Character actress and transgender pioneer Alexis Arquette passed away early Sunday morning at the age of 47. Arquette was featured memorably in key films works of the late 1980s and 1990s including Last Exit to Brooklyn (1989), Pulp Fiction (1994) and The Wedding Singer (1998). The second youngest of the Arquette siblings (including Oscar winner Patricia Arquette), she reportedly was surrounded by them when she passed. Official cause of death hasn’t been revealed, but a statement read “she passed away surrounded by love” to the tune of David Bowie’s “Starman.”
Arquette appeared in 70 projects over the course of a thirty year career, first appearing in a small (uncredited) part in the Bette Midler 1986 comedy Down and Out in Beverly Hills. Perhaps most significantly, she was a prominent and outspoken member of the LGBT community. Arquette, who was born Robert, publicly came out in the early Aughts; her transition in the 2007 documentary Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. Which is ever more notable considering it would be nearly a decade later before Caitlyn Jenner and the works of Transparent, Tangerine or The Danish Girl would enter the cultural lexicon.
A statement was posted on the Facebook page of her brother Richmond Arquette (one penned by Patricia and signed by her four siblings):
Our sister, Alexis Arquette, passed away this morning, September 11th, 2016.
Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor. She starred in movies like Last Exit to Brooklyn, Pulp Fiction, Jumpin’ at the Boneyard, Of Mice and Men, The Wedding Singer, and The Bride of Chucky. Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.>She fiercely lived her reality in a world where it is dangerous to be a trans person — a world largely unready to accept differences among human beings, and where there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards people that we may not understand.
Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling — he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is.
We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman. We came to discover the one truth — that love is everything.
In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender. That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.
She passed away surrounded by love. We held her and sang her David Bowie’s “Starman” as she punched through the veil to the other side. We washed her body in rose petals and surrounded her with flowers.
Alexis always had to do everything first. She left before we were ready to let her go. We are all heartbroken that she is no longer with us, but we are grateful for the grace and kindness we were all shown during this difficult time. We are comforted by the fact that Alexis came into our family and was our brother and then our sister, and that she gave us so much love. We will love you always, Alexis. We know we were the lucky ones.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations please be sent to organizations that support the LGBTQ community in honor of Alexis Arquette.
Please respect our privacy during this time of grieving.
Breaking through the veil singing StarMan https://t.co/A3way5S3Lb
— Patricia Arquette (@PattyArquette) September 11, 2016