Rosanna Lauren Arquette was born on August 10, 1959, in New York City. Acting has been a family tradition for the Arquette family, with grandfather Cliff (The Jack Paar Show's "Charlie Weaver") and father Lewis (of Waltons fame) leading the way for Rosanna and younger siblings Patricia and David, while mother Mardi (a.k.a. Brenda/Olivia/Mardiningshi) was a poet and political activist.
The family moved frequently while the children were young, including a stay in Los Angeles while their father pursued his performing career. When Rosanna was 11, the Arquettes relocated to an artists' commune in Virginia. She hitchhiked to California when she was 14, with dreams of becoming a Hollywood actress.
Arquette made her professional acting debut at the age of 16 in the play Metamorphosis (1975) at the Story Theater in Los Angeles. She started making frequent appearances on television, in made-for-TV movies, afterschool specials, and roles on shows like Eight Is Enough.
In 1979, she made her big screen debut with a brief appearance as a "Commune Girl" in More American Graffiti. She landed a regular role on TV's Shirley (1979-1980), playing Shirley Jones' teenage daughter on the short-lived comedy-drama, and parts in films including Gorp (1980) and S.O.B. (1981).
More TV work on PBS dramas and various TV movies followed, including the role of convicted killer Gary Gilmore's girlfriend in The Executioner's Song, which aired on NBC in 1982. Arquette received enthusiastic reviews, as well as an Emmy nomination, and the film was later released theatrically.
In 1983, she landed her first starring role, portraying an overachieving Jewish girl who falls for an Italian hunk in John Sayles' Baby, It's You.
With her star on the rise, Arquette kept busy with a string of roles in mainly independent features such as Silverado, Martin Scorsese's After Hours, and Madonna's film debut, Desperately Seeking Susan (all in 1985). For her work in the latter, she won the 1986 BAFTA Award (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for Best Supporting Actress and received a Golden Globe nod as Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy, while After Hours earned her a second BAFTA nomination, as well as an Independent Spirit Award nod.
More offbeat roles in movies like 8 Million Ways to Die, Nobody's Fool (both in 1986) and Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) followed. She married composer James Newton Howard in 1986, but the couple divorced the following year.
Although her career was on a roll in the U.S., Arquette relocated to England and lived with singer Peter Gabriel for the next three years (Gabriel's classic "In Your Eyes" was apparently written for Arquette). During that time she appeared in the French film Le grand bleu (The Big Blue) in 1988.
In 1989, Rosanna again worked with director Scorsese for his "Life Lessons" segment of New York Stories. That same year, she turned in a strong performance as a clairvoyant in the thriller Black Rainbow, which earned her the Best Actress prize at the Catalonian International Film Festival and the International Fantasy Film Awards ceremony. Arquette moved to Paris after her relationship with Gabriel dissolved. Her film appearances during this period include Flight of the Intruder and The Linguini Incident (both in 1991), and Fathers & Sons (1992).
Rosanna returned to Hollywood in 1993, and was cast opposite action star Jean-Claude Van Damme in Nowhere to Run. She married restaurateur Jon Sidel that same year, and they had a daughter, Zoe Blue, in 1994. Arquette's hectic work schedule kept her away from home for long periods of time, and apparently the tension that developed led to the couple's divorce soon after Zoe's birth.
Her career was resuscitated with a role as a drugdealer's multiple-pierced girlfriend in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, in 1994.
In David Cronenberg's Crash (1996), Arquette turned in a memorable performance as a crippled survivor of a car accident. In November of 1996, Arquette returned to the small screen with a rare TV guest appearance on NBC's Homicide: Life on the Street, and she played a robber on the run in Do Me A Favor (1997), directed by Sondra Locke.
Arquette remained busy with a series of independent features, including Deceiver (1997), Buffalo '66 (1998) and Sugar Town (1999). She appeared in the Hollywood hit The Whole Nine Yards in 2000, playing Matthew Perry's French-Canadian wife. A memorable cameo in the David Spade comedy Joe Dirt and a turn as a woman struggling with her sexual compulsions in Diary of a Sex Addict were two of her screen appearances in 2001.
Rosanna Arquette turned to directing and producing for Searching for Debra Winger, a documentary featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Fonda, Salma Hayek, and Whoopi Goldberg, which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2002.
In 2003, she returned to television with a guest appearance on The Practice and two on Will & Grace, and appeared in the made-for-TV drama Rush of Fear.
Her big screen appearances for 2004 include Max and Grace, Gilded Stones, Iowa, Dead Cool, and Kids in America, and she was also seen in several episodes of Showtime's The L Word.