Lorraine Bracco booking
She was raised by working-class parents in New York, so her Brooklyn accent and mannerisms are authentic. Bracco says she was voted “ugliest girl in sixth grade,” although it is hard to imagine such an honor was officially sanctioned by the school. She soon got over any alleged ugliness, began modeling while in high school, and at 19 she was working in Paris. She says she was approached by Salvador Dali, who wanted to paint her nude, but she refused.
While living in Paris, she began appearing in French movies, and made her film debut in 1979 in Duos sur canapé (literally, Duets on a Love Seat). She made her American film debut eight years later, in The Pick-Up Artist with Molly Ringwald and Robert Downey, Jr. Most American audiences first noticed her in the two-timing murder-romance Someone to Watch Over Me with Tom Berenger and Mimi Rogers.
For The Sopranos, series creator David Chase originally wanted Bracco to play Carmella, Tony Soprano’s long-suffering wife, but she asked for the psychiatrist’s role instead. “We first spoke about Carmela,” says Bracco, “but it would have been too much of the same for me if I’d taken it… I had done it in Goodfellas and I had done it very well, and to do it again was not the right thing. I told him I loved the script and wanted to play Dr Melfi. And he bought it.”
In the 1980s, she was married to Harvey Keitel, and in the 1990s she had an affair with Edward James Olmos, then divorced Keitel to marry Olmos. “It was the saddest day of my life when she hooked up with him,” Keitel said of Olmos, and Keitel is not a man who takes sad days sitting down. The battle for custody of Bracco and Keitel’s daughter was legendary, even by Hollywood divorce standards. The legal costs forced Bracco into bankruptcy, and Keitel accused Olmos of being a child molester, uncovering a complaint against Olmos which had been filed by an underage family friend, then settled for a cash payout from Olmos — who, of course, denied that anything inappropriate ever took place. A judge eventually ordered that Olmos not be alone in the same room with Keitel and Bracco’s daughter, and the Bracco-Olmos marriage did not last long.
Looking back, Bracco says she now recognizes that she was fighting depression through much of her marriage to Keitel. She has made public statements for mental health counseling, seeking to dispel the stigma that sometimes surrounds mental illness. “If you break your leg, you have it fixed,” she says. “If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. When it comes to mental health, people tend to think they can just get over it.”
In 2004, Bracco joined the long list of Mrs. Robinsons (Linda Gray, Jerry Hall, Kelly McGillis, Kathleen Turner, etc.) who have seduced the college boy in stage adaptations of The Graduate. It was Bracco’s first appearance in a play.
In 2005, she lent her name to a wine, Bracco Estates, imported to America from Tuscany. It is, however, essentially an endorsement deal, a label for marketing purposes. Bracco does not own the winery, and has no estate in Tuscany.
“I understand people’s obsession with The Sopranos,” Bracco says. “I get a lot of guys who think they need to come to Dr. Jennifer Melfi. I always tell them my practice is very busy and that they should call Dr. Phil. That amuses me.”
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