Isabella Rossellini reflects on Roger Ebert saying David Lynch exploited her in “Blue Velvet”: 'I was an adult'

Isabella Rossellini reflects on Roger Ebert saying David Lynch exploited her in “Blue Velvet”: 'I was an adult'

The veteran actress discussed how even a single negative sentence in a review can "[stay] inside you forever."

Nearly 40 years ago, Isabella Rossellini delivered a breakout performance as a tormented lounge singer in David Lynch's dark thriller Blue Velvet. Though the film has come to be regarded as a modern classic, it's had its share of detractors over the years, including the late critic Roger Ebert — and now Rossellini is responding to the Pulitzer winner's infamous one-star review.

In a recent interview with IndieWire, the veteran actress said, "I didn't read the reviews at the time [Blue Velvet] came out. I try not to read reviews. They're always depressing. There's always something that, even if [the review is] good, there is always one sentence that is negative and stays inside you forever."

That certainly seemed to be true of Ebert's Blue Velvet review. "I remember I was told that Roger Ebert said that [Lynch] exploited me," Rossellini said, "and I was surprised, because I was an adult. I was 31 or 32. I chose to play the character."

<p>De Laurentis Group/Courtesy Everett </p> Isabella Rossellini in 'Blue Velvet'

De Laurentis Group/Courtesy Everett

Isabella Rossellini in 'Blue Velvet'

Ebert, who died in 2013, wrote in his 1986 review that Rossellini is "asked to do things in this film that require real nerve," including being "degraded, slapped around, humiliated and undressed in front of the camera." He added that "when you ask an actress to endure those experiences, you should keep your side of the bargain by putting her in an important film."

Blue Velvet stars Rossellini as Dorothy Vallens, who is held captive both mentally and physically by an unhinged gangster named Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Over the course of the film, her character is stripped nude, raped, and beaten. Rossellini, who won an Independent Spirit Award for her performance, said it was important that Lynch's script had the correct tone when navigating such heavy topics.

"When I read the script I understood it could've been controversial and difficult, I did say to David, 'You don't have to say the lines, but I would like to rehearse with you all the scenes and paraphrase the lines,'" she recalled. "I wanted to make sure that what you're seeing is a person who has maybe a kind of Stockholm syndrome, and we rehearsed for a full day. I felt reassured that what I saw in the character, the way I wanted to play, he had agreed."

Rossellini added that she's glad Lynch made the film.

"I think my character was the first time we did an abused woman, a portrait of an abused woman, but also she camouflaged herself behind what she was asked to be, which was sexy and beautiful and singing, and she obeys the order, and is also victimized [by] it," she explained. "That's the complexity of Blue Velvet, but also the great talent of David Lynch. I thought he did a fantastic film. I love Blue Velvet."

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