The Stunning Transformation Of Isabella Rossellini

Before Isabella Rossellini was born, there was a fan letter. Its author was Swedish actor Ingrid Bergman, who expressed interest in working with filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. Contrary to popular belief that Bergman was making a pass at Roberto by signing it off with "ti amo," Isabella later revealed that the rumor was far from the truth. "In the ... mythology of the press, it was a love letter, but of course it wasn't," she explained to BAM. "Mama was aware that she was a very known actress, and so she tried to write a letter that was humorous."

The pair eventually worked together in the 1950 flick "Stromboli." A full-fledged affair followed, one which destroyed the reputation of Bergman and Roberto since they were both married. Unlike other Tinseltown cheating scandals that were overlooked, Bergman suffered seven years of alienation from the United States. 

Per The Guardian, Bergman's request for a divorce was first declined by her then-husband Petter Lindstrom, and only granted in absentia in Mexico after she and Roberto had their first born, who was named after his dad. In 1952, the couple had twins, Isabella and Ingrid Rossellini. While the latter took a career path in education as an Italian literature and film specialist, Isabella chose the spotlight, just like her superstar parents. Keep scrolling for the story of her stunning transformation.

Isabella Rossellini grew up in a large family

Isabella Rossellini was raised in a polygamous setting, as she recounted in a 1983 chat on "Late Night with David Letterman." "We were many kids," Isabella told the television host while explaining why she had a chipped tooth — her brother hurled a telephone at her face. "My father was married ... besides my mother [he] had other wives and other kids, and we were seven altogether.

During her childhood, Isabella would often move between France, where her mom settled, Italy, her father's home country, and Sweden. As such, she became trilingual and developed accents from the three countries, even though her mastery of Swedish fizzled out with time. Oddly enough, she and her fraternal twin, Ingrid Rossellini, always shared a room and wore similar outfits until they turned 12 (via "Late Night with Conan O'Brien").

On the outside, it seemed that Isabella and her family were doing well financially, but that wasn't the case. She told The New York Times, "Sometimes people think that with fame comes money. But it doesn't. My father was always an experimental filmmaker, he was always very rigorous. He was an influential filmmaker, but he was never a box-office success." Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini were only together for six years after Isabella and Ingrid were born. Just as the beginning of their relationship was chaotic, its ending came about in a contentious custody tussle.

She was diagnosed with scoliosis in her early teens

Isabella Rossellini was 12 when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a malformation of the spine. It landed her on the operating table, and it took two years for her to get back on her feet. During that time, her mother, Ingrid Bergman was her caregiver. "My mother, who had a full career, stopped working for two years to be with me everyday while I was ill," Rossellini shared in a conversation with People. Rossellini would have another spine surgery in her sixties long after Bergman had died, and it was the commitment and dedication her mother had toward her wellbeing that she longed for.

One other misfortune Rossellini had in her teenage years was sexual assault. For years, the actor has kept the identity of the abuser, with whom she is in the same age bracket, hidden. Speaking of the perpetrator's whereabouts in an interview with Vulture, Rossellini said, "I don't know what happened to him. He might be married. He might have children. I am a superstar in Italy, if I said who did this, I would destroy him." Rossellini further added that in the Italian culture, date rape occurs often because of society's misinterpretation of consent.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Isabella Rossellini moved to New York at 19

When Isabella Rossellini was in her late teens, her mother sent her to study at Finch College in New York because at the time, she wasn't articulate with her knowledge of English. Rossellini had picked up a bit of the language in Sweden, but not being fluent in it was almost a guarantee that her future was bleak. "When I grew up, in the '50s, '60s, if you knew English, the doors would open everywhere," Rossellini told Interview.

True to that, one major door opened after Rossellini took English courses. She got a three-year opportunity to work as a translator for Italian sports journalist Gianni Minà, who had a television show but wasn't familiar with the language. Rossellini covered interviews and got to meet interesting stars like boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who amassed millions during the course of his long career.

"It was the best job you could do. I learned problem-solving, research," Rossellini told Vulture, and added, "I would also do skits with a comedian named Renzo Arbore, who was then offered his own show. So I went to work with him, doing little funny stories from America." 

She met and tied the knot with Martin Scorsese

When Isabella Rossellini was working with Gianni Minà, one of the prominent people she met was her first husband, filmmaker Martin Scorsese. The beginning of their romance was purely circumstantial, as Rossellini explained to Vulture. Rossellini hadn't watched Scorsese's 1978 documentary "The Last Waltz" ahead of their interview — she was supposed to — and he invited her to see it afterward. The following year, Scorsese and Rossellini walked down the aisle at a wedding attended by his long-term collaborator, Robert De Niro

Rossellini would later admit that her connection with Scorsese was because of her background. "When I married Martin Scorsese, I was 27 and I didn't think there was that much that was interesting about me," she told the Irish Independent. "But he was fascinated by my father. We used to visit Italy together. He was thirsty for understanding of the place and of Italian-American culture. His films are all about that."

Scorsese and Rossellini split in 1982 because of infidelity. That same year, Rossellini's mother, Ingrid Bergman, succumbed to breast cancer when she was three years shy of her 70th birthday. Scorsese eventually settled down in the long-term with Helen Morris.

She started modeling and became the face of Lancôme

Isabella Rossellini's entry into the world of modeling was purely accidental. A photoshoot she had in passing with renowned photographer Bruce Weber found its way into the cover of Vogue, and since then, she's appeared in the magazine numerous times. Although she was still married at the time, Rossellini wouldn't wear her wedding ring. "Models weren't supposed to have an identity beyond the photograph," she disclosed in her chat with Vulture. "You were the element for people to complete their fantasy of an ideal woman."

Being on Vogue was the ticket Rossellini needed to have a years-long working relationship with cosmetic giant Lancôme. The gig made her more money than she could count, but it came at the cost of having her own public voice. Telling Evan Smith on "Overheard" that unlike her mother, Ingrid Bergman, she watched her bank account like a hawk due to the influence of the feminist movement.

In the mid-'90s, she got axed by the beauty retailer because she was getting older. It would take another 23 years or so for Lancôme to reconsider its decision. "I'm not there now to represent beauty; I'm there to represent a different dream. It may be defined as joyfulness; life goes on and there are many chapters. I think that's why they keep me," Rossellini told The Guardian in 2020.

Isabella Rossellini married Jon Wiedemann and had a daughter, Elettra Wiedemann

Just as photographer Bruce Weber was instrumental in the beginning of Isabella Rossellini's modeling career, he was influential in her meeting of her second husband, Jonathan Wiedemann. "I owe my existence to Bruce Weber and Calvin Klein. Bruce introduced my parents to each other on a Calvin Klein shoot," their daughter, Elettra Wiedemann, who was born in July 1983, told the Daily Mail. "My mother had just lost her mother and realised she wanted a family of her own — so my parents didn't waste time conceiving me."

Elettra is a chip off the old block, with a little twist of her own. She got into the modeling industry and collaborated with brands like Hoss Intropia. Elettra appeared as an actor in Isabella's 2011 documentary "Animals Distract Me" and the John Cameron Mitchell-directed music video for "Agent Provocateur: Control Yourself."

Per her LinkedIn profile, Elettra graduated with a Master's degree in biomedicine from The London School of Economics and Political Science and is the executive director of Isabella's Mama Farm as of 2024. Although she's proud of her heritage, Elettra steers clear of her famous family name, as she shared with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine. Ten years after she had Elettra, Isabella adopted a son who's all grown up like her, and shares a name with her dad, Roberto Rossellini.

She landed her 'controversial' breakout role in Blue Velvet

In 1986, Isabella Rossellini starred in the David Lynch-directed "Blue Velvet." The role was meant for British star Helen Mirren, but she declined it. In the multiple award-nominated flick, Rossellini plays Dorothy Vallens, a nightclub songstress whose family's kidnapping leads to a whirlwind romance. Rossellini was thrust into the limelight in an arguably infamous way following the flick's success, since its graphic theme sparked mixed reactions from the public.

According to a conversation between renowned movie critic Roger Ebert and Lynch, some of the movie's explicit parts were borrowed from Lynch's childhood. Ebert felt that they were brought to life at the expense of the actors' mental wellness, and wrote, "The movie is powerful, challenging and made with great skill, and yet it made me feel pity for the actors who worked in it and anger at the director for taking liberties with them." 

Speaking to Backstage about the life-changing role in response to Ebert's sentiments, Rossellini said, "It was very controversial. I remember not reading the reviews at the time, but being told by several people that Roger Ebert felt very protective of me and felt I had been "used." It was a surprise! I am an adult — no one uses me." The negative publicity Rossellini received severed ties with her agent, who called it quits.

Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch were together for six years

Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch first met after the former had wrapped up her first role in the United States as Darya Greenwood in the Taylor Hackford-directed "White Nights." They worked together on "Blue Velvet" and dated afterward, of course bringing Rossellini's relationship with Jonathan Wiedemann to a halt.

Sadly, they, too, weren't destined to last forever. According to Rossellini, there were no signs that anything was wrong in their relationship. "All my instincts had told me that we were a happy couple," she shared with German publication Die Zeit. She was therefore caught by surprise when Lynch left after five years. Until then, Rossellini had never been brutally heartbroken. She sought professional help to deal with the breakup. 

"I talked to other women who had the same thing happen to them. And I did therapy," she told Die Zeit. Rossellini additionally relied on the passage of time to mend her emotional wounds. "I had already had this experience when my parents died — that time heals," she said. On his part, Lynch was remorseful about the severity of his actions. Speaking to Vulture about the split, he said, "I might have wanted to shut the door and not leave a squeak of light coming through ... But I feel bad about cutting it off that way."

Isabella Rossellini bought a farm

In 2013, Isabella Rossellini purchased the farm of her dreams in Brookhaven, on the South Shore of Long Island, New York. At first sight, the place made her think of home, even though it required a major facelift. "I noticed this very beautiful, big red barn. It reminded me straight away of Sweden," Rossellini told Vogue. "As soon as I saw it, I loved it." With the help of architect Pietro Cicognani, Rossellini transformed the rundown property into a barn-like residence with a pool and gym and packed it with farm animals.

She named it Mama Farm, and her explanation for the choice, per an interview with Charlie Rose, was, "A lot of people call it Isabella's Farm and I said it cannot be called Isabella Farm because I'm gonna die." Mama Farm, she shared, was an ode to the moms and children who visit the farm to learn about plants, animals and fruits. Yes, Rossellini opened up her home to the public. 

According to Mama Farm's website, a stay in the serene haven costs $350 per night at the time of writing. In April 2024, Rossellini unveiled the Mama Farm Foundation. Through a post on Instagram, she announced the sale of ponchos made by wool from Mama Farm's sheep as an effort toward making the establishment economically viable.

The actor became a grandmother

Isabella Rossellini's daughter Elettra Wiedemann became a mother in January 2018. In a short and sweet Instagram post announcing the new addition to the family, Wiedemann revealed that her son, Ronin Hendrick Lane, already had many nicknames. As for her reaction to becoming a grandma that morning, Rossellini wrote in an Instagram post on Ronin's third birthday, "Here [sic] the photo of our first encounter after a long night of my daughter's labor. I even fainted and I didn't give birth, i am the nonna ,but was overwhelmed with emotions." Ronin was inducted into the modeling world in a special way in the fall of 2018 when the mother-daughter-son and grandson quartet turned heads while walking down a Dolce & Gabbana runway.

Wiedemann and her long-term partner, actor Caleb Lane, famed for his appearance on "Pretty Little Liars," had more good news in June 2021 when their second child, Viggo River Lane, was born. Being a grandmother is a job close to Rossellini's heart. In May 2024, she posted a picture of herself holding a baby's hand with the caption, "I love being a grandmother (a nonna)."

Isabella Rossellini returned to school

Isabella Rossellini's love for animals was nurtured at a young age. In a reminiscent Instagram post, she shared that they'd often have a lamb brought in for Easter celebrations. "I think it was killed for our meals ... of course, I never realized that and just kissed it, and kissed it, as much as I could," Rossellini wrote. As heartbreaking as the discovery was, that passion for animals extended into adulthood.

 In the late 2009's, she starred as the narrator and illustrator in the educative series "Green Porno," which explores animal mating tendencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rossellini brought her talents online in yet another animal-related show dubbed "Sex and Consequences." The previous year, Rossellini had graduated from Hunter College. She couldn't contain her excitement, as she wrote in an Instagram post, "Finally got my Master's degree on Animal Behavior and Conservation! The ceremony was most touching and inspiring. Hillary Clinton delivered the commencement speech!!!! I am overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude."

The need to go back to school was because the well of acting and modeling jobs had started drying up. Rossellini is obviously surrounded by a lot of animals, so, how do they behave? The actor told DW in 2020, "I have a little circus dog that I toured with in a show called 'Link Link Circus' ... she is the most obedient. The hardest ones are the sheep. Because they are big animals, and the other day they just broke into my house." 

She appeared in the Alice Rohrwacher-directed La Chimera

It goes without saying that Isabella Rossellini set out to be an actor from the start. As a young girl, she'd often spend a lot of time on set with her director dad, learning from the sidelines. Now in her early seventies at the time of writing, Rossellini hasn't hung up her boots just yet. In 2023, she appeared in the archeological tale "La Chimera," which premiered in the United States in March 2024. Starring Josh O' Connor, Carol Duarte, and Vincenzo Nemolato, "La chimera" bagged several award nominations and won Best Cinematography and Best Ensemble Cast Performance at the Chicago International Film Festival.

Although it performed dismally at the box office with revenue of $44, 511 in its opening weekend in the United States and Canada, the film represented a glimmer of hope for Rossellini. In April 2024, she received a best supporting actress nomination at the David di Donatello Awards. It was achievement that assured her that her acting career was still intact. "It's not over, the door is still open!" What joy it is to work even if I am old!" Rossellini wrote on Instagram.