When Catholic girls go bad, they go real bad. They question nuns, smoke at CYO dances and wear black leotards. And if they’re like Linda Fiorentino, blessed with miles of olive legs, dark eyes and a pout that would perturb a parish priest, they drive the boys crazy.
Fiorentino, 27, is a smart, sharp Italian kid who wanted a life outside of South Jersey, the parish and the statue of the Virgin Mary in the front yard. Her exit off the Jersey Turnpike happened to be acting: As a neophyte, she earned excellent notices as Matt Modine’s older woman in Vision Quest and currently shares top billing with Anthony Edwards in the hit “Gotcha!,” again portraying an experienced femme fatale who relieves the young hero of his innocence. Indeed, practically her first words to Edwards are, “I like virgins. I like soft skin over tight 18-year-old bodies.” Says Fiorentino with a wry smile, “I’m the virgin deflowerer of Hollywood. I break in all the boys.”
And if the critics didn’t like “Gotcha!”—well, neither, particularly, did she. As the sultry Czech chick Sasha, Fiorentino spends most of the movie turning up the collar on her trench coat while sucking on French cigarettes; at other times, she’s transforming the Bambi-esque Edwards into a buck. “It’s not my kind of film,” she admits with a throaty chuckle. (Linda explains that her Dietrich voice comes from “the wear and tear of years of smoking and cheerleading.”)
Though making the film was fun (“Go to Europe and get paid for it! Of course I loved it”), Fiorentino is sick of the teen sex flick genre: Take a batch of kids suffering from a kind of St. Vitus dance sexuality, add an improbable situation, sprinkle liberally with moronic authority figures and throw the slop on the teen market as some sort of pre-or post-Burger King snack. “These kinds of movies are like drinking beer all the time,” says Fiorentino. “Teenagers aren’t just interested in getting laid. I won’t believe that’s all they’re interested in. I have four younger sisters and they are sick of being shown how they are supposed to react in bed. People over 30 are interested in sex too, but they get real movies about it.” As for Linda’s own love life, “I go out with men, not boys,” she says. For 18 months she’s been dating writer-director John (The Razor’s Edge) Byrum, 38. There are no marriage plans as yet. “Marriage is a financial contract; I have enough contracts already!” What she needs now is a better role. “All the scripts I’m getting are about the girl who first laid Tom Cruise or the girl who first laid Sean Penn. That’s all I’m seeing. I’m not sure about this movie star thing,” she says.
Her doubts about fame emerged during a Miami walkout on the publicity tour for Vision Quest. When the publicists from Warners arrived at Fiorentino’s hotel to escort her to her maiden interview, they discovered she had checked out. Fiorentino won’t discuss why, except to say that the star-making machinery makes her uncomfortable. “I try to leave town before one of my movies opens.” For Linda, there’s clearly more to life than movies. “Acting is something you do when you can’t make up your mind what to do,” she says. “It really just kind of snuck up on me.”
Growing up in South Philly and later Turnersville, N.J. gave Linda a street-kid sensibility. She’s always had problems with authority figures. For her parents—a steel contractor and a housewife—”I was trouble,” she says. The third of eight children, Fiorentino attended elementary parochial school wearing “up to the third grade, pinafores, then a maroon frock, maroon saddle shoes and a little maroon beanie. Do I hate the color maroon!” she says.
Despite the uniforms, Fiorentino enjoyed her childhood. A bright student, she would “argue with the nuns about the Bible and they seemed to love it.” And, at 57″, she was a wicked, in-your-face rebounder under the boards, excelling in basketball, baseball and cheerleading. Mom Clarinda, whom Linda visits regularly, pooh-poohs her daughter’s rebel stance. “Linda has a great facade. She comes off as very bold, but she’s really very shy.”
While attending college at Rosemont, Villanova’s sister school, Fiorentino fell in with a crowd of “rich Puerto Ricans and Cubans” and found herself in plays because “everyone in the theater there was really wierd.” Reacting against the pink buttoned-down perkiness of the coeds (“They wore pastels, I wore black”), she abandoned the world of her girlhood. “I immediately adopted Nietzche and Marx—all the great guys. I was set on being the female Clarence Darrow.”
After she graduated in 1980, her ambition to be a lawyer was replaced by an overwhelming urge to hit Manhattan, and acting was her excuse. To support herself, she became a bartender, a job she loved. “Getting people drunk for a living, I know about that. You become a pimp when you are a bartender, but I always thought of it like social work for the lonely.”
After putting in an appearance at two cattle calls, Fiorentino decided that they were a definite “no-no” and auditioned for an agent who took her on. Soon after, she had beaten out Rebecca de Mornay, Rosanna Arquette and Demi Moore for the Vision Quest role.
As for the future, Fiorentino displays all the uncertainty of raw talent: Should she or shouldn’t she continue what she started? In Martin Scorsese’s next film, After Hours, she plays “a kinky sculptress from SoHo.” And scripts keep pouring in, all of them offering her the chance to murmur “Darling, you were wonderful” to any number of recently deflowered hunks. “No more virgins,” says Linda. “I’m not going to have this be my calling in life. I refuse.”