Any aspiring actress agonizing over whether to say yes to some mediocre-sounding movie, concerned about its effect on her future prospects, might well take heart from the experience of Rosanna Arquette.

For the attitude of this outspoken 27-year-old actress is: "Don't starve. Take it. What have you got to lose?"

She practiced what she preaches. Today she works for directors like Martin Scorsese and Hal Ashby. When she started she made things like "Zuma Beach," "Class of '66" and "Having Babies, Part 2."

You'd forgotten? She hasn't. "I played every pregnant, teen-age runaway hooker drug addict you can imagine," she said. "I hated it. But that was how I paid the rent."

Certainly nothing she did in the past seems to have affected film-makers' view of her. "Desperately Seeking Susan," in which she co-starred with Madonna, and "After Hours" proved that performances in TV movies like "The Executioner's Song" were no flukes.

And now comes what many think will be the real test--"Nobody's Fool" in which she co-stars with Eric Roberts. The movie, directed by Evelyn Purcell and featuring Louise Fletcher, Mare Winningham and Jim Youngs, opens Friday. The writer? Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Beth Henley (co-writer of "True Stories") who seems to be cropping up all over the place these days (the film of her play, "Crimes of the Heart" directed by Bruce Beresford, opens next month).

"Beth told me 'Nobody's Fool' is the first thing she ever wrote," said Arquette. "Long before she wrote 'Crimes of the Heart.' It's taken years to bring it to the screen. It almost got made a couple of times, I believe. At one point Sean Penn and Elizabeth McGovern were interested.

"Mare Winningham was first choice for a long time, so when it was finally offered to me by Island Pictures I called her. I felt it should be her movie. 'You take it,' she said. As a favor she then took a small part in the movie--as Pat."

In "Nobody's Fool" Arquette plays Cassie, a bored and confused woman, who is captivated when a man with a traveling theater troupe visits her Southwestern town. "Beth writes right from the heart. And the great thing is the script we filmed is just the way she wrote it. It wasn't like 'Desperately Seeking Susan,' which was being rewritten as we went along.

"That happened because Madonna achieved instant stardom while we were still making the movie and they rewrote scenes for her knowing it would help sell the film. So a lot of the things I took the movie for were taken out. The original ending, which I loved, got lost completely--the two girls ran off together and in the last scene you saw them on camels in Egypt.

"It wasn't the greatest experience for me, that movie, but all in all I think it's a good film and a lot of its success is due to Madonna."

Having had a good experience with Scorsese on "After Hours," in which she played a spaced-out siren, and earned good notices for "Desperately Seeking Susan," Arquette's luck then ran out with her next two movies. Although she had third billing in Lawrence Kasdan's "Silverado," she was hardly to be seen in the finished film. And she was not happy with the editing of Hal Ashby's "Eight Million Ways to Die."

But morale is high at the moment. Six weeks ago she married composer James Newton Howard who wrote the music for "Eight Million Ways to Die" and "Nobody's Fool." And soon she is off to France to make a movie with Christopher Lambert for French director Luc Besson ("Subway").

"It's being shot both in French and in English and I'm going to do my own French dialogue. She's supposed to speak lousy French, so it shouldn't be a problem."

The French movie, she said, will pay her much less than she gets here.

"But I don't care about that," she said. "The fact is, I've never worked for my so-called price, the fee I'm supposed to deserve. None of the movies I've made has been able to afford it.

"People are always asking me, 'How come you've never been in a big commercial movie?' Well, the answer is: I've never been offered one that looked as if it were destined to take $100 million and that I believed in. It would be nice if one came along, but if it doesn't it's not going to worry me. That's not why I became an actress, believe me. . . ."

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