The Spectacular Rise and Catastrophic Fall of Sean Young
Back in the 80s, Sean Young was one of the best-known and most recognised movie stars around. Thanks to memorable turns in acclaimed hits and cult classics like Blade Runner, Stripes, Dune, No Way Out and Wall Street, the young actress quickly became a major celebrity and magazine cover model.
However, when tabloid interest in the actress took a nasty turn, and when her own behaviour veered from endearingly quirky to occasionally somewhat unnerving, Young’s star fell hard and fast.
We may never know for sure if Young was just a victim of years of bad press, or if she really has been as badly-behaved as rumoured. Either way, it’s hard not to look back over Young’s life story without feeling some sympathy for the many times she came close to greatness, only to spectacularly crash and burn.
1. She was born Mary Young
Sean Young was born on the 20th of November 1959 in Louisville, Kentucky. Her birth name was Mary Young, and she was the daughter of Donald Young and Lee Guthrie, both of whom worked in the media.
Her father was a producer and journalist in TV news, whilst her mother was also a journalist and PR executive. Later, Lee Guthrie would co-write the TV movies A Place for Annie and Navigating the Heart with Sean’s sister, Cathleen Young.
2. She originally studied dance
Early on, acting was not the line of work which Sean Young intended to pursue. From her childhood, Young was a keen dancer, and this was the path she originally hoped to follow, studying ballet as a young girl then taking this study further at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Interlochen, Michigan.
Eventually, this lead Young to study at the illustrious School of American Ballet in New York City. For a time, she would work as a ballerina, as well as making a move into modelling. Young does not look back fondly on her time as model (simply remarking of it, “I went yuck” in one interview), but this helped get her foot in the door of the entertainment industry.
- Credit: SAB.org
3. She made her film debut aged 20
Thanks to her mother’s contacts in New York, Young was quickly able to find an agent as an actress, and she landed her first film role not long after that: a small supporting part in the 1980 drama Jane Austen in Manhattan.
Jane Austen in Manhattan wasn’t a huge success, but it proved to be a fairly prestigious starting point for Young. The film was made by the producer-director team of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, who would go onto make several of the most acclaimed period dramas of the 80s and 90s including A Room with a View and The Remains of the Day.
4. She was cast in Stripes based mainly on her looks
Now a jobbing young actress, Sean Young soon landed her next role in what proved to be her first real hit: the 1981 comedy Stripes, which stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as two slackers who decide to join the Army.
Young and her more seasoned co-star P.J. Soles (Carrie, Halloween) played a pair of military police officers who become Murray and Ramis’ love interests. Director Ivan Reitman has admitted Young was cast primarily because of her looks, feeling she brought a “sweetness” to the role of MP Louise Cooper.
5. She started shooting Stripes the same day she turned 21
Her casting in Stripes was a career turning point for Young, and it coincided with another personal landmark: her twenty-first birthday. In fact, Young shot her first day of work on Stripes the very day she turned 21, 20th November 1980.
By interesting coincidence, the very next day was the birthday of her co-star Harold Ramis. Though Young was cast as his love interest, and his superior in the Army, Ramis was by far the elder of the two; 21st November 1980 saw him turn 36.
6. Young did not get along with her Stripes co-star Bill Murray
Stripes was a key film in cementing Saturday Night Live star Bill Murray as a big screen comedy legend. However, Young was not very impressed with the methods of her more famous co-star, and the two are said to have butted heads throughout the production.
With director Ivan Reitman’s encouragement, Murray and his fellow comedy star cast mates (including John Candy) improvised heavily throughout the shoot. This approach riled Young, who preferred to stick to the script. The resulting tension was bad enough that Murray reportedly declared he would never work with her again.
7. She screen-tested for Raiders of the Lost Ark with Tom Selleck
With domestic takings of over $85 million, Stripes wound up the fifth biggest US box office hit of 1981. As it turns out, Young had also come close to landing the lead in what proved to be the number one blockbuster of the year, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Young was one among several actresses seriously considered for the role of Marion Ravenwood, love interest of Indiana Jones. She even screen-tested alongside the actor who was initially cast as the male hero, Tom Selleck. Ultimately Karen Allen was cast as Marion, whilst Indiana Jones was played by an actor Young would work with soon enough – Harrison Ford.
8. Blade Runner was only her third movie
Young may have missed out on starring alongside Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark, but she would play the famed actor’s love interest in his very next film: the science fiction thriller Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott (who had not long since made a name for himself with Alien).
Young landed the key role of Rachael, a replicant (artificial human) who believes herself to be a real person, as she had the look and attitude that director Scott wanted. She beat out competition from Nina Axelrod, a now largely-forgotten actress who went on to work as a casting director.
9. Ridley Scott made her shoot 26 takes of her first line
Blade Runner is widely hailed as one of the greatest science fiction films ever made, but it has also long lived in infamy for the level of tension on set, most of which was down to the exacting specifications of director Ridley Scott. Young experienced Scott’s fastidiousness as soon as she set foot on set.
Young recalls, “My first day was when I walk into Tyrell’s office and say, ‘Do you like our owl?’… [Ridley Scott] kept making me say ‘owl’—one syllable—not ‘ow-well.’ That was my first day. It took 26 takes just to get ‘owl’ right. He was very controlling in that regard.”
10. Scott made production executive Katherine Haber an acting coach for Young
Sean Young was still only 21 with two film roles to her name when work began on Blade Runner, so director Ridley Scott had some doubts about whether she was entirely up to the job of playing Rachael. To this end, production executive Katherine Haber was tasked with helping Young nail the character.
Haber recalls, “essentially I was her acting coach… for two weeks prior to shooting, Sean and I would spend time going through the entire script, to get the nuances and to be able to perform to Ridley’s expectations. It was a great experience, and we are friends today.”
11. Young and Harrison Ford didn’t get along
Shooting Blade Runner was by all accounts a largely unhappy experience for leading man Harrison Ford, who (like much of the crew) was frequently at loggerheads with Ridley Scott. Unfortunately, Ford didn’t get on very well with his leading lady Young either.
It’s not entirely clear what was the root of Young and Ford’s mutual disdain, but it’s known that it was yet another cause of tension on set, particularly given that Deckard and Rachael are supposed to become lovers in the film.
12. Young and Ford’s love scene was nicknamed the ‘hate scene’
Blade Runner features a notoriously problematic love scene, which the film’s crew felt was more aptly described as a ‘hate’ scene. Young said of the key moment, “When you’re twenty and you’re insecure, you hope that your leading man will be like, ‘It’s ok, you’ll be fine’… and Harrison wasn’t particularly generous that way.”
Young was genuinely in pain shooting the scene: when Ford thrusts her against the blinds, she “did hit my back pretty hard. And I did cry a lot. But I think it was exactly what Ridley wanted.” Reportedly Ford wasn’t oblivious to this, and shortly thereafter he affectionately ‘mooned’ Young in the hopes of cheering her up.
13. Blade Runner author Philip K. Dick became obsessed with her
Blade Runner was adapted from the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by acclaimed science fiction author Philip K. Dick. Sadly Dick died before the film was completed, but lived long enough to see some early footage, which he loved – in particular Young’s performance as Rachael.
Dick over-enthusiastically described Young as a “super destructive cruel beautiful dark-haired woman that I eternally write about and now I’ve seen a photograph of her and I know that she exists and I will seek her out and presumably she will destroy me.”
- Credit: Frank Ronan
14. Sean Young endorses the theory that Deckard is a replicant
One of the most talked-about aspects of Blade Runner to this day is the question of whether or not Harrison Ford’s replicant hunter Deckard is, in fact, a replicant himself. Ford says no, Ridley Scott says yes – and Sean Young sides with her director.
Young told Empire, “I always believed that [Deckard] was [a replicant] because that’s what Ridley’s always said. As I recall, at the end of the picture he has that unicorn” (an origami figure left by Edward James Olmos’ character Gaff, hinting to a dream of a unicorn Deckard has earlier).
15. Blade Runner flopped hard on release
Blade Runner was released to US cinemas on the 25th of June 1982, a mere two weeks after another sci-fi fantasy film, Steven Spielberg’s ET the Extra-Terrestrial. Whilst Spielberg’s heart-warming, optimistic fable quickly became the biggest blockbuster ever, the downbeat Blade Runner was widely ignored by audiences.
The initial reviews for Blade Runner were also largely unkind, and the film seemed doomed to be quickly forgotten. Fortunately for Sean Young, very little of the critical animosity toward the film was in any way aimed at her, with Ford and Scott getting the bulk of the flak.
16. Young first realised the film had a cult following when her mailbox started filling up with Japanese fan mail
Blade Runner may have been dead on arrival at the US box office, but Young soon became aware that the film had gone on to have a major impact across the Pacific in Japan. The actress recalls that up to the mid-80s, “My mailbox would be filled with fan mail from Japan.”
This enthusiasm for Blade Runner overseas gradually built up renewed interest in the film back home. This in turn paved the way for the film’s ambitious re-release in the 1991 director’s cut (one of the first special editions of its kind), after which Blade Runner was re-appraised and hailed as a masterpiece.
- Credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
17. She followed Blade Runner with another comedy, Young Doctors in Love
Blade Runner had only been in theatres for a few weeks when Sean Young’s next big screen appearance arrived in July 1982. Young took second billing under Michael McKean (This is Spinal Tap) in Young Doctors in Love, a spoof of TV hospital dramas.
Young Doctors in Love may be largely forgotten today, but it proved to be considerably more profitable than Blade Runner on release, earning just short of $31 million off the back of a $7 million budget; Blade Runner, meanwhile, cost over $30 million and made barely $40 million back.
18. Blade Runner director Ridley Scott had originally been attached to direct Dune
Not long after thereafter, Sean Young landed a role in another big-budget sci-fi movie based on a cult novel: Dune, an adaptation of Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 best-seller. Perhaps ironically, Ridley Scott had originally been attached to direct Dune as well.
Ultimately Scott bailed on Dune as it was stuck in development hell, leaving the reins free for director David Lynch to pick up. Lynch and producer Raffaella De Laurentiis cast Young in the role of Chani, alongside newcomer Kyle MacLachlan as the young hero Paul Atreides.
19. She was cast in Dune after bumping into David Lynch on an aeroplane
Sean Young actually came perilously close to missing out on being cast in Dune. There had been some sort of mix-up regarding her screen test: Young wasn’t given the correct details by her agent, and filmmakers David Lynch and Raffaella De Laurentiis thought she’d simply failed to show up.
However, by happy coincidence Young found herself on the same flight from New York to Los Angeles with Lynch and De Laurentiis. The trio talked things out, got along well, had some champagne together, and by the time they arrived Young’s casting in Dune was assured.
20. She kept a home movie chronicle of her time working on Dune
Not unlike Blade Runner, Dune has long been infamous for its behind the scenes difficulties, but Sean Young has insisted she had a very happy time working on the film – and has shared behind-the-scenes footage she shot which documents this.
Young brought her own Super-8 camera to Dune’s London set and shot hours of candid footage, some of which she has edited together and released on Youtube. The actress states in her voiceover, “It was an international crew, we all loved it, we were all happy.”
21. Dune was an even bigger flop than Blade Runner
Dune was released in December 1984, and it didn’t wow audiences or critics. Widely criticised for being too confusing, the film attracted largely negative reviews, and proved to be a box office flop, failing to recoup its $40 million budget (an unusually high price tag for a movie at the time).
Director David Lynch and others involved in Dune would ultimately disown the film: Lynch would say later that he “probably shouldn’t have done that picture.” While Young found it a happy experience, she recognised how stressful it was for the director: “David did seem to get more and more depressed because he realised that he’d bitten off a lot.”
22. She got her first top-billed role in TV drama Under the Biltmore Clock
With a few movie roles to her name, Sean Young made her first mark on the small screen in 1985. One-off drama Under the Biltmore Clock, an adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story for TV series American Playhouse, gave Young her first top-billed leading role as Myra Harper.
1985 also saw Young star in four episodes of TV mini-series Tender is the Night, another F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation. But Young hadn’t forgotten about the movies: that year also saw her appear in live-action Disney movie Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, which met a lukewarm critical and commercial response.
23. No Way Out helped make her a major leading lady
After another TV mini-series, 1986’s Blood & Orchids, Young returned to the big screen in a big way with 1987 thriller No Way Out, in which she played the female lead behind the up-and-coming Kevin Costner, and established Hollywood superstar Gene Hackman.
Although it was only a modest box office hit, No Way Out has widely been credited with launching Costner as a major leading man; he would go on to some of the biggest hits of the late 80s and early 90s. At the time, it looked like it would do the same for Young, who earned widespread praise for her performance as Susan Atwell.
24. She was pressured into doing No Way Out’s nude scenes
No Way Out was the first film in which Sean Young appeared naked on camera. While the actress says she felt comfortable doing so, she also felt that she wasn’t really given any choice in the matter.
In 2020 documentary Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, Young explains, “It’s not like you could say to the producers, ‘I love this part but I don’t want to do the nudity’. You had to do the nudity. That’s what they were banking on as part of their sexy project.” She also says that director Roger Donaldson ordered her to lift up her shirt for him at her audition.
25. Her ‘difficult’ reputation began on Oliver Stone’s Wall Street
1987 was ostensibly a good year for Young. On top of No Way Out, she also landed a plum role in director Oliver Stone’s acclaimed drama Wall Street, which famously landed Michael Douglas the Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as the unscrupulous Gordon Gekko.
Young had what should have been a key supporting part as Kate Gekko, the wife of Douglas’ Gordon. However, in the final cut of the film her appearance amounts to little more than a cameo, and it is understood that her role was significantly reduced due to tensions on set.
26. She allegedly told Stone to switch her Wall Street role with Daryl Hannah
Wall Street’s more prominent female role – Darien Taylor, girlfriend of Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox – was taken by Young’s old Blade Runner co-star Daryl Hannah. Reportedly neither Hannah nor director Oliver Stone were entirely happy with this casting – and Young is also said to have had strong feelings on the issue.
As well as being vocal in declaring that Hannah was all wrong for Darien, Young also told Oliver Stone that she should take the role instead, and that Hannah should take over Young’s role of Kate. Stone would not acquiesce to this, and tensions between director and actress ensued.
27. Young really didn’t get along with Charlie Sheen
It wasn’t just Oliver Stone that Young clashed with on the set of Wall Street. There are all manner of rumours surrounding the actress’s behaviour in the making of the film, with allegations that after Stone refused to give her Hannah’s role she would often turn up late to set without having learned her lines.
One person who really didn’t take kindly to Young was her young male co-star Charlie Sheen, who decided to get back at her in a very school bully-ish manner: the actor is said to have slyly taped a note to Young’s back reading “I am a c***.”
28. Young is rumoured to have stolen her entire Wall Street wardrobe after finishing her scenes
Reports vary as to how Young’s time on Wall Street came to an end. It has been claimed that her role was originally far larger than it wound up being in the final film, but because the cast and crew found her so hard to work with, her scenes were drastically rewritten and reduced at short notice.
It has also been widely rumoured that, in a final act of petty revenge, Sean Young walked off the set of Wall Street taking the entire contents of her character’s wardrobe. However, writer-director Oliver Stone has refused to say whether or not this actually happened.
29. Harper’s Bazaar named her one of America’s most beautiful women
Even whilst the rumour mill began to swirl with reports about Sean Young being hard to work with, the actress was still widely admired by men and women alike for her beauty. Notably, Young was honoured by influential fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar.
In 1987, Young was listed by Harper’s Bazaar as one of America’s ten most beautiful women, alongside the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Andie MacDowell, Lisa Bonet and Anjelica Huston. Young would continue to enjoy a good relationship with the magazine, appearing on their cover in 1989.
- Credit: Harper’s Bazaar
30. She turned down the female lead in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Stripes and Young Doctors in Love proved that Sean Young was not averse to playing comedy, and in 1988 she could have added another comedic entry to her resume. She was offered the part of Janet Colgate, the female lead of con artist comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
However, Young decided against taking the role, which went instead to Glenne Headly, who appeared alongside the esteemed Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Curiously, this would not be the last time that Headly wound up playing a role originally earmarked for Sean Young.
31. She first met James Woods on the set of The Boost
After Wall Street, the next role Sean Young accepted was in another edgy, topical drama entitled The Boost. Director Harold Becker’s film cast Young as Linda, the wife of James Woods‘ Lenny, whose affluent yuppie lifestyle collapses when they both fall into drug addiction.
When The Boost went on US theatrical release in January 1989, it was met with mixed reviews and audience indifference, barely scraping $785,000 at the box office. Any press attention that The Boost did receive had little to do with the film itself, but what allegedly transpired between Young and Woods on set and afterwards.
32. Young and Woods both deny being romantically involved
It has been widely reported that, on the set of The Boost, Sean Young and James Woods began seeing one another. This alleged relationship has often been labelled an ‘affair,’ but this would be inappropriate as neither of them were married at the time, although the once-divorced Woods was already with his future wife Sarah Owen.
In any case, both Woods and Young have declared publicly that they were never romantically involved with one another – but Woods (who has endured no shortage of public scandal himself over the years) went on to make some highly damning allegations about Young.
33. Woods accused Young of stalking, harassment and disturbing behaviour
Not long after work on The Boost was completed, James Woods took out a $2 million lawsuit against Sean Young. The actress was accused of stalking and harassing Woods and his bride-to-be; most notoriously, it was claimed that Young left dismembered dolls on Woods’ doorstep. (A rumour also spread that a vengeful Young had glued a certain intimate part of Woods’ anatomy to his own leg.)
Young firmly denied the accusations; ultimately the matter was settled out of court, with Woods being ordered to pay Young’s legal fees. Nonetheless, the damage was done, and the popular notion that Young was mentally unstable soon took hold.
- Credit: People Magazine
34. Young says Woods’ accusations were made out of spite
Even though Woods ultimately dropped his lawsuit against Young and paid her legal fees in the settlement, the scandal has continued to haunt Young throughout her career, and it comes up in almost any subsequent interview you can find with the actress.
In 1992, Young said of the situation, ”It boils down to two people [Woods and Sarah Owen] plotting to set me up and make me look like I was a crazy person, partially because of their own mental illness, partially because of revenge.” In a slightly cryptic response, Woods (who had since married and divorced Owen) said “I love and admire Sean and she’s actually half right.”
- Credit. Elisa Leonelli/Rex/Shutterstock
35. She unsuccessfully campaigned for the title role in Blaze
Whilst promoting The Boost, Young made an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, in which she expressed her hopes at being cast in a movie about real-life striptease artist Blaze Starr. Young praised Starr for making stripping “respectable” and “an art form.”
However, Young’s outspoken enthusiasm was not enough to land her the role. The female lead in 1989’s Blaze was first offered to Melanie Griffith, but ultimately went to Lolita Davidovich, who co-starred with the legendary Paul Newman in director Ron Shelton’s film.
36. Young was cast to play Vicki Vale in Batman, but had to drop out
Around the time that the James Woods scandal kicked off, Young was already nursing her wounds (figuratively and literally) from narrowly missing out on the female lead in what proved to be the biggest box office hit of 1989: Batman.
Young had been set to appear in director Tim Burton’s groundbreaking comic book movie as Vicki Vale, photojournalist and love interest of Michael Keaton‘s Bruce Wayne/Batman – but she was sadly forced to withdraw very late in the day after suffering an injury whilst preparing for the role. Kim Basinger was her last-minute replacement.
37. Young has described her Batman injury as a harbinger for how her career fell apart
Young had to drop out of Batman because she had been practicing horseback riding for a scene in the movie, but she was thrown from the horse and broke her arm. Perhaps ironically, the scene in question was later cut from the script and never filmed.
Reflecting on the accident, Young remarked, “there’s kind of poetic symbolism about that… I look back on that particular time in my life and go, ‘I wish I’d been able to hang on to that horse’… because I would have been able to stay in that role, be in a big box office hit, go on to other big box office hits… [but] that was the turning point in my career where that didn’t happen.”
38. She performed a tap dance and showed armpit hair on David Letterman
Young clocked up quite a few appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, and her giggly demeanour in these appearances would certainly imply she was intoxicated at the time. On one appearance in 1989, she appeared in a skimpy homemade dance outfit and performed a tap dance.
In another Letterman interview she showed off her armpit hair, asking the host whether or not this was attractive. Doubtless all of this only added weight to the popular perception of her being somewhat kooky.
- Credit: Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images
39. She filmed scenes for two Woody Allen films – but her scenes were cut from both
Young got a significant career opportunity when given the chance to work with Woody Allen. The filmmaker, who was very well thought of at the time, gave the actress a role in his 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors. However, Young’s performance didn’t make the final cut.
Young was then cast in Allen’s very next film, 1990’s Alice – but once again, her scenes were deleted. Young didn’t work with Allen again, and not long thereafter the once-respected filmmaker would become a very controversial figure owing to his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, adopted daughter of his long-term partner Mia Farrow.
40. Director Joel Schumacher ignored warnings against casting her in Cousins
It might seem like every major Hollywood figure who ever worked with Sean Young only has bad things to say about the experience. Happily, this was not the case at all for director Joel Schumacher, who cast her in 1989 romantic comedy Cousins.
The late Schumacher said in 1992, ”When I hired her for Cousins, I got a lot of phone calls from people saying I was crazy… Sean is an artist, and she doesn’t know how to monitor herself. She will pour out her emotional road map of the day to you, and it can be quite frightening.”
41. She was originally cast as the female lead of Dick Tracy, but was fired a week into filming
An unfortunate accident may have cost Sean Young the female lead in 1989’s biggest hit Batman, but she was initially poised to take a similar role in what promised to be an equivalent-sized hit in 1990. She was cast as Tess Trueheart, love interest of the titular hero in Dick Tracy.
However, after several days of filming, Young was dismissed from the role and replaced by Glenne Headly – the same actress who had taken the role once intended for Young in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The official story is that Young was not ‘maternal’ enough to play Tess Trueheart, but Young disputes this.
42. Young says Warren Beatty fired her from Dick Tracy because she spurned his advances
Dick Tracy was the baby of Warren Beatty, the highly regarded actor and filmmaker, who directed and produced the comic book adaptation as well as playing the title role. Young says he fired her because he came on to her and she turned him down, an allegation which notorious womaniser Beatty denies.
Young said at the time, “In the seven days we worked together, he just made advances. I was unresponsive and kept joking, ‘Ha ha – what a ladies’ man you are.’ But I made it very clear to him that I wasn’t interested.” In response, Beatty only said, “I made a mistake casting Sean Young in the part and I felt very badly about it.” He went on to romance Madonna, who also co-starred in Dick Tracy.
43. Barbra Streisand later blasted Young for speaking out on Beatty
Today, actresses who speak out on sexual harassment are generally listened to and treated with respect. However, speaking out on Warren Beatty’s predatory behaviour in 1990 hurt Sean Young’s career – and, perhaps surprisingly, it earned her a telling-off from one of the most respected women in Hollywood, Barbra Streisand.
Young said in 2017, “I auditioned for Barbra Streisand, for [her 1996 film] The Mirror Has Two Faces I think it was. And when I went to my audition with her she said to me, ‘I think it’s disgusting that you talked to the press!’ And what I had said to the press was that I was harassed, that I was sexually harassed by Warren Beatty. And she told me she thought that [speaking out] was disgusting.”
44. Young married Robert Lujan in 1990
Though her career may have been having difficulties, Sean Young had a happy development in her personal life in 1990. On 24th November, four days after turning 31, Young tied the knot with Robert Lujan, an actor and musician.
Young and Lujan had met on the set of the TV mini-series Blood and Orchids back in 1985. After they wed, Lujan would take minor roles in a number of Young’s films, including her first major film of the 90s, Fire Birds (also known as Wings of the Apache).
- Credit: Ron Galella/Getty Images
45. Her next few major movies flopped, and earned her Golden Raspberry Awards
Career-wise, Young’s streak of bad luck showed no signs of stopping as the 1990s got underway. She appeared alongside Nicolas Cage and Tommy Lee Jones in the aforementioned Fire Birds, an action thriller sold as Top Gun with helicopters. It made under $15 million at the box office and is largely forgotten today.
After that came 1991’s A Kiss Before Dying, an erotic thriller in which she co-starred with Matt Dillon. This also flopped; and worse yet, A Kiss Before Dying saw Young ‘win’ the Golden Raspberry Awards for both Worst Actress and Worst Supporting Actress (she played twins in the film). Her next movie, Love Crimes, was also a bomb which earned her another Razzie nomination.
46. Harvey Weinstein exposed himself to Young on the set of Love Crimes
Love Crimes was distributed by Miramax, the once-revered independent film company run by the brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Young encountered the now-disgraced Harvey Weinstein on the set of the film, and is one among the many actresses with an unpleasant story to tell about the man.
After the first accusations were publicly made against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Young spoke out on his sexual misconduct towards her. Young declared that she “personally experienced him pulling his you-know-what out of his pants in order to shock me. My basic response was, ‘You know, Harvey, I don’t really think you should be pulling that thing out, it’s not very pretty’. And then leaving, and then never having another meeting with that guy again, because it was like, ‘What on earth?’”
- Credit: Reuters
47. She was only cast in Blue Ice after Sharon Stone quit
Later in 1992, Young appeared opposite esteemed screen veteran Michael Caine in spy thriller Blue Ice, from Highlander director Russell Mulcahy. Cast as femme fatale Stacy Mansdorf, Young was a late-in-the-day replacement for Sharon Stone, who had originally been cast in the role.
Whilst Blue Ice was in pre-production, Stone became a huge star thanks to Basic Instinct; presumably this pushed up her acting price beyond the reaches of Blue Ice’s $7 million budget. Unfortunately for all concerned (not least Sean Young), Blue Ice met a tepid response from critics, and was largely ignored by audiences.
48. Her campaign to play Catwoman in Batman Returns proved disastrous
Sean Young worked a lot in 1992, appearing in five theatrically-released features and one TV movie. However, once again Young is more widely remembered for the major 1992 role she failed to land: that of Catwoman in Batman Returns.
Having missed out on the part of Vicki Vale in the first Batman, Young was determined not to miss out again, and made a point of publicly declaring that she should be cast as the female lead in the sequel. However, the producers felt otherwise, and the first actress cast in the role was Annette Bening.
49. She started making public appearances in a full Catwoman costume
In a curious twist, Batman Returns – much like its forebear – soon found itself without its leading lady. Annette Bening was forced drop out after learning she was having a baby with (in another curious twist) Warren Beatty, whom she would marry in early 1992.
Young was not among the actresses the filmmakers spoke to about replacing Bening. This did not please the actress, who set about campaigning for the role in a most theatrical manner: by donning full Catwoman costume and make-up, inspired by the character’s representation in the Batman TV series of the 60s.
50. She barged into the Warner Bros offices in her Catwoman suit
As well as sending in a homemade audition tape to TV’s Entertainment Tonight and wearing her Catwoman suit on The Joan Rivers Show, Young turned up at the Warner Bros studio lot in her costume. The actress recalls barging into the office of producer Mark Canton loudly declaring, “I don’t know who got the idea that I wasn’t right for the part, but you know and I know that I’m exceedingly right for the part, and I don’t know what this bulls*** is.”
Sadly for Young, this show of dedication to the character was not taken in the spirit she intended. The press was promptly abuzz with articles questioning the actress’s sanity, and after the Batman Returns producers considered just about every bankable actress in Hollywood, Michelle Pfeiffer was ultimately cast as Catwoman.
51. She paid her own way on the set of low-budget indie Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me
With the major filmmakers largely turning their back on her, Young found work in some quirkier independent fare, including a supporting part in 1992’s offbeat comedy Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me. Much of Hollywood may have been laughing at her, but this film’s producer had nothing but good things to say about working with the actress.
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me’s producer Alain Joel Silver recalls, “Sean Young rented her own limo and her own jet for the picture. We didn’t pay for it because we couldn’t afford to pay for it. She gave herself the star treatment. The first day that she worked, she was willing to jump in and wrestle with the actor and roll around the ground. She’s about giving a performance.”
52. Even Cowgirls Get The Blues got her another Razzie nomination (but a hint of indie credibility)
In 1993, Young was one among a slew of big names to appear in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. The oddball comedy was hip director Gus Van Sant’s follow-up to his acclaimed indie hit My Own Private Idaho. Uma Thurman headed up a cast including Keanu Reeves, Roseanne Arnold and John Hurt.
Unfortunately, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues wasn’t anywhere near as well-received as My Own Private Idaho. It bombed critically and commercially, and Young received her fifth Golden Raspberry Award nomination in the Worst Supporting Actress category; she ‘lost’ to Rosie O’Donnell for The Flintstones.
53. Erotic thriller spoof Fatal Instinct was another misfire
As Hollywood no longer took her seriously as a dramatic actress, the biggest movies Sean Young could land leading roles in were the more low-brow of comedies. One such movie was 1993’s Fatal Instinct, a parody of the erotic thriller genre that was popular at the time. (The title is of course a play on both Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.)
Young co-starred with Sherilyn Fenn, another once-acclaimed actress whose career was on the slide at the time. Fatal Instinct did neither of them any favours; it bombed hard at the box office and received unanimously negative reviews. However, Young speaks fondly of her experience working with director Carl Reiner, whom she got along with very well.
54. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective was a huge breakthrough – for leading man Jim Carrey
1994 saw Young land a supporting role in another off-the-wall comedy, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which featured comedian Jim Carrey (then best known for TV series In Living Color) in the title role. Later that same year, Carrey appeared in The Mask and Dumb and Dumber.
To the surprise of many, the low-budget comedy proved to be a massive mainstream success, taking over $107 million at the box office and making Jim Carrey a megastar overnight. However, all anyone could talk about was Carrey’s extraordinarily over-the-top turn in the lead, leaving the rest of the cast – Young included – in his shadow.
55. Young’s Ace Ventura character has since been blasted as transphobic
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective is one of those old comedies whose problematic elements we now diplomatically explain away as products of a different time. The film has a climactic revelation about Young’s character Lt. Lois Einhorn; she is in fact a biological male who had gender reassignment surgery.
As Young’s character is a villain and this reveal prompts most of the good guys (Ace included) to nausea, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective has been widely condemned in recent years for transphobia. Carrey has defended the scene as “making fun of homophobia”; Young has not discussed the matter.
56. Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde earned her more Razzie nominations
Young has said of her mid-90s filmography, “I did some films I wasn’t particularly pleased about, but I had to earn a living.” It seems safe to assume this might include 1995’s Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, a tongue-in-cheek modernisation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic horror story (and curiously, another role for Young with a transgender aspect).
Predictably, Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde proved to be a critical and commercial bomb, and it earned Young her sixth and seventh Golden Raspberry Award nominations for Worst Actress and Worst Screen Couple with Tim Daly. In a small blessing, Young missed out on both Razzies, and she’s never been nominated for another since.
57. She had her first child in November 1994
Again, while her career may not have been at its strongest in the mid-90s, Young still enjoyed an altogether different personal milestone with the birth of her first son, Rio Lujan, on the 2nd of November 1994.
Young and Robert Lujan would go on to have a second son, Quinn Lujan, in January 1998. As time went on Young’s family became her main focus, although this did not mean the end of her acting career.
58. She reunited with Ismail Merchant on The Proprietor
By the late 90s, many of Young’s former collaborators showed no interest in working with her again – except, that is, for Ismail Merchant of Merchant Ivory Productions. Merchant had produced Young’s very first movie Jane Austen in Manhattan, and hired her to appear in his 1996 film The Proprietor, which he also directed.
The Proprietor didn’t wind up making much of an impact, but it was certainly a refreshing change for Young to be cast in what would generally be thought of as a prestigious picture at that stage in her career.
59. She gradually sank into B-movie obscurity
Unfortunately, Young’s last collaboration with Merchant-Ivory proved to be a blip in an otherwise uninterrupted downward spiral into TV movie and straight-to-video hell for the once bankable actress.
Young ended the century with such bargain basement fare as the thrillers Exception to the Rule, Out of Control and Motel Blue, and sci-fi adventure The Invader, all of which were widely ignored. The more high-reaching indie comedies Men and Special Delivery didn’t fare much better.
60. She reprised the role of Rachael in the 1997 Blade Runner video game
Sean Young’s status in the film industry may have been declining, but the reputation of her breakthrough movie Blade Runner was stronger than ever by 1997, when Young was invited to portray Rachael a second time as part of the Blade Runner PC game.
Produced by now-defunct games studio Westwood, Blade Runner was among the first video games to utilise new, specifically shot content featuring live actors. Of the original Blade Runner cast, only Young and James Hong (Mr Chew) returned to play their roles again.
61. The Amati Girls won her acclaim at film festivals
In 2000, Young was cast in The Amati Girls, alongside Mercedes Ruehl, Cloris Leachman, Mark Harmon and Paul Sorvino. The low-budget family-based drama did not get a wide release, and received middling reviews, but it won Young a degree of acclaim.
Young’s performance in The Amati Girls saw her awarded the Scarlett Award at the Marco Island Film Festival in Marco Island, Florida and the Best Actress Award at the Sarasota Film Festival, also based in Florida.
62. She took more TV work from 2002 onwards
Without too much in the way of rewarding film work coming her way, Young was one among many fading stars of the big screen who started working more extensively in television in the early days of the 21st century.
Young’s TV work in the early 2000s included Third Watch, Kingpin, Boston Public and Reno 911! Later in the decade she would also make appearances in the hit shows ER, One Tree Hill and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (in which she co-starred with future Solo star Alden Ehrenreich).
63. She divorced Robert Lujan in 2002
After struggling through a turbulent decade professionally, Young’s private life had also hit hard times. In 2002, after twelve years of marriage, she was divorced from husband Robert Lujan.
Young and Lujan’s child Rio and Quinn were aged eight and four at the time. The strain on Young must have been great – and sadly, this may have impacted her behaviour in the years that followed, when a number of widely-reported incidents dragged her name further through the mud.
- Credit: John Kelly/Wireimage
64. She was kicked out of the 2006 Vanity Fair Oscar Night party after gatecrashing
Young’s name popped up widely in the gossip columns following the 2006 Academy Awards, when the actress unsuccessfully attempted to gatecrash the prestigious LA party thrown annually by Vanity Fair magazine following the awards show.
Reports said that Young dashed through the door of the event behind Jennifer Aniston. Young was not on the guest list for the strictly invites-only affair, and within ten minutes security guards had caught up with her and ejected her from the building through the back door.
- Credit: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
65. She was a drunken heckler at the 2008 Directors Guild Awards
One Hollywood awards show for which Young was able to get her name on the guest list was the Directors Guild Awards in 2008. Sadly, this proved to be a notable night in the actress’s career for all the wrong reasons.
Young wound up being ejected from the DGAs after loudly heckling speakers on stage, notably The Diving Bell and the Butterfly director Julian Schnabel, who told Young from the stage, “have another cocktail.” At this point, suspicions that Young was mentally unstable gave way to fears that she might have a genuine problem with alcohol.
66. She did her first stint in rehab in 2008
In the aftermath of her scandalous ejection from the 2008 Directors Guild Awards, Sean Young admitted to being an alcoholic, and to this end she did her first stint in rehab in the hopes of kicking the habit.
Unfortunately, this did not do the trick. Between 2008 and 2010, Young did not appear in any acting roles at all, and her dependency on drink was soon as bad as it had ever been again.
- Credit: Reuters
67. She moved into reality TV with Gone Country
Without too much in the way of career opportunities, Young made the move into reality TV in 2008, appearing in the second series of celebrity country music singer contest Gone Country. Young’s fellow contestants included Jermaine Jackson of the Jackson 5, and Grease actor Lorenzo Lamas.
Young’s alcoholism impacted the show; Fame actress Irene Cara quit two episodes in due to Young’s drinking. However, Young enjoyed some success in the show as a demolition derby driver, ultimately finishing fourth in a competition against 20 other seasoned derby drivers.
68. She was the first to be voted off on Skating with the Stars
Sean Young’s time on reality television didn’t end with Gone Country. In 2010, she was a competitor on Skating with the Stars, a figure-skating-based variation on the popular Dancing with the Stars (or Strictly Come Dancing as it’s known in the UK).
Young has said that training for show was fun and demanding, but unfortunately she was the first celebrity to be voted off the show, in which her fellow competitors included soap actress Rebecca Budig and singer Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe. It proved to the first and only season of Skating with the Stars.
69. She did a 45-episode run on soap opera The Young and the Restless
In 2010, Young landed her most high profile acting role in some time on The Young and the Restless, the long-running US soap opera. She was cast initially in a guest appearance as a barmaid named Meggie McClain.
Her appearance in the show went down well enough for Meggie to become a recurring character on the show, and Young wound up playing the role in 45 episodes, ending her run in early 2011. Young has admitted she was able to land the part because of her friendship with long-running The Young and the Restless actor Eric Braeden.
70. She went back on Letterman to mock the Catwoman incident in the hopes of rekindling her career
In 2011, Sean Young returned to the couch of Late Night with David Letterman for the first time in 18 years. Unlike in her earlier appearances, she wasn’t there to promote a new project; rather, she was hoping to draw the attention of major filmmakers and rejuvenate her career.
However, this Letterman appearance did little to quell the widely-held belief that Young was a bit nuts. She joked about ‘horse-whipping’ her teenage sons, and filmed a satirical skit of her in the old Catwoman suit, stood at the side of a road repeatedly screaming, “I’m not crazy!” Major film offers did not ensue.
71. Reality show Celebrity Rehab was her lowest point
With her earlier efforts at beating alcoholism having failed to pay off, Young agreed to appear on the fifth season of reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr Drew, following in the footsteps of such actors as Brigitte Nielsen, Gary Busey and Tom Sizemore.
Young would say afterwards that appearing on this show marked a personal low, but emphasised, “I could retire on the money and I only had to work for 10 days: that part was good.” On top of which, it would seem the experience genuinely helped Young make some personal progress.
72. She and Robert Lujan re-married in 2011
As part of Celebrity Rehab, reconciliations were staged and shot with Young’s ex-husband Robert Lujan. Reality TV may tend to over-emphasise certain events for sake of drama, but in this case it would seem these meetings may have genuinely made a difference for the couple.
Sean Young and Robert Lujan got their relationship back on track, and later in 2011 they got married for a second time. Happily, this is no Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor story, as Young and Lujan remain married to this day.
- Credit: Sean Young Facebook
73. She was arrested trying to gatecrash another Oscars party in 2012
Things may have been coming back together for Young on a personal level, but she was still struggling to get her foot back in the door in Hollywood. She sparked yet more scandal by once again attempting to gatecrash an exclusive party after the Oscars in 2012.
Young was put under citizen’s arrest after refusing to leave an event to which she did not have a ticket, and allegedly slapping a security guard. These charges were ultimately dropped; Young insisted that the aggression came from the guard, and that contrary to reports she was completely sober at the time.
- Credit: Getty
74. She appeared in a fan-shot pilot for a Star Trek series
In 2013, Young was one among a number of well-known actors to appear in Star Trek: Renegades, a crowd-funded 90 minute fan film which was hoped to serve as the pilot for a proposed Star Trek TV series.
Young’s co-stars included seasoned Star Trek actors Walter Koenig, Tim Russ and Robert Picardo. The film met a somewhat mixed response, and failed to launch a new TV series as hoped.
75. She enjoyed a small resurgence in independent horror movies
You might not realise that since 2012, Sean Young has shot roles in upwards of 25 feature films. A lot of these have been low-budget independent horror films – and though they haven’t all been that widely seen, there are some genuinely good films among them.
Amongst the films Young has taken roles in are 2013 folk horror Jug Face and 2015 horror western Bone Tomahawk (alongside Kurt Russell). Neither of these films were big hits, but both were well received by the specialist horror press and the fan community.
76. Her name wasn’t mentioned when Blade Runner sequel plans were announced
After more than twenty years of rumours and speculation, plans for a sequel to Blade Runner were finally made official in 2011. Ridley Scott signed on to direct once again, although he would ultimately downgrade his role to executive producer, choosing instead to direct Alien: Covenant.
In 2015, Denis Villeneuve signed on to direct the then-untitled Blade Runner sequel, and the first casting announced was Harrison Ford; however, there was no indication of Young being in line for a role at all. The actress told The Guardian at the time, “I saw Ridley [Scott] a month ago and not a peep was uttered from his mouth about it and so I left it alone.”
77. Young wound up doing one day on Blade Runner 2049 – as a consultant
Spoiler alert: as anyone who’s seen Blade Runner 2049 will know, Sean Young’s character Rachael does make a brief appearance in the film, looking basically the same as she did in the original film. The character was portrayed by actress Loren Peta, whose face was digitally altered into that of 1982-era Young via CGI.
While Young did not act in the film herself, she gave permission for her likeness to be used, and was present on the set that day as a consultant, to help ensure that Peta’s performance matched her own as closely as possible.
78. She set up a movie tour bus service in Austin, Texas
In the past decade Sean Young has worked extensively in Austin, Texas, which has developed a rich film culture of its own over the years with many films produced there. Recognising a potential tourist market, Young set up Austin Film Tours in 2017.
Austin Film Tours takes parties of up to twelve people around sites of interest in Austin, including the locations used in such films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Office Space and Dazed and Confused. Young herself hosts an accompanying video played in the tour bus.
79. She was questioned on suspicion of burglary in 2018
Sadly, Young’s uncanny knack for attracting bad press looks like it’s never going to run out. The actress once again made headlines in 2018 when it came to light she was wanted for questioning by police in Astoria, New York on suspicion of stealing two laptop computers.
The laptops were taken from the offices of a production company with whom Young had been poised to direct a film, before the producers fired her. Young explained afterwards that it had been a misunderstanding, and she had believed the laptops in question were indeed her property. The laptops were returned and no charges were filed.
- Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
80. She no longer expects to make a Hollywood comeback
Sean Young is now in her 60s, an age at which most actresses struggle to get roles in major films, even if they don’t have a bad reputation. Recent interviews suggest that Young has long since given up any expectation of being big in Hollywood again, and she seems to be at peace with that.
Young said in 2015 that thinking she could make a comeback now would be “like putting a beautiful racehorse out to pasture before her time and then after 20 years expecting her to be the same horse.” While she admits mistakes were made on her part, she also quite reasonably suggests, “if I were a man I’d have been treated better.”
- Credit: Shutterstock