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Issue #38, December 14, 2007

Who's Here

Lorraine Bracco - Actor

Bracco is a common Italian name, but when mentioned in any context, one usually recalls Ms. Lorraine Bracco, the iconic actress whose angelical face wears an engaging and charming smile. During the course of her career, Ms. Bracco has vividly embodied those roles she portrayed on the silver screen.

Her vocation in the entertainment field began as a runway model and a fling as a disc jockey on the radio. She resided in France for about ten years, where the influence of the brilliant Italian film director and novelist, Lina Wertmuller, inspired her pursuit of acting. Ms. Wertmuller, whose fame burgeoned in the late 70s upon the release of her politically charged film Swept Away, had discovered certain extraordinary artistic qualities about Ms. Bracco. Determined, the director arranged to meet her in Naples, Italy. There, Ms. Wertmuller had begun the production of a film titled, Camorra. "She dressed me up like an Italian woman of no means. A street woman clad in disheveled clothes, hair unkempt and all that, and threw me on the set. She was so creative. I mean, Lina accentuated my eyes with dark make-up, the way Sophia Loren used to appear in those epic roles in the 60s. And talk about talent, she is so bright and perceptive. I mean, she's just fantastic. And yes, I learned a lot from her. She's a master of her profession, and I've been blessed to have worked not only with her, but also with so many masters," recounted Ms. Bracco. She rendered a summation of these fond memories in her signature gravely voice, bearing similarities to a nostalgic raconteur. "On that film set in Naples is where I found out that I was pregnant with Stella, my youngest, whom I had with Harvey." Harvey is, she said, Harvey Keitel, the veteran actor. "Imagine, pregnant in Naples. Some of the things that happened to me throughout my life have been, well, simply wonderful experiences."

In her early life, Ms. Bracco hadn't aspired to become a film star. She was emotionally insecure, she said, and couldn't fathom the perspective that, perhaps, she possessed virtues and talents requisite of a protagonist. "I just wanted to act really well. My father always told me, if you're going to do something, then make sure you are the best at it. If you're going to be a floor sweeper, be the best floor sweeper. So I just wanted to be the best actress. I didn't care about becoming a movie star." She pursued this ambition through diligence and perseverance, and a great deal of daydreaming. "I was struck with awe the first time I saw the movie, The Raging Bull, with Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesce and Kathy Moriarity. I just wished I could have a leading role in that kind of film." In fact, years later, while meandering in the social circles frequented by her ex-fiancé Harvey Keitel, he presented Ms. Bracco to Martin Scorsese and company. To her pleasant bewilderment, in a serendipitous act that followed, Mr. Scorsese cast her as the female leading protagonist in the popular and highly successful film Goodfellas. Ms. Bracco, quite convincingly played the role of a Mafia hustler's air-headed wife, Karen Hill, a performance that earned her an Oscar nomination.

She paused and contemplated this unforeseen event of her career. Then she floated into a reverie. "Can you believe that I wound up working with some of those same people that I had so admired in the Raging Bull? Wasn't that really something?" she asked. But this development was not a happenstance or an act of faith; instead it was the effect of Ms. Bracco's insatiable desire to excel in the art of acting.

In character, she metamorphosed from a gangster's wife to a research doctor when in 1992 she was cast opposite Sean Connery as Dr. Rae Crane in the film Medicine Man. When asked to offer her synoptic viewpoint regarding Mr. Connery, she sincerely summarized, "I'll tell you, Sean is a giant talent. I mean, he is a true professional with endless patience. He sure needed it with me. I mean, the conditions on the set were horrendous. We were in a jungle - the humidity, the bugs, and the heat. Oh my God, every day was 115 degrees. Even to date, I don't know how we got through it all."

In the mid 90s an interruption preempted Ms. Bracco's professional life. Another devotion had taken precedence - motherhood. Her two daughters were approaching adolescence, requiring their mother's undivided attention. For the most part, she reared her children as a single parent, and has achieved success as her daughters Margaux and Stella admire and appreciate their famous mom. "We're a close family and love entertaining together for friends and relatives. Some friend or other is always coming over to the house, and I also enjoy cooking for them," beamed Ms. Bracco.

In 1999, another milestone sprouted. The now nationally famous actress was invited to join "The Sopranos" cast. Typically, she dove into an extensive research in the field of psychiatry, and transmuted into Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Tony Soprano's shrink. Her characterization of Dr. Melfi blossomed to a booming popularity, to the extent that it might not be so outlandish to regard this character as the most famous female psychiatrist in America. Her fans have no doubt that she exhibits a diversified range of extraordinary artistic abilities and she dexterously applies such talent to the formation and dramatization in the roles she is cast.

Although "The Soprano" series has arrived at an end, Ms. Bracco perpetuates a social rapport with her fellow cast members. "We're like a happy family. We see each other quite often. One of us frequently entertains the others. We share warm feelings among us, like a clan. And you know, they're all great guys," she said. This acclaimed actress understands the importance of culling honest and solid relationships with her peers, an outlook that she views as an important aspect of her principles.

However, acting and performing isn't the whole of her life. This ambitious woman has embarked on a new business venture, an endeavor unrelated to her movie career - wine. Yes, she imports fine, expertly selected Italian wines, labeled Bracco Wines. This stock derives from ancient soils that, over the course of many generations, have exclusively harvested vineyards, an essential for growing exceptional grapes. Good news for wine lovers, the Bracco brand is available throughout the Hamptons.

She owns several homes, and when asked which is her favorite, said, "Oh definitely my Bridgehampton house. That home was one of my dreams. A dream that actually came true. I would never have imagined a house in Bridgehampton. The girls and I love to come out here and relax. It helps all of us get recharged." In fact, she is certainly a presence in the Hamptons, attending fundraising events and gracing social functions in her spirited and convivial style. "Fundraising for good causes is so important. I just wish more people would get involved. And there are so many needy organizations that really put the money to good use. So c'mon everybody, get involved," heartily encouraged Ms. Bracco.

In 2006, her autobiography titled On the Couch was published - an explicitly candid and cathartic presentation of her life. She expounds on such matters as her family background, failed relationships and financial undulations. "I've always loved to write, and I certainly hope that I'll have an opportunity to do more of it. Also, I've always wanted to relay an important message to women. So many of us stay with a man for the wrong reasons. You know, because of children or financial need. But if a man isn't loyal and cheats on his woman, then get away from him. I would tell that kind of man, get lost and don't come back, unless you're coming back for me. And if you don't, I'll figure out a way to get by. I wish more women would do that," she professed genuinely.

The busy actress has recently completed filming a four part series for NBC, called "Lipstick Jungle," which the network has scheduled to broadcast in February 2008. In this project, Brooke Shields is Ms. Bracco's co-star. She never lies idle, does she?

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