Twenty years after ''No Way Out'' made her one of Hollywood's hottest new stars, the actress looks back on a career gone wrong
There isn’t a red carpet for miles, but Sean Young still likes to make a movie-star entrance. It’s a warm weekday morning, and the 47-year-old actress swans out of a Santa Monica gym draped in a slightly smudged creamy cashmere cape with foxtails dangling off the ends. Her thin brown hair is teased high on top of her head, and her lips are nicely collagen-free. She’s as long and leggy as she was 20 years ago, when she joyfully pretzeled herself around Kevin Costner in the backseat of a limousine in her best movie, No Way Out. Young sits down at the outdoor table of a nearby café, clasps her fingers behind her head, and tries to play it cool.
”I don’t really like doing interviews. I’m so easy to make sound bad, but what are you going to do that hasn’t been done to me already?” she asks, sounding less aggressive than wearily resigned to her unshakable reputation for being seriously unhinged. ”Who’s going to f— me over any more than they already have?” She launches into a rehash of a recent tussle with a tenant who lived in a back building on Young’s property, who she claims left in a huff, informing city hall on the way out that Young was renting two units illegally. ”That [money] always made it a lot easier to be an actress in a tough town,” she says with a sigh. ”A bad break along a long string of bad breaks.”
After a burst of movies like Stripes, Blade Runner, and the surprise box office hit No Way Out, Young seemed like she was on an unstoppable run. Sure, she could rattle cages sometimes, like on the set of 1987’s Wall Street, where she irritated director Oliver Stone so badly that he wrapped her scene early and had her dropped off at the bus station. But her coltish good looks and snappy, sexy appeal suggested a kinetic star just coming into her own. Then in 1988 she starred in The Boost, or as Young refers to it, ”The Bust,” a lame relationship drama starring James Woods. Their off-camera chemistry quickly turned toxic: Woods sued her for harassment, and Young’s reputation as a nutty broad not worth the trouble ignited. She’d soon get fired from the Tess Trueheart role in 1990’s Dick Tracy, officially for not seeming maternal enough in dailies, though she later accused Warren Beatty of kicking her to the curb for turning down his advances. (Beatty has maintained it was purely a creative decision.) On the set of Batman, she broke her arm falling off a horse during rehearsals and was replaced by Kim Basinger. When Warner Bros. was putting together the 1992 sequel, she stormed the studio lot wearing a homemade Catwoman suit in a disastrously ill-conceived bid to be considered for the role in Batman Returns. She became, and remains, a crazy-bitch punchline to the powers that be.
Today, Young waves her fork at Los Angeles. ”The city of angels? It’s the city of devils. The city of smiling cobras. This [town] eats venom for breakfast. Me, I just eat a nice breakfast,” she says, smiling down approvingly at her little pad of scrambled eggs and broccoli sprigs. ”I’ve been forced to deal with my character assassination. I never hurt anybody in this business, ever. But,” as she’ll repeat dramatically over and over during the next two hours, ”the sin is not with me.”
For years she’s been mainly relegated to the hammy beast of cable-TV and B movies, playing everything from a Native American woman opposite Richard Grieco in 1995’s Bolt (”we called it Blot”) to a sexually confused scientist with Soleil Moon Frye in 1999’s Motel Blue (”terrible movie, absolutely awful”). ”When you’re crying for the cable audience,” she says of her recent dramatic history, ”it is just so lame…. I don’t want to do any more movies where I look at it and go, ‘Oh, God, gross.”’
In 2006, Young decided to crash the Vanity Fair Oscar party to try to network with the A list. She dolled herself up and scooted in on the shiny heels of Jennifer Aniston, only to be escorted out the back door by a humorless bouncer on the orders of four assistants on headsets. ”It was degrading,” says Young, trying to laugh off the incident. ”But when you have nothing to lose, it’s really not that big of a deal.”
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