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. 212 Comments.

  1. “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


  2. 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. Its 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 Ms. 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:

          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.


  3. wall street made alot of monehy


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




    • 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.


  6. 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!


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


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

    Brad Deal


  10. 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.


  11. 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.


  12. S Y is still a remarkably beautiful woman !


  13. Most beautiful actress in cinema history.


  14. She probably would have made a good Catwoman; at least as good as Michelle Pfeiffer and possibly better. She’s had the darker, edgier attitude and looks a lot more like Selina Kyle too.

    You have to wonder what she was thinking with her outbursts that year. Hollywood is so heavily networked…. going off like she did in 1991 cannot possibly help your case if you want good parts.


    • I think she’d have made a fine Catwoman. Better than Pfeiffer? I dunno. That’s a high bar. But I’m a big fan of Pfeiffer. I’m sure she would have been at least as good as Halle Berry.

      My guess is she was thinking “I’m so drunk!”

      I kid. I kid. I tease Sean Young because we have a history together, don’t we Sean?

      Kidding aside, Young was clearly dealing with some issues, right? But she also has a point in that if a male actor had campaigned for a part as aggressively as she did, he would have more likely than not been rewarded for that behavior. Still, gender inequity or not, it wasn’t a good idea to give the Hollywood system the finger so flagrantly.


  15. I know Sean Young will probably set my yard on fire for saying this (it would save the trouble mowing it), but this film on the Escape channel “Love Crimes”? I don’t think she did a good job with this film. She’s like, barely there. I actually like the remake of “A Kiss Before Dying”, and she’s my second favorite Sean (Sean Penn is my number one, though I haven’t seen Sean lately), but I think she’s barely present in this film.


    • I liked A Kiss Before Dying. It was cheesy as hell, but I enjoyed it. I thought her performance was horrible. She seemed highly medicated. But she was easy on the eyes and I have seen her give good performances in other movies. Love Crimes, I remember but only vaguely.


      • You know who turned me on to “A Kiss Before Dying”? Mike “The Mad Dog” Russo, back when I listened to the radio show “Mike and The Mad Dog”. In general, I think Sean Young is fearless, so when I see her in a film that it seems she isn’t trying, I’m just surprised. Hopefully this opinion doesn’t make Ms.Young too upset:-)


      • I think she’s terrible in “Love Crimes”. She seems to be sleepwalking and bored, like she’d rather be somewhere else. Okay, I’m going to have to re-watch “A Kiss Before Dying” to see if Sean Young was slightly drowsy (I’m guessing you’re right; I do remember the multiple hairdos:-). Fortunately, I recorded that film (Ninja III: the Domination” and “The Truth About Cats and Dogs”, which was a total girlfriend thing, but a film I like are on the same VHS), so I can totally go there!


  16. Apparently, Sean Young herself has her own YouTube account:

    I’ll give Sean credit for seemingly having a bit of a sense of humor about herself in regards to the infamous “Catwoman” incident:

    I don’t know if Kim Basigner, the woman who replaced her as Vicki Vale in “Batman” would be so self-deprecating in regards to the crazy stunts that she allegedly pulled in her career like literally buying a town.


  17. If I can point it, it’s a nice article until 1990s, then it ignores too many interisting projects. Reading the article, it seems Young’s career almost halted in 1995, yet she was super-active in the following decade, and at least some films would had deseved a little attention. Eg. The Proprietor, I haven’t seen it but it was directed by Ismail Merchant and had decent/good reviews. Or Men, it’s a good indie film and a very good performance by Young, I actually saw it, it was also released in Italian cinemas. Or Headspace, one of the most interisting (yet quite unknown, I concede it) horrors of the 2000s (I have actually seen it too).

    As a new reader who is really enjoying this WTHH column, one of the thing I apprecciate more in it is the attention reserved to fallen Stars’ less known projects, it’s a shame it did not happened in Young’s case while in the other articles we can read even of twenty-seconds-cameos in an episode of an obscure TV series. Also, I do not understand, are Jug Face or Attack of the 50 Foot Cheerleader more interisting and whorthy to be cited than Blue Ice,where Young is the female lead alongside Michael Caine and Ian Holm, or Until the Night, an indie starring Norman Reedus, or In the Shadow of the Cobra, where she re-teamed with the Blade Runner fellow Rutger Hauer (who would be another excellent candidate for a future WTHH)?

    So, nice article, but pretty incomplete. I would like to read a follow-up analyzing in details her 1990s-2010s career.


    • First let me say, welcome to Le Blog. I’m glad you’re enjoying the WTHH series.

      You’re not wrong about the Sean Young article. By the standards of the more recent articles, it is incomplete. Here’s why. When I first started writing WTHH articles, they were much, much shorter. I just hit highs and lows. Once the subject was out of the public eye, the article wrapped up.

      Gradually, I started getting more and more in depth largely based on reader feedback. If you look at the comments sections from a lot of the earlier articles they are filled with “You forgot such and such” or “Why did you skip over this movie?” In the old days, I only covered theatrical releases. But these days, I will talk about direct-to-video, TV guest appearances, theater and whatever else may be applicable. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction.

      Now that the articles are much more comprehensive, I have heard feedback that they are too long. That I cover too many things that readers aren’t interested in. It’s had me thinking that perhaps I should scale back a little bit. One thing I know for sure, you really can’t please everybody.

      When time permits, I sometimes go back and update old articles. That’s why you will see a few of Young’s more recent releases like Jug Face and Attack of the 50 Ft Cheerleader. Those were the projects that were new the last time this article got updated. Ideally, I would like to go back and fill in some of the blanks. But I have to balance that with getting new articles out there. Unfortunately, blogging time is a limited commodity and WTHH articles are extremely time consuming. Every one of them has involved hours and hours of research.

      I’ll definitely keep this article in mind the next time I find some time to go back and beef up an older installment. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Feedback like yours has shaped the development of this blog and the WTHH series from the start. I hope you’ll stick around to see what comes next.


  18. #RapidRound Q&A: Sean Young’s Still Ready to Play Catwoman


  19. Sean Young spoke to us about Blade Runner, Stripes and Dune for Empire’s #80sMonth:


  20. I don’t think the articles are too long at all, they are highly informative. What separates your articles from other sites is the amount of in-depth coverage and unique commentary you bring to the table. Don’t hold back to conform to the standards people expect from your average, run-of-the-mill site’s coverage. Keep up the entertaining work.

    Gary Otto
    In the Name of the King 3, Rampage: President Down


  21. I truly believe she did exactly the right thing….stood by her principles!! Hollywood lost a Star, she gained a Life.


  22. Original “Blade Runner” star Sean Young admits she voted for Trump! Hates Hillary!!-hates-hillary!

    Blade Runner showed how incredibly talented she was, but the crazy overrode her chance for a huge career.


    reply 10 10 hours ago


  23. Whose Career Is Pretty Much Shelly Duvall Kaput?

    Lara Flynn Boyle and Sean Young were both done in by mental illness, though theirs was tinged by a virulent narcissism. They were scary and attention starved. Poor Shelly just seemed to spin off into her own little world. I adore Sheryl Duvall, it really is a tragedy.

    reply 13
    2 hours ago


    • I thought of Sean Young recently, since I was about to go to the New Angola Theater (actually, the theater has been around since 1925; kind of classic, really) to view “Beauty and The Beast” (it fell through). But I remember (1987) Sean Young & Kevin Costner for that (cardboard) poster of “No Way Out”-wow, I always thought that either 2 D or 3 D, that was a cool poster.


  24. Thought you might like this, a collection of personal polaroids taken on the set of Blade Runner by ms Young herself.


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