Born into a show-biz family that includes her grandfather, Cliff Arquette, father, Lewis Arquette, and siblings, David, Patricia, and Alexis Arquette, offbeat leading actress Rosanna Arquette worked as a teen in television movies through the '70s and the early '80s, but she didn't become a real star until her role in Susan Seidelman's sleeper Desperately Seeking Susan (1985). Though her part seemed to promise a bright future for the talented and beautiful actress, she has since been more or less relegated to supporting roles and co-leads.
Born in Manhattan on August 10, 1959, Arquette moved about frequently with her family while she was growing up. She made her acting debut in Los Angeles at the age of 17 in a theatrical production of Metamorphosis, and she continued acting in local plays when her family relocated to Virginia. After an audience with a casting director, Arquette began appearing on television, and she made her feature-film debut in More American Graffiti in 1979. She had her first starring role in John Sayles' 1983 romantic drama Baby It's You, playing an overachieving Jewish girl who falls in love with an Italian hunk (Vincent Spano). Though she has subsequently been typecast as kooky but sexy women, early in her career, Arquette demonstrated considerable dramatic ability in The Executioner's Song (1982), the television biopic about convicted killer Gary Gilmore which was later released theatrically.
Arquette has spent much of her subsequent career popping up in a number of diverse films, including Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), which featured her in a brief but pivotal role as a junkie; David Cronenberg's Crash (1996), in which she all-too memorably allowed James Spader to have sex with her gaping leg wound; Buffalo '66 (1998), which cast her as the protagonist's trampy high school dream girl; Alison Anders and Kurt Voss' Sugar Town (1999), in which she played an actress and one-time sex symbol; and The Whole Nine Yards (2000), a comedy that cast her as the suburban neighbor of a mobster (Bruce Willis) trying to make good. If subsequent roles didn't necessarily advance her career as much as longtime followers had hoped, Arquette nevertheless remained busy onscreen with a series of low-profile independent efforts intercut with the occasional mainstream feature. Her headlining role as an ageing virgin who's first act of intimacy shakes the foundation of a small Illinois community (2000's Too Much Flesh) may have never reached US shores for distribution, though a memorable performance in Allison Anders' redemption-themed drama Things Behind the Sun the following year offered the longtime actress a dramatic role that stateside audiences could access. Those who did actually see the David Spade comedy Joe Dirt (2001) were offered a brief but memorable comedic performance by Arquette, in addition to her four other roles that year alone the actress turned in a heartfelt performance as a woman struggling with her compulsive sexuality in Diary of a Sex Addict. After turning up in the made for television drama Rush of Fear in 2003, Arquette could once again be seen on the big screen in the comedy drama Max and Grace.
Frustrated with the lack of substantial roles available to women, Arquette decided to step behind the camera in 2002, directing the documentary Searching for Debra Winger, in which she interviewed women like Jane Fonda, Holly Hunter, Melanie Griffith, and others, about the film industry and its relationship with women. The film was well-received, and so Arquette helmed another doc in 2005. This time, Arquette pursued her longtime interest in music, with the film All We Are Saying, in which she discussed creativity, inspiration, and the business of playing and recording music with a wide variety of artists, from Burt Bacharach, to Mary J. Blige, to Boy George.
Arquette would play recurring roles on popular shows like The L Word and What About Brian over the coming years, in addition to ongoing film roles, like 2011's The Divide, and 2012's Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding.