films co-starring Ferrara regular Christopher Walken. Her career leveled into a regimen of indie films, as with the AIDS-themed drama "The Cure" (1995), crime thrillers "The Innocent Sleep" (1996) and "Underworld" (1996), comedies such as "Little City" and two offbeat outings for indie auteur Noah Baumbach, "Highball" (1997) and "Mr. Jealousy" (1997). She returned to Ferrara's repertory with his eerie dystopian sci-fi outing "New Rose Hotel" (1998). What work cropped up for her in major studio productions would largely come in the form of small but poignant supporting roles, as in James Mangold's urban drama "Cop Land" (1997) and the Robin Williams-starring Dante-esque fantasy "What Dreams May Come" (1998).

In 1999, she landed work with the edgy Naked Angels theater company's production of "Shyster," starring alongside Phyllis Newman and Fisher Stevens, beginning a semi-regular presence in the off-Broadway circuit that would see her in high-profile productions of "Roar" in 2004 and "Spain" in 2007 for MCC Theater. In features, she continued with low-budget crime outings in "Once in the Life" (2000), co-starring and directed by Laurence Fishburne, and "Above Suspicion" (2000), and she co-starred with Stevens again in the indie feature made from his script, "Sam the Man" (2001). But a new career tack would land her back on a national stage, as HBO came calling with a new character for its groundbreaking Mafia series "The Sopranos." Sciorra joined the show's third season as Gloria Trillo, the sultry, unabashedly sensual saleswoman for a high-end car dealership who flirts her way into a torrid affair with mob honcho Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). The Trillo arc turned dark as Tony discovered Gloria to be unstable and was eventually forced to deflect her obsessive behavior with violence. In spite of Gloria's demise, Sciorra had wet her feet enough in television to take on her own project, anchoring the CBS law drama "Queens Supreme," playing a New York judge. The mid-season series boasted an enviable cast that included Robert Loggia and Oliver Platt, but the show opened to scathing reviews and CBS pulled the plug after airing only three episodes.

She did some movie-of-the-week-type projects as reflected in the titles, "The Madam's Family: The Truth About the Canal Street Brothel" (CBS, 2004) and "Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story" (Lifetime, 2004). And she returned periodically to indie features, most notably in Sidney Lumet's final film "Find Me Guilty" (2006), the story of a famous New Jersey Mafioso (Vin Diesel) who defended himself in court, with Sciorra turning in a mesmerizing, kinetic performance in a single scene as Diesel's ex-wife. In 2006, she picked up a cast role as a New York detective on one of Dick Wolf's continuum of police procedural dramas, "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," teaming with longtime series denizen Chris Noth, but left after a season. In 2007, Sciorra took recurring stints on Showtime's lesbian-themed drama "The L Word" (2004-08) and NBC's long-running "ER" (1994-2009), and she landed another cast job as a sober supervisor of a psychiatric staff on the short-lived Fox drama "Mental," which only lasted half a season in 2009. In spring 2011, Sciorra made her Broadway debut along with Chris Rock in renowned playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis's comedy "The Motherf--ker With the Hat," starring with her onetime real-life love interest Bobby Cannavale, and playing wife to Rock as the AA sponsor and buddy counseling Cannavale's recently sprung ex-con.

By Matthew Grimm

Life Events

1988

Made TV-movie debut as Sophia Loren's daughter in "Mario Puzo's The Fortunate Pilgrim" (NBC)

1989

Made feature film debut in "True Love"

1990

Played Ron Silver's lover in "Reversal of Fortune" and Richard Gere's wife in "Internal Affairs"

1990

First film with Robin Williams, "Cadillac Man"; cast as Tim Robbins' straying spouse

1991

Portrayed an Italian-American woman who embarks on an affair with a married Black architect in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever"

1992

Played a new mother who hires a vengeful nanny in "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle"

1993

Cast as Matt Dillon's ex-wife in Anthony Minghella's "Mr. Wonderful"

1993

Was one of three people sharing a NYC apartment in "The Night We Never Met"

1994

Made her Broadway debut in David Rabe's "Those the River Keeps"

1995

First collaboration with director Abel Ferrara, "The Addiction"

1995

Portrayed the mother of an AIDS-infected child in "The Cure"

1996

Made debut as an associate producer with Ferrara's "The Funeral"; also co-starred

1997

Co-starred in the NBC miniseries, "Asteroid"

1997

Received critical acclaim for her work in "Cop Land"

1998

Appeared as Robin Williams' wife in "What Dreams May Come"

1998

Had featured role in Ferrara's "The New Rose Hotel"

1999

Acted opposite Fisher Stevens in "Shyster" at Naked Angels in NYC

2000

Played the wife of a contract killer in "Once in the Life"

2000

Re-teamed with Fisher Stevens in the digitally-shot independent film "Sam the Man"

2001

Played the sister of an actress who contracts Lou Gehrig's disease in the CBS TV-movie, "Jenifer"

2001

Played recurring role of Tony mistress, Gloria Trillo on the HBO series "The Sopranos"; received an Emmy nomination

2001

Teamed with Rosie Perez and John Leguizamo in "King of the Jungle"

2004

Appeared in the comedy "Chasing Liberty"

2005

Joined the cast of NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," as police detective Carolyn Barek

2006

Played DiNorscio's (Vin Diesel) ex-wife in Sidney Lumet's "Find Me Guilty"

2006

Cast in Michael Cuesta's sophomore feature "Twelve and Holding"

2007

Had a recurring role on the fourth season of Showtime's "The L Word"

2009

Played a hospital administrator in the short-lived Fox series, "Mental"

2011

Co-starred in Stephen Adly Guirgis' controversial play "The Motherf**ker With the Hat," opposite Chris Rock

Companions

Joe Petruzzi
Companion
Actor. Separated c. 1992.

Bibliography