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Rosanna Arquette Reflects on ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Desperately Seeking Susan turns 39 this month, and having launched the “Like a Virgin” era of bows, bustiers and bling, the screwball comedy is certainly an 80s time capsule. While the fashion might make us chuckle, the mistaken identity romp starring Rosanna Arquette, Aidan Quinn and Madonna was ahead of its time — which is why the story about a woman finding herself by losing herself still holds up today. 

When Woman’s World sat down with Arquette to reminisce about making the 1985 rom-com, we learned there might just be an unofficial Desperately Seeking Susan mini-reunion this very week at Madonna’s Celebration Tour. We also discussed the Desperately Seeking Susan sequel that never was.

Related: Madonna Young: 15 Photos of the Pop Star Throughout Her Career

Additionally, the Pulp Fiction and The Linguini Incident star talks about getting arrested alongside Jane Fonda, her daughter Zoe Bleu getting into the family business and why she’s selling her Malibu home.

Rosanna Arquette is ‘proud’ of Desperately Seeking Susan

Will Patton and Rosanna Arquette, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985
Will Patton and Rosanna Arquette, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985Getty

When Rosanna Arquette read the Desperately Seeking Susan script 40 years ago, she fell for her now iconic character, Roberta – a bored housewife who gets swept up into the life of the titular Susan, played by Madonna.

“I loved Roberta’s transformation from being in a marriage of ennui to discovering someone else’s freedom,” Arquette recalls. “Roberta wanted something for herself, but didn’t know what that was. She was enthralled by this other woman, who in her mind was free. A goddess! She was inspired.”

Arquette has fond memories of sneaking into the back of a movie theater with her Desperately Seeking Susan costars after it premiered decades ago — and got to do that again just last summer at a Los Angeles screening.

“The audience loved it,” she says. “And at the end, when Madonna’s song ‘Get into the Groove’ started, we all danced to it.”

The ladies from Desperately Seeking Susan
There was great chemistry between these two ladies, 1985©Orion Pictures/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

For those of us who were alive when the film was released, watching it today is like slipping back in time — which is one reason the Library of Congress recognized the comedy’s cultural significance by adding it to the National Film Registry last year.

“I was really proud about that,” Arquette says of the honor. “Because we were a groundbreaking film at the time. It was a woman writer (Leora Barish), women producers (Sarah Pillsbury and Midge Sanford), a women director (Susan Seidelman) and about women. Could this movie be made today? You’d hope so.”

Rosanna Arquette prefers the Desperately Seeking Susan alternate ending

Rosanna Arquette and Madonna, 1985
Rosanna Arquette and Madonna, 1985Getty

With Desperately Seeking Susan a feminist classic, the film sees Roberta find herself and both women dubbed heroes for recovering stolen Egyptian artifacts. However, Arquette says there was one big “bummer” about how it turned out.

“There was an ending that they cut, and it wasn’t Roberta and Susan going off with the guys,” she says. “It was them on camels, going on an adventure together. I did that movie! That’s what I was hoping it was going to be.”

While MGM included the deleted scene in the Desperately Seeking Susan DVD release, Arquette wouldn’t mind seeing it edited back onto the movie for good. She’s also wouldn’t mind learning what happened to Susan, Roberta and Aidan Quinn’s Dez.

Aidan Quinn and Rosanna Arquette, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985
Aidan Quinn and Rosanna Arquette, Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985Getty

“I always wished we could have done a part two,” Arquette says. “I wonder if her happily ever after would have lasted. Maybe they did have this great, bohemian, cool relationship with kids and stuff … and then she needs to find herself again!”

Rosanna Arquette is ready for a Madonna reunion

Madonna and Rosanna Arquette, 1985
Madonna and Rosanna Arquette, 1985Getty

When production on Desperately Seeking Susan began, Madonna was not yet a household name. She was Arquette’s up and coming costar who happened to be in a bumpy romance with John “Jellybean” Benitez.

“We were real pals during that movie,” Arquette shares. “We hung out a lot. She was going through angst with a breakup. Real tortured. Then she got together with Sean Penn, and I was at the wedding. And then life took her to a whole other stratosphere!”

Behind-the-scenes on Desperately Seeking Susan
A behind-the-scenes moment from Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985©Orion Pictures/courtesy MovieStillsDB.com

The Desperately Seeking Susan costars have crossed paths over the years, and four decades later, Arquette is thrilled to have tickets for Madonna’s Celebration Tour.

“I’m going to see her on the last night in Los Angeles, and I hope I have a backstage minute with her,” Arquette says. “We’ll see. She’s been working her butt off!”

Rosanna Arquette talks coming of age in Hollywood

Alexis Arquette, David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Richmond Arquette and Rosanna Arquette, 2006
Alexis Arquette, David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, Richmond Arquette and Rosanna Arquette, 2006Getty

Along with her siblings Patricia, David, Richmond and the late Alexis, big sister Rosanna marks the third generation of Arquettes in showbusiness. Her father, Lewis Arquette, was known for his run on The Waltons, while grandfather Cliff Arquette was known for The Jack Paar Show and Hollywood Squares.

With performing in her blood, the 64-year-old has been working since she was teenager and admits she was not quite ready when stardom hit.

“I went from doing James at 15 and ABC After School Specials to boom, The Executioner Song,” she says, referring to the 1982 true crime drama. “Becoming famous, super-fast … I was unprepared.”

Only a few years later, she was the lead in Desperately Seeking Susan, which also features appearances from Robert Joy, Mark Blum, Laurie Metcalf, Will Patton, John Turturro and Giancarlo Esposito.

Related: Laurie Metcalf Movies and TV Shows: A Look Back Through the Star’s Must-See Roles

“We had such fun,” Arquette says of the New York cast. “We were all so young — and not as evolved!”

The actress admits she “ran on anxiety” at the time and took Seidelman’s direction too personally.

“One time, she said, ‘That sucked,’ and I was so injured,” Arquette recalls. “Now, I would just crack up and then try it again — and she’d probably say it more gently. It was a learning curve for both of us.”

She ushers in a new generation of Arquettes

Rosanna Arquette and Zoe Bleu Sidel, 2019
Rosanna Arquette and Zoe Bleu Sidel, 2019Getty

Based on her own experiences, Arquette took a stand with her own daughter, Zoe Sidel – who goes by Zoe Bleu Arquette on Instagram and always wanted to perform.

“I said, ‘When you’re 18, you can do whatever you want,’” Arquette recounts. “I said, ‘Be a kid. Have a childhood. Study. Here’s a camera. Here’s poetry classes, film camp, dance…’”

While her daughter resented it at the time, the Sarah Lawrence College alum is today making news as an actress and fashion designer – not to mention for a romance with Sean Penn’s son, Hopper.

“She also just made an album and writes poetry,” Arquette boasts. “She’s a real artist, on every level. She’s my hero, and I don’t know if she would be where she is now had she been a child actor. I’m very excited for her – and for my niece, Harlow Jane, who’s also a beautiful artist. It’s the next generation!”

Rosanna Arquette talks getting arrested with Jane Fonda

She was proudly arrested during a climate protest, 2019
Rosanna Arquette arrested during a climate protest, 2019Getty

Beyond the arts, Arquette has carried on her family’s commitment to activism. In addition to leading the charge against Harvey Weinstein during the #MeToo era, Arquette called out gender inequality via her documentary, Searching for Debra Winger. She’s also been arrested three times during climate protests, alongside Jane Fonda. 

“We’ve had many adventures,” Arquette says of Fonda. “In fact, Jane gave birth to Fire Drill Fridays on a road trip up to Big Sur with me and Catherine Keener. Right now, the most important thing we can do is look at what we’re dealing with – and our dependence on fossil fuels has got to go!”

Related: At 83 and 85, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda Have Been Pals 45 Years — 3 Things Keep Their Friendship Strong

Just this week, Arquette joined Fonda, Oppenheimer stars and more in signing an open letter warning of nuclear threat as part the Oscar season campaign, “For Your Consideration: Make Nukes History.”

The actress reveals why she’s selling her Malibu home and what’s next

She attends an event in 2024
Rosanna Arquette, 2024Getty

When Woman’s World caught up with Arquette to talk about making Desperately Seeking Susan with Madonna, the actress was stranded in her Malibu home due to all the road closures caused by California’s stormy winter.

“I’m ready to get out of LA,” Arquette confides. “I’m going to make a big move to the East Coast. I’ll be bicoastal. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll be back.”

Wherever Arquette ends up, she hopes to see the pilot she’s working on find a home and the movies Succubus, Grapefruit and Here’s Yianni find distributors. In the meantime, the Big Sky and Florida Man star is looking for a project as fun as Desperately Seeking Susan.

“I don’t want to make light of what’s going on in the world, but art does heal and I need some laughs right now,” Arquette says. “And I’m looking forward to the next chapter. I don’t mind getting older. I can play different parts, so it’s a cool time for me.”


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