Former actress Leelee Sobieski.
Former actress Leelee Sobieski.

Why former ‘It’ girl left Hollywood

Just as Leelee Sobieski's star exploded, it very quickly faded.

The young New York actress was touted as the next "It" girl in Hollywood in the '90s, with a string of box office hits and award-winning performances.

Instantly likeable thanks to looking like a "baby" Helen Hunt, Sobieski dominated in the latter years of the '90s, but her reign as one of tinsel town's most in-demand actresses only lasted a handful of years before she almost completely disappeared.

And while on the surface it seemed the reason why was because she was choosing terrible roles, the actress recently made some worrying comments about why she stopped acting.

Sobieski, now 36, was discovered in a food court at a New York private school, which led to her auditioning for the 1994 movie Interview with the Vampire, which ultimately went to Kirsten Dunst.

Leelee Sobieski in the cult film, Never Been Kissed.
Leelee Sobieski in the cult film, Never Been Kissed.

It wasn't until three years later where she'd pick up her first ever role in a studio film, playing the daughter of Martin Short's character in the Disney comedy, Jungle 2 Jungle, which starred A-lister Tim Allen in the lead role.

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The movie was panned, but it put Sobieski on the radar of top casting directors.

Her first couple of years under the full intensity of spotlight were 1998 and 1999, which also proved to be as high as her fame would go.

Her breakout performance was in the sci-fi disaster movie Deep Impact, which was a colossal financial success, grossing more than $US349 million at the global box office against a $US75 million production budget, and also starred veteran actor Morgan Freeman.

Leelee Sobieski in Deep Impact.
Leelee Sobieski in Deep Impact.

That same year, in 1998, Sobieski appeared in the Merchant Ivory film A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries.

While the movie, which also starred Kris Kristofferson, didn't do a stellar job at the box office, Sobieski's glowing performance garnered significant praise.

Emanuel Levy of Variety wrote: "The graceful Sobieski registers strongly as a potential star, combining physical charm with technical skill."

She also nabbed a Young Artist Award nomination, as well as a nomination by the Chicago Film Critics Association.

The following year she appeared in Eyes Wide Shut alongside Tom Cruise and Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore, which has managed to achieve cult status over the years.

But it was the Joan of Arc miniseries, based on the 15th century Catholic saint of the same name, that bolstered her as an on-screen force.

Drew Barrymore with Sobieski in scene from Never Been Kissed.
Drew Barrymore with Sobieski in scene from Never Been Kissed.

While she was already becoming a household name, this role introduced Sobieski as an obscenely talented actress, scoring her coveted award nominations for both the Golden Globes and the Emmys.

Again, that very same year, famed director Stanley Kubrick cast her in what was his last ever movie, Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Sobieski was looking unbreakable.

But it all started to go downhill after that.

Sobieski took on some pretty terrible roles in teen flops, including the 2000 movie Here on Earth, co-starring American Pie actor Chris Klein, which was savaged by critics. The LA Weekly review called the film "utter horsesh*t". Reviews don't get quite as bad or as blunt as that. 

Chris Klein and Sobieski in the 2000 film ‘Here on Earth’.
Chris Klein and Sobieski in the 2000 film ‘Here on Earth’.

It also didn't help that it bombed at the box office, earning only $US10.5 million against a budget of $US15 million.

Then came the 2001 thriller The Glass House.

Its reviews stated that it was quite funny, which is not what you want when it's supposed to be a horror film.

It also flopped at the box office, but it could have possibly performed better if it weren't released during the darkest time in America's history; the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The film, which also starred the late Paul Walker, actually received decent reviews but was destined to fail during that time.

This is when Sobieski's career really started to hit a halt.

She worked on movies that were so small we've never even heard of them. L'idole (2002), Lying (2006) and In a Dark Place (2006), as well as the truly odd The Wicker Man (2006).

With her films not receiving a lot of love, Sobieski turned to TV, where she saw great success with Joan of Arc.

But it wasn't to be this time around.

She played minor roles in Drop Dead Diva (2010) and The Good Wife (2011).

She had a lead in the CBS drama NYC 22 (2012), but it was canned after one series.

That was one of her last ever roles. She only has three other credits on her resume since; the 2012 thriller Branded, the 2016 comedy The Last Film Festival, and the 2018 TV movie Amerikali Kiz, of which there is hardly any information about online.

When asked by Us Weekly in 2012 what she had been up to, Sobieski said she was busy being a mum to Louisanna (born in 2009). Her second child Martin was born in 2014, whom she had with her husband, fashion designer Adam Kimmel.

"I don't do movie stuff anymore. I am totally an outsider. Just a mum and an outsider," she said. 

And while she has said she quit the industry to focus on motherhood, Sobieski has also described the industry as "gross" and commented on how she "couldn't stomach it".

"Ninety per cent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don't want to do that," she told Vogue in 2012.

Sobieski at a screening of ‘La Dolce Vita’ in New York in 2011.
Sobieski at a screening of ‘La Dolce Vita’ in New York in 2011.

Further to that comment, Sobieski told AnOther in 2018 she felt pressure from a young age to perform, given she started paying her parents' rent when she was only 15.

"Things got complicated for me … So when I could, I stopped," she said.

"It's kind of a gross industry - well, they all are, when you examine them - but in acting you're selling your appearance so much. I would cry every time I had to kiss somebody, I couldn't stomach it.

"I would think 'I like this person, so I don't think they should pay me to kiss them,' or 'I don't like this person, so I don't want to kiss them'. Why is my kiss for sale?' It made me feel really cheap.

"I don't know why it's legal for a child to act. It's a crazy double standard, and that's super weird for me. Now that the MeToo movement has come forward, people understand more that it's pretty gross and uncomfortable."

VICE approached her for comment this year about what she'd been up to, but she said she didn't want to talk about her "past life".

Since 2016, she's worked as a professional artist, painting both on large canvases and in a virtual reality headset at her New York studio.

Her Instagram, which has 13,000 followers, shows off her various artworks.



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