Actress and musician Alexis Arquette, who broke barriers as an openly transgender performer and activist and was best known for roles that include memorable turns in Pulp Fiction and The Wedding Singer, has died, her brother Richmond Arquette announced today. She was 47.
“Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis, passed this morning September 11, at 12:32 am,” said Richmond in a post to Facebook this morning. “He was surrounded by all of his brothers and sisters, one of his nieces and several other loved ones. We were playing music for him and he passed during David Bowie’s Starman. As per his wishes, we cheered at the moment that he transitioned to another dimension.”
Born Robert Arquette in Los Angeles in 1969, her father was actor-producer Lewis Arquette. Like her siblings David, Patricia, Richmond, and Rosanna, Alexis pursued a career in entertainment, beginning with an appearance at age 12 in the music video “She’s a Beauty” by The Tubes. Her film debut came in 1986 with an uncredited role in Down and Out in Beverly Hills, followed three years later with a large role playing transvestite Georgette in Last Exit to Brooklyn. Several memorable roles small and large followed, mainly in independent and low budget films including Jumpin’ at the Boneyard and Terminal Bliss. Arquette also appeared briefly as a vampire DJ in the 1992 film Buffy The Vampire Slayer, was seen in Of Mice and Men the same year, and had a supporting role in the dramedy Threesome in 1994.
1994 also saw one of Arquette’s most memorable roles in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Playing the terrified roommate of the man (Frank Whaley) who had possession of Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase, Alexis is seen cowering in the bathroom with a revolver, bursting into the room and unloading the gun at Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) only to miss with every single shot. The scene sets in motion the film’s climax and moral point, as Jules, staggered by having survived a barrage of bullets at point blank range, is soon inspired to abandon a life of crime, ultimately becoming the only character to end the story largely unhurt.
Alexis starred in two Drew Barrymore & Adam Sandler films, playing George Stitzer, the Boy George-influenced member of the main character’s band in The Wedding Singer, and later reprising the role – somewhat – as Georgina in Blended. Other roles include a turn as Emperor Caligula on two episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess, a guest-starring appearance on Friends, as one of the house guests on the sixth season of The Surreal Life, and roles in films including Killer Drag Queens on Dope, Lords of Dogtown, and Wasabi Tuna, among many others.
Alexis made her transition public in 2006, documenting the experience in the 2007 Tribeca documentary Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother, and became an outspoken advocate for trans rights.
As news spread of her death, her family marked her passing, including sister, Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, who did so last night with a link to David Bowie’s “Starman”, along with brother David and former sister in law Courteney Cox also mourned Alexis’ loss. Friends and admirers also paid tribute to Alexis on social media.