Family & Companions
Hailing from a bohemian showbiz clan that included Patricia Arquette and David Arquette, actress Rosanna Arquette emerged on the scene in several high-profile television movies before earning acclaim in the indie feature world, starting with a leading role in John Sayles' romantic drama "Baby, It's You" (1983). Arquette followed up with what should have been her breakout role in "Desperately Seeking Susan" (1985), but she was left behind in the celebrity wake of co-star Madonna. Though she worked consistently, Arquette languished a bit in the late-1980s and early-1990s, thanks in part to her decision to live and work exclusively in Europe. But a small, but highly memorable role in Quentin Tarantino's groundbreaking "Pulp Fiction" (1994) refreshed audiences to Arquette's early promise. From there, she delivered a brave performance in David Cronenberg's disturbing "Crash" (1996) before making a return to her offbeat roots as a drug-addicted blues singer in Hell's Kitchen" (1999). She next became a frequent guest starring presence on some of television's most popular shows, while making her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed documentary "Searching for Debra Winger" (2003), which proved that Arquette seemed content charting her own course.
Born on Aug. 10, 1959 in New York City, Arquette was raised in a show business family headed by her father, Lewis, an actor and director, and her mother, Mardi, an actress, poet, theater operator, activist, teacher, therapist and the daughter of a Holocaust refugee from Poland. She lived for a time in Chicago, IL, where her father headed the famed comedy troupe Second City, before her parents moved the family to a hippie commune in Virginia in the early 1970s. Having been surrounded by artists, musicians and performers her entire life, Arquette naturally wanted to follow a similar creative path and decided to pursue a Hollywood career. At 15 years old, she hitchhiked cross-country with three friends to San Francisco - in hindsight not the smartest move, according to the actress - where she found work at Renaissance and Dickens fairs. Heading down the coast to Los Angeles, Arquette made her professional debut in a stage performance of "Metamorphosis" (1975) at the Story Theatre. Two years later, she made her television movie debut with a role in the family drama "Having Babies II" (ABC, 1977) and soon made her first feature appearance with a walk-on part as a commune girl in "More American Graffiti" (1979).
Following her first stint as a TV regular, playing the teenage daughter of Shirley Jones on the dramedy "Shirley" (NBC, 1979-1980), Arquette began working consistently on the small screen, appearing in After School Specials, PBS dramas, and several notable telefilms. Her most visible of the time was "The Executioner's Song" (NBC, 1982), an adaptation of Norman Mailer's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for which she received enthusiastic notices as the wild girlfriend of convicted killer Gary Gilmore (Tommy Lee Jones). In 1982, Arquette briefly dated Toto member, Steve Porcaro, whose band released the Grammy-winning single, "Rosanna," that same year. Some speculated that Toto's main songwriter, David Paich, wrote the song about Porcaro's split with Arquette. But he later stated that the song was already written and just needed a name that fit the chorus, which hers did quite well. Meanwhile, Arquette made her first significant waves with her leading film debut in John Sayles' coming-of-age romantic drama, "Baby, It's You" (1983), in which she played a studious Jewish high school student who falls for a rebellious Italian boy (Vincent Spano).
Arquette next turned in the most memorable of her early performances in Susan Seidelman's comedy "Desperately Seeking Susan" (1985), playing a bored suburban housewife who adopts the freewheeling lifestyle and persona of a woman (Madonna) whom she read about in the personal ads. While the part seemed to be a perfect springboard to major stardom for the young actress, the major beneficiary proved to be her co-star Madonna, who at the time was riding the crest of her enormous, newfound popularity. Later that same year, Arquette was fine as the unstable fatalistic date of Griffin Dunne who acts as the catalyst for the nightmarish events of Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" (1985). Following a smaller role in the revisionist Western "Silverado" (1985), she was a clichéd spoiled rich girl forced into a survival situation with an introverted pilot (Christopher Reeve) in "The Aviator" (1985). Arquette next played a woman still suffering guilt over stabbing her old lover in public who meets a traveling actor (Eric Roberts) willing to take her away in "Nobody's Fool" (1986). But many of her subsequent roles failed to live up to the early promise on display in "Baby, It's You."
The pattern for much of Arquette's subsequent Hollywood was soon established, landing leads in small independent comedies and foreign features, small supporting roles in larger studios films, and more starring performances in barely released or straight-to-video fare. Though always working, Arquette seemed to recede into the background with the spoof comedy "Amazon Women on the Moon" (1987), the French-made adventure "The Big Blue" (1988), and the supernatural thriller "Black Rainbow" (1989), which failed to receive a theatrical release in the United States. One explanation for Arquette's fall from prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s was her decision to live and work in Europe for six years during what could have been her Hollywood prime. Meanwhile, after an unsubstantial supporting part in the swaggering "Flight of the Intruder" (1990), Arquette found new life on the small screen playing the wife of General Custer (Gary Cole) in the Emmy-winning television movie "Son of the Morning Star" (NBC, 1991). She was banished to the straight-to-video shelves with "The Linguini Incident" (1991), before starring as the widowed mother of two kids opposite Jean-Claude Van Damme in "Nowhere to Run" (1993).
Arquette was in much better company as part of the high octane ensemble in Quentin Tarantino's acclaimed "Pulp Fiction" (1994). As the pierced girlfriend of a heroin dealer (Eric Stoltz) forced to contend with the overdosing wife (Uma Thurman) of a crime boss (Ving Rhames), Arquette was more memorable in a small role than she had been in the lead of some previous movies. After starring alongside Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken in the satirical comedy "Search and Destroy" (1995), she fared well as Gabrielle, the crippled survivor of an automobile accident in David Cronenberg's controversial "Crash" (1996). Next she was a robber on the run with a much younger boyfriend in Sondra Locke's little seen "Do Me a Favor" (1996), before adopting a more conventional role as an uptight Southerner in "Deceiver" (1999). Returning to her usual offbeat types, Arquette played a drug-addicted blues singer in the low-budget "Hell's Kitchen" (1999). In November 1996, she made a rare guest appearance as a woman whose life had been touched by violent crime on the acclaimed procedural "Homicide: Life on the Street" (NBC, 1993-99).
Arquette caused more than a few to scratch their heads with an appearance in "Gone Fishin'" (1997), the laughably unfunny Joe Pesci-Danny Glover slapstick comedy that faired poorly with critics and audiences alike. After a blip of a role in the Sandra Bullock stinker "Hope Floats" (1998), she returned to the small screen to star in "I Know What You Did" (ABC, 1998), playing a tough defense attorney successful at defending rapists who is herself raped by a colleague and blackmailed by a witness after she kills her attacker in self defense. She next starred in "Two Babies: Switched at Birth" (CBS, 1999) as a mother who discovers that her child was switched with the baby of another mother (Melissa Gilbert) after a hospital mix-up. After playing the thankless role of unfaithful wife to a veteran police detective in the little-seen cop thriller "Deceiver" (1998), Arquette was engaging as the trampy ex-girlfriend of a recently released convict (Vincent Gallo) in the off-color "Buffalo '66" (1998).
As the millennium drew to a close, Arquette seemed to take just about any role, no matter how big or small, that came her way. After appearing as a hippie mother in the two-part historical miniseries "The 60s" (NBC, 1999), she was an actress and former sex symbol distraught over her upcoming job playing Christina Ricci's mom in Allison Anders' amusing Sundance comedy, "Sugar Town" (1999). She continued her independent streak by appearing in festival circuit films like "Pigeonholed" (1999), "Palmer's Pick-Up" (1999) and "I'm Losing You" (1999) before dashing off a few quick straight-to-video releases like "Voodoo Dawn" (2000) and "Diary of a Sex Addict" (2001). Arquette returned to studio fare with a ho-hum appearance as the wife of a man (Matthew Perry) who befriends a notorious Mafia hit-man (Bruce Willis) in "The Whole Nine Yards" (2000). But she shined in a return to television, which found the actress playing a cynical magazine editor in "Things Behind the Sun" (Showtime, 2001), a gripping drama about an up-and-coming singer-songwriter (Kim Dickens) struggling with the demons of being gang-raped in high school.
Returning to the familiar stomping grounds of indie features, Arquette had a supporting role in "Big Bad Love" (2002), playing the emotionally unsupportive friend of a down-and-out Vietnam veteran (Arliss Howard) desperately trying to turn his turbulent past into fiction."Big Bad Love" also starred Howard's wife, Debra Winger, which perhaps inspired Arquette to launch her directorial debut with the Showtime documentary "Searching for Debra Winger" (2003), her acclaimed look at the challenges, pressures and choices female actors face when the reach their 40s and begin to be overlooked for roles in favor of their younger counterparts. Arquette chose Winger as her subject because the actress was a pioneer due to bowing out of the business when still in her prime. Meanwhile, following a guest starring two-episode arc on "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006), Arquette starred as a wife who goes on a rescue mission with a complete stranger (Diego Wallraff) after her husband (Joseph Kell) is kidnapped by a gang of diamond thieves in the Lifetime thriller, "Rush of Fear" (2003).
Though she continued taking small roles in little-seen independent films like "Iowa" (2004) and "Kids in America" (2005), Arquette began making the transition to series television with an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (NBC, 2001-11), playing the wife of a U.S. Senatorial candidate (Matt Servitto) accused of murdering the buyer of an infamous little black book that contains his name. Next she was a shaman who falls for Malcolm (Frankie Muniz) at the Burning Man festival in "Malcolm in the Middle" (FOX, 2000-06), after which she played an inmate who earns the sympathy of Christine (Sandra Oh) after being admitted to Seattle Grace for injuring herself while trying to escape solitary confinement on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). Meanwhile, Arquette maintained a recurring role as a wealthy Hollywood wife who engages in a lesbian affair with the always promiscuous Shane (Katherine Moenning) on the "The L Word" (Showtime, 2004-09), then landed her first regular series role on "What About Brian" (ABC, 2005-07), playing an older woman married to a younger man (Raoul Bova) and the sister to a thirty-something bachelor (Barry Watson) struggling to find Ms. Right. After the show was canceled, she returned to guest starring work on shows like "Medium" (NBC/CBS, 2005-2011), which starred her sister Patricia Arquette, "Private Practice" (ABC, 2007-13), and the short-lived "Eastwick" (ABC, 2009). Meanwhile, she returned once again to indie feature land to appear in the Iceland thriller "Inhale" (2011) and the sci-fi comedy "Repo Chick" (2011).
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At age four, moved with family to Chicago where her father managed the Second City for years
Hitchhiked across the country to San Francisco, CA at age 15 with three other teens
Professional stage debut, "Metamorphosis" at the Story Theatre in Los Angeles
TV-movie debut, "Having Babies II" (ABC)
Miniseries debut, starred opposite Bette Davis in "The Dark Secret of Harvest Home" (NBC)
TV debut as a regular, playing a daughter of Shirley Jones on the NBC hour-long comedy-drama series "Shirley"
Made feature acting debut with a bit part as a commune girl in "More American Graffiti"
Received enthusuastic notices as Tommy Lee Jones' girlfriend in NBC's "The Executioner's Song"; also released theatrically
Written about in the popular song "Rosanna," released by the group Toto
First starring role in a feature film, John Sayles' "Baby, It's You"
Delivered breakthrough performance co-starring opposite Madonna in Susan Seidelman's "Desperately Seeking Susan"
Co-starred as young artist opposite shambling master painter Nick Nolte in Martin Scorsese's "Life Lessons" segment of "New York Stories"
Delivered a 'piercing' performance in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction"
Played a kinky car accident victim in David Cronenberg's controversial "Crash"
Co-starred with Joe Pesci and Danny Glover in the comedy "Gone Fishin'"
Cast in Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66"
Cast in a small role opposite Sandra Bullock in "Hope Floats"
Starred opposite Melissa Gilbert in the TV movie "Switched at Birth" (CBS)
Played Matthew Perry's hateful wife in "The Whole Nine Yards"
Starred opposite Nastassja Kinski in "Diary of a Sex Addict"
Feature directing debut, the critically acclaimed documentary "Searching For Debra Winger"
Guest starred on "Will & Grace" (NBC) as Grace's neighbor Julie
Made recurring appearance as married socialite Sherry on Showtime's "The L Word"
Helmed the musical documentary "All We Are Saying," a compelling and personal look at what makes musicians tick
Played Nicole 'Nic' Varzi in the drama "What About Brian" from creator J.J. Abrams
Played supporting role in the Lifetime romantic drama "Northern Lights"
Cast alongside Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener in the comedy-drama "Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding"