Isabella Rossellini


  1. Judi Bowker, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 1973.      According to Italian   stage-screen director Franco Zeffirelli, Ingrid Bergman “was furious her daughter had missed such a chance.”
  2. Kim Basinger, 9 1/2 Weeks, 1985.     If David Lynch had been directing… Mickey Rourke said he needed a sexier partner. Basinger reported kissing Rourke was like kissing an ash-tray. Among those missing that unique experience were Rossellini, Jacqueline Bisset, Terri Garr, Demi Moore, Tatum O’Neal, Dominique Sanda, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver. And Andie MacDowell who thought the script was borderline sleaze.  Oh, it was way over the border! That’s why they all  refused to be the erotic Elizabeth finally played by Kim and assorted body doubles. 
  3. Charlotte Rampling, Max, mon amour, France, 1986.    When Japanese director Nagisa Oshima contacted him about the music,   the “too busy” Jean-Michel Jarre, asked his lover to check the script. “I took it to the hairdresser’s – and what a surprise, it was the best script I’d read in years.   A strong subject [wife cheats on hubby with a monkey] yet treated so elegantly.”  Once Rossellini dropped out,   Rampling jumped in.    (Michel Portal supplied the score),
  4. Elena Sofonova, Oci Ciornie/Dark Eyes, Italy, 1987.    Moscow film-maker   Nikita Mikhalkov announced Rossellini from the start… But the dawn of perestroika dictated a glasnost star… to use some Russiasn words from the past.
  5. Susan Sarandon, Bull Durham, 1987.   Ron Shelton had one helluva job trying to win backing for his third script  and  directing debut. “Baseball  movies don’t sell.”  His producer Thom Mount was part-owner of the real Durham Bulls squad. He recognised what Roger Ebert would call “a treasure because it knows so much about baseball and so little about love.” Kim Basinger was Shelton’s first choice for Annie (an Annie is s baseball groupie). “There’s never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn’t have the best year of his career.”  He tested Carrie Fisher, Mary Steenburgen, Pamela Stephenson, Debra Winger… considered Kate Capshaw, Geena Davis (who made the female ball movie, A League of Their Own), Michelle Pfeiffer (too young) and Isabella Rossellini (“enough with  femme fatales!”). Shelton felt  Kay Lenz and Michelle Pfeiffer were too young… while Glenn Close was having Dangerous Liaisons in France, Melanie Griffith was a busy Working Girl and Kelly McGillis preferred The Accused. He also thought of Cybil Shepherd and Bruce Willis as The Couple but Moonlighting got in the way.   And that’s how the splendid Susan Sarandon met Tim Robbins and  lived together for 21 years.
  6. Geraldine Chaplin, The Moderns, 1987.    As Rossellini left the project, Geraldine suddenly called, inviting director Alan Rudolph to a Spanish retro of his work.   “Can you come to Madrid?” “No, but can   you come to Montreal?”   “Alan,”   she says, “throws a good movie.”
  7. Glenn Close, Fatal Attraction, 1987.
  8. Joan Chen, Twin Peaks, TV, 1990-1991.      What a difference  a break-up makes. The character of Jocelyn “Josie” Packard,  in what director David Lynch  then  called Northwest Passage, had first been called… Giovanna “Jo” Pasqualini Packard.
  9. Geena Davis, Thelma & Louise, 1990.
  10. Sharon Stone, Basic Instinct, 1991.
  11. Andie MacDowell, Hudson Hawk, 1991.  Rossellini was top choice for the Bruce Willis production (and script).  Instead, he signed Maruschka Detmers, Jean-Luc Godard’s Dutch discovery for Prenom Carmen, 1983. She had lately become a scandal due to her real fellatio  in Italian Marco Bellochio’s Diavolo in corpo (US: Devil in the Flesh). Apparently, Mrs Bruce, Demi Moore, stamped her foot about such casting. Detmers was ditched. (Officially, a bad back). Isabelle Adjani (replaced by Detmers in her Godard break) avoided any more crap comedy-thrillers after her 1985 Warren Beatty-Dustin Hoffman-Ishtar disaster.  Madonna also passed and so it was Andie.

  12. Rosie O’Donnell, A League of Their Own, 1991.  
    “There’s no crying in baseball…”  Long-time ball fan, director Penny Marshall had never heard of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (1943-1954) until seeing a 1987 PBS documentary. She swiftly contacted the makers to joinher Hollywood writers to use their title for a fictional comedy-drama version.  Penny staged baseball tests for about 2,000 actressesif you can’t play ball, you can’t play the Rockford Peaches.  Rosie O’Donnell, Lori Petty were best; those turned down included Farrah Fawcett, Lori Singer, Marisa Tomei and Maria Maples (before becoming the second Mrs Donald Trump).  Jim Belushi and Laura Dern were set to star in 1990 when Fox suddenly pulled the plug; Tom Hanks, Geena Davis took over at Columbia Well.  Also on the plate for third basae  Doris Murphy were Anjelica Huston  and Isabella Rossellini. But Rosie could throw two balls at the same time. 

  13. Rachel Ward, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, 1992.     Neither one matched the fury of Frances Barber’s Queen Isabella on BBC radio.
  14. Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction, 1993.
  15. Jamie Lee Curtis, True Lies, 1994.       Arnold Schwarzenegger was starring. So, one Euro accent was better than two…
  16. Meryl Streep, The Bridges of Madison County, 1995.        From the day Robert James Waller’s slim book took off, everyone felt she was the definitive Italian war bride Francesca. So did Waller: “She made me weep when I heard her reading the book’s audiotape.” After tentative efforts by directors Bruce   Beresford, Sydney Pollack and   the mighty Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood took over the helm. And casting. In a trice.
  17. Serena Scott-Thomas, Nostromo, 1997.        Director of legend(s) David Lean   and scenarist   Christopher Hampton used to play: Cast From The Past. And it was always Ingrid Bergman as Mrs. Gould – so he offered it to her daughter. Then, the project sadly ended as a mini-series.

  18. Laura Morante, Across the River and Into the Trees, 2020.
    It took almost 50 years to cross the river  and film the Ernest Hemjngway novelHis great pal, John Huston, scripted it in 1976  for another mate, Robert Mitchum, and Maria Schneider. Then, directors as diverse as Robert Altman, Martin Campbell, Joseph Losey and Valerio Zurlini promised us… Pierce Brosnan, Burt Lancaster or Roy Sheider as the veteran soldier suffering from two world wars… Audrey Hepburn, Greta Scacchi, Maria Valverde as his teenage inamorata, Renata (it means reborn)… and Julie Christie or Isabella Rossellini as her mother, the Contessa Contanini.   It took a woman, Spanish director Paula Ortiz, to finally get the job done – with Josh Hutcherson and The Undoing’sMatilda De Angelis. (And, to complete the circle, Danny Huston, John’s son, is Captain O’Neil). Based on his unconsummated infatuation for an 18-year-old, this was the first Hemingway novel to be derided by critics for repeating his usual themes: love, war, youth, age and facing death. Some called  it Death in Venice II.  Tennessee Williams championed it as “the saddest novel in the world about the saddest city… the best and most honest work that Hemingway has done.”





 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  18