What the Hell Happened to Sean Young?

sean young 2013

In the 80’s, Sean Young was a rising star.  She co-starred with Harrison Ford, Bill Murray, Kevin Costner and James Woods.  She worked with directors Ridley Scott, David Lynch and Oliver Stone.  She was cast in the star-making role of Vicki Vale in the 1989 Batman.  And then, she became a cautionary tale of career implosion.

What the hell happened?

youn - jane austin in manhattan

Sean Young came to Hollywood after working as a model and studying ballet in New York.  In 1980, Young made her movie debut in the Merchant Ivory production, Jane Austen in Manhattan.  The movie was shown on the BBC and received a limited theatrical release.  Young summed up her performance thusly, “Thank God the character was a space cadet because I knew nothing.”

Sean Young - Raiders of the Lost Ark

She was auditioned twice by Steven Spielberg for the Marion part in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Ultimately, Spielberg decided the actress was “too green”.

young - stripes

In 1981, Young appeared in the comedy classic, Stripes:

Young was cast based on her look.  Director Ivan Reitman liked what he called Young’s “sweetness” which he thought would go well with Harold Ramis on-screen.  It was a small part, but Young made the most of her screen time as the future Egon Spangler’s girlfriend.

Stripes got mostly positive reviews and was a hit at the box office.

young doctors in love poster

The next year, Young appeared in two films.  The first was the forgettable Garry Marshall spoof, Young Doctors in Love.  The movie had a talented cast and attempted to do for daytime soaps what Airplane! did for disaster movies.  But alas, it just wasn’t very good.

As you can see from the clip, it comes close to getting a laugh.  But the timing is off.  Whereas Airplane!  fired off gags at a machine-gun pace, YDiL just limps from yuk to yuk. And that’s probably more than anyone has written about Young Doctors in Love in at least a decade.

The other movie Sean Young made in 1982 was Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Blade Runner was a visionary sci fi film that wasn’t appreciated when it was released in 1982.  But today, it has gained mainstream acceptance from critics and audiences alike.  It has influenced countless films with its dystopian view of a future where it never seems to stop raining.

Young played Rachel, a replicant (robot) who doesn’t know she’s not human.  She’s obviously beautiful, but Young also manages to be vulnerable and mysterious.

Although Blade Runner was not a hit in 1982, it will probably be the part Sean Young is most remembered for.

Next: Dune and No Way Out

Posted on May 21, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 182 Comments.

  1. Most beautiful actress in cinema history.


  2. S Y is still a remarkably beautiful woman !


  3. 10 Actors Whose Craziness Got Them Kicked Out Of Hollywood:

    Sean Young

    Sean Young could have been big – unfortunately, though, she is forever destined to be known as “Rachel from Blade Runner,” on account that she never soared any higher.

    Yes, Sean Young started out well, scoring roles in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street and Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner. But even those projects were littered with problems: on the first, Young clashed with everyone on set in an attempt to win Daryl Hannah’s role, to the point where Charlie Sheen was forced to tape a sign reading “I’m a c*nt” to her back. In the latter, she continually clashed with Harrison Ford, who thought she was a bit nuts.

    Then there’s the weird stuff that went down on the set of Tim Burton’s Batman, in which Sean Young – originally cast as Catwoman – found herself replaced by Kim Basinger after she fell off a horse and was injured. But Young wanted her role back, and plagued the set of the movie in an attempt to do just that, harassing Tim Burton in the process.

    All this bad behaviour meant that nobody wanted to work with Young any longer, and soon enough the roles began to drop off. Still, she hasn’t disappeared from view entirely: the actress turns up now and again, usually drunk, to remind everyone that, yep, she’s still insane, and nope, nobody wants to work with her.


  4. Films: Dune:

    Frank Herbert plus David Lynch equals a science fiction tale with a surreal bent that should not be watched while eating. Politics and prophecy shade a conflict over a desert planet that’s the only source of an essential chemical called spice, while George Lucas takes careful notes.


  5. Mary Sean Young has a new movie coming out with Kurt Russell. Bone Tomahawk, check it out…


    Brad Deal


  6. As anybody else been on the lookout for Sean Young on Twitter (it’s not verified, so take that into account):


  7. Sean Young’s early portrayal of an astonishing android with a lot on her mind continues to haunt us over 30 years later. The combination of street toughs and childlike expression is a far, far cry from her modelling days – it came from her guts, and it probably hurt like hell.

    She is known for being impossible, but when combined with an equally truculent director, they create a sum greater than the parts.

    Taking her cues from Frances Farmer, Young’s subsequent roles reflect her unfortunate sentiments of late – just looking for work. Just looking for another chance, beyond pretty girl fodder and ridicule. So anxious to prove that she nearly destroyed herself in the process.

    Sean Young is the aunt that gets drunk at your wedding; the eccentric sister who stole golf balls off the green; the she who sings bawdy songs. Inappropriate, definitely. But the one who continues to attract us is also worthy of our deepest fascination.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. 10 Actors Who Were Robbed Of Iconic Movie Roles By Injury:

    1. Sean Young As Vicki Vale – Batman

    Nowadays, Sean Young – perhaps best known for her role in Blade Runner as replicant Rachel – has been relegated to those “Where Are They Now?” lists you find scattered across the realms of the internet. Which is another way of saying: Sean Young’s career is kind of dead, presumably on account of the fact that she’s gone a little nuts and is a raging alcoholic (she also reportedly ended up wrestling with a security guard at the Oscars one time and was arrested – irk!).

    Still, if you’ve seen Tim Burton’s Batman, you’ll remember that Kim Basinger played Bruce Wayne’s love interest, Vicki Vale. Believe it or not, but back during that elusive period of time when Sean Young actually had some credibility to her name, Tim Burton originally selected her for the role. Unfortunately, during the prep for a now deleted scene that required Vale’s character to ride a horse, Young fell and was badly injured. Burton then dropped her, and cast Basinger instead!




    • Sorry to hear about your finger. I hope you’re all right.

      I refer to her as Sean Young because that is the name she chose as her professional name. It’s the name most people know her by. It’s the name on all of her movies. If I were speaking to her personally and she preferred that I use her given name, I would. But in this context, I think it makes more sense to use her professional name.


  10. jane austen in manhattan vs. stripes. opinions// ?? compare and contrast


  11. wall street made alot of monehy


  12. Sean Young’s message, the more I think about it, I THINK I understand what she is saying. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’ve associated myself with females that have that point of view, but at the same token, being bogged down by what other people think of you is a cheap trick.
    My only question this: who in life is Sean Young mad at (some of those add up to positive acting ideas, I think:-)


    • I have no problem with young taking me to task. Who the hell am I? She’s right that I don’t know her personal story. Of course, I’m not claiming to. The article has nothing to do with her personal life or even her mental state. It’s about her career which was impacted by people’s perception of her mental state. I do think her borderline incoherent tone probably undercut whatever point she was trying to make. But what do you expect? Everyone knows she’s crazy! ;) (Kidding a little.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • okay mr. lebeau, I have it on good authority (mine) that Sean is down to earth and approachable. I like you, but you are serving no purpose in continually mocking her. I think you need to rewatch her performances in movies that are not hits, especially Wall Street. Sean is not a prima donna, not hard to work with (now, maybe , but everybody has transgressions of youth) I am not a stuck up person, but I know just as much about cinema as you do. I am interested in your reply. and no, Mary Sean Young won’t be on your blog again. sincerely, ANTHONY


        • Wall Street wasn’t a hit?


        • Wall Street opened at #3 at the box office behind Throw Momma From the Train and Three Men and a Baby which was in its third week of release. It managed to hang out in the lower half of the top ten for quite a few weeks and grossed just over $40 million. So it wasn’t the blockbuster a lot of people probably think it was. It’s box office did not reflect its cultural impact.


        • Hi Mr. Will. Why are we being so formal? Please, call me lebeau. Mr. lebeau is my dad. ;)

          I’m sure Mrs. Young is a terrific person. And if you have her ear, tell her I said “hi”. I have said it before and I will say it again, I wish nothing but the best for all 70+ subjects I have written about. These articles aren’t meant as insults. I write them as a form of appreciation. Sean Young was one of the first entries in the WTHH series and that is because I have been a fan of hers for many, many years.

          As it so happens, I rewatched Wall Street this weekend. I certainly wouldn’t hold that movie up as an indication of what Sean Young is capable of. She’s barely in it! How about a movie like Boost or No Way Out? Or even the light touch she brought to Stripes? Or the other-worldly beauty she embodied in Blade Runner? I would have liked to have seen her play the female lead in Wall Street. I think she would have killed it.

          Am I mocking Sean Young? Yeah. A little. But it’s a gentle mocking. Trust me, people have said a lot worse about her on other sites. The jokes here are meant in good fun and I would hate to think that any of my subjects ever got their feelings hurt because of a couple of jokes on a “meaningless blog”. It honestly never crossed my mind that my little article would come to the attention of a big star like Sean Young. So, hey, if you really do have a direct link to her, tell her I also said “sorry and no hard feelings”, okay?

          I certainly don’t expect to see her around the site. I don’t expect to see any of my subjects show up here. In fact, I didn’t believe it was her until after I verified some information. But if she should ever decide to come by and say “hi” or to tell me off or whatever, she’s welcome to do so. Appearances to the contrary, I don’t bite.

          I sincerely wish Mrs. Young nothing but health, happiness and success. And I apologize personally if I in any way caused her distress. And hey, the door is always open if she feels like she has something she wants to say. If she wants to tell me off in private, here’s my e-mail: lebeauleblog@gmail.com.

          Well, I’ve rambled on enough. Thanks for dropping in and sharing your perspective. Hope you stick around. I’d love to hear more of your thoughts as well.


  13. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was a brilliant story of a dystopian future by the far sighted author Phillip K. Dick. His story depicts a paradigm shift in our society from a caring, nurturing life to a dog eat dog fight for survival in the future. While our technology has not yet advanced as far as that of Mr. Dick’s story, the beginnings of the shift are clear to be seen by anyone willing to look. Adapted as “Blade Runner” the movie depicts the migration of the human species from the depleted Earth to the far flung planets of the universe.

    Sean Young’s career began at the end of America’s golden age. Her fall from grace almost exactly matches the stagnation of the middle class as described by her iconic role as Rachael. Her career could be a microcosm of the forces that are driving our macroscopic society towards its unknown future. Sean started off with such promise and gradually declined. Her fall from grace was not from the lack of talent, or beauty, but rather the lack of support from her peer group. Truly talented people travel a difficult road with the Sword of Damocles over their heads. Genius is only a knifes edge away from crazy. With a nurturing support group a talented person can fulfill their potential completely, but that same person who is denied support, or even ridiculed for not conforming to the group can be horribly damaged and react in inexplicable ways. I suspect that Ms. Young did not have the support she needed to retain her credibility in a corrupt industry.

    I remember Sean as the beautiful young woman of the silver screen. She is a part of the good old days. I choose to remember her for success and I choose to ignore her problematic behavior the same as I ignore the similar antics of some of my family members. She has done nothing violent and deserves the benefit of the doubt. I was not there so I don’t know, and there is no reason to trust the press. Maybe she was “invited” to the oscar party after all?

    After all is said, I would love to see her in a Blade Runner sequel. I would pay double to see it.

    Brad Deal


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