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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

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Posted on May 21, 2011, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 217 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

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  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:-)

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    • 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

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        • Wall Street wasn’t a hit?

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        • 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.

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        • 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: 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.

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  3. wall street made alot of monehy

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

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  5. HER NAME IS MARY SEAN YOUNG. wHY?? BECAUSE HER PARENTS NAMED HER THAT. WHY SHOULD I SAY IF I HAVE HER EAR?? I HAVE HER “CURSOR”. AND I LIKE HER AND I ADMIRE HER. SORRY FOR THE CAPS i BROKE ONE OF MY FINGERS. NOW LETS ALL TALK ABOUT INTOLERANCE AND BROKEN BLOSSOMS AND WAY DOWN EAST. LOL

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    • 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.

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  6. 10 Actors Who Were Robbed Of Iconic Movie Roles By Injury:
    http://whatculture.com/film/10-actors-who-were-robbed-of-iconic-movie-roles-by-injury.php/6

    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!

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  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):
    https://twitter.com/seanyoung23

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

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2494362/

    Brad Deal

    Like

  10. Films: Dune:
    http://sfdebris.com/videos/films/dune.php

    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.

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  11. 10 Actors Whose Craziness Got Them Kicked Out Of Hollywood:
    http://whatculture.com/film/10-actors-whose-craziness-got-them-kicked-out-of-hollywood.php/8

    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.

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    • Stars Publicly Campaigning for a Role

      http://www.trekbbs.com/threads/stars-publicly-campaigning-for-a-role.278476/

      I was thinking. (yeah, make your jokes now) Are there any good examples of stars campaigning to get specific parts that ever turned out well? The earliest and most embarrassing example I can think of is Sean Young trying to get the part of Catwoman back during the Tim Burton films. She actually went on talk shows in costume in her pursuit of the part. It didn’t work and I think it might have actually hurt her career.

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    • Actors/Actresses Who Were Once Big/Almost Big But Now Have Seemingly Vanished

      https://www.datalounge.com/thread/19187409-actors-actresses-who-were-once-big-almost-big-but-now-have-seemingly-vanished

      Sean Young was cast as the lead in one of those MyNetwork telenovelas about 10 years ago. Supposedly she was such a diva during the filming of the promos (she reportedly locked herself in her trailer at one point, if I recall correctly) that they ended up canning her and replacing her with Tatum O’Neal before the show even started production.

      —Anonymous

      reply 371 11 hours ago

      I looked up some of Sean Young’s credits on IMDb. She wasn’t even top billed in the shi**y low budget direct to video movie. Most of the top billed cast don’t even have photos on IMDb. She’s in the same position as the actor friend of [R192], maybe a worse position.

      It wasn’t the stuff with Woods that did the most damage to her career, she got work after that. It was the Catwoman stuff. She made cringe inducing appearances on TV demanding the role. She snuck onto the studio lot and demanded the director see her. The general public were laughing at her and I expect so were industry people. She defended this behavior as being some kind of feminist act. She didn’t have the good sense to try and laugh it off rather than doubling down. Even if she’d had a great reputation before that it would have been a career killer. I think she thought that since she got replaced in the first Batman (due to an injury during rehearsals) that she was destined to play Catwoman.

      —Anonymous

      reply 372 11 hours ago

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  12. S Y is still a remarkably beautiful woman !

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  13. Most beautiful actress in cinema history.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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      • 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:-)

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      • 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!

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  16. Apparently, Sean Young herself has her own YouTube account:
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBiJayT8_Urea-33QFSRt8A

    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.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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  18. #RapidRound Q&A: Sean Young’s Still Ready to Play Catwoman http://thr.cm/GLDWDq

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      • It was really Dick Tracy that did her in not Batman, Wall Street or even the James Woods stuff.

        She was cast in the girlfriend role and then fired a few weeks into filming. (it is in that Warren Beatty bio from a few years ago.)

        She was supposedly very nasty to the kid and just couldn’t play maternal at all.

        Beatty supposedly struggled a great deal with firing her since he knew it would end her career. The thinking was he should have done it sooner but he kept giving her another chance and she just couldn’t do it. Weeks went by and then when he fired her mid shoot it just made it worse.

        —Anonymous

        reply 78 an hour ago

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        • Actor/actresses that were truly blackballed?

          https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18083149-actor-actresses-that-were-truly-blackballed-

          Sean Young had a terrible reputation for being crazy and no one wanted to work with her after that. but the reputation was completely earned: she WAS crazy.

          —Anonymous

          reply 3 7 hours ago

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        • Top 5 Dumbest Career Choices: Sean Young Edition

          http://filmcorereviews.com/2016/06/06/top-5-dumbest-career-choices-sean-young/

          Remember Sean Young?

          Nah?

          You sure?

          The thing is, you have probably seen Sean Young grace the silver screen at one point or another. I can only hope, dear reader, that you experienced Sean Young via ’80s classics like “Blade Runner” (1982), “Wall Street” (1987), or “No Way Out” (1987), and NOT through total non-classics like the ill-fated David Lynch “Dune” (1984) or “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” (1994), where she played a homicidal football player in drag. To be fair, Young actually was one of the better things about “Ace Ventura.” Although the movie was awful, it was a hit (kind of a solid triple, definitely not a home run Carrey blockbuster), and does NOT warrant inclusion on this, the definitive Listcore cataloguing her poorest career decisions.

          Young initially broke through in Harold Ivan Reitman’s “Stripes” (1981) as Louise, romantic foil to Bill Murray’s John Winger. The next year, Young nabbed what is probably still her best role: Rachel, the gorgeous, troubled cyborg that Harrison Ford’s grizzled Replicant Hunter copulates with in the aforementioned “Blade Runner,” a cult hit for helmer Ridley Scott that resonated with critics at first and audiences later, on home video. She followed that one-two punch up with smart choices in a variety of movies packed with similarly pedigreed A-list talent (Lynch, Oliver Stone, Michael Douglas, Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, James Woods — lotta Oscars there). By the end of the decade, however, an unfortunately-timed arm injury (see below) and rumblings of substance-abused issues and outre behavior would conspire to derail a promising career. Instead of mentioning Young in the same breath as contemporaries like Demi Moore, Jodie Foster and Sharon Stone, we’re left to wonder what might have been.

          To a point, Young’s reputation abetted her on-screen persona. You could sort of sense it even without having read any of the press clippings; her volatility was part of her charm as an actress. You could feel the mania bubbling beneath Young’s immaculate surface. At first it was more subtle, as when Young channeled it into Rachel’s restless curiosity. Later, there was an honesty to her almost-violent sexuality in “No Way Out” and “The Boost” that, among her contemporaries, could only be bettered by peak Sharon Stone or Michelle Pfeiffer. And actually, I don’t think Pfeiffer could’ve made that limo scene in the former as awesome as Young did (I would’ve loved to see Young’s Catwoman, by the same token — see entry #2 below for more). By the late 1980’s, the celluloid Sean Young had become the super-hot, super-crazy girl that every gentleman knows is bad for him but is drawn to like a moth to flame. Sharon Stone made a mint playing that girl. Sean Young could’ve, too. So what went wrong? READ ON, DEAR FRIENDS.

          S***-talking Julian Schnabel at the DGA Awards, 2008.
          Schnabel, originally a big ’80s New York painter, has always had a bit of wild streak himself. Schnabel was apparently upset when Young was forcibly removed from the ceremony after catcalling to him from her seat during his acceptance speech, when he admittedly took the most pregnant of pauses before diving into his thank-you’s. Though they cleared the air in a phone conversation afterwards, the PR damage had been done, only adding fuel to the fire of Young’s “difficult” on-set reputation. Why is this hilarious moment, forever doomed to viral infamy, rated so low on this Listcore? First off, this was 2008, and Young’s prospects of movie stardom had been more or less extinguished for a decade and change. Second, they never cut to her in the broadcast, and it’s hard to make out what she’s saying. So, you know, demerits for that. Third, the whole point of letting people drink at awards shows is to promote imbibed spontaneity, so really, we should all be thanking her for taking some of the air out of a superfluously stuffy Hollywood circle jerk. This was not her only hilarious recent awards show circuit misadventure: in 2012, Young was arrested for getting into a fight with a security guard while trying to sneak into a post-Oscars party, the Governor’s Ball. Six years before that, she had been similarly denied entry to a Vanity Fair post-Oscar bash and escorted out by security guard, after feigning membership in Jennifer Aniston’s entourage. Good stuff.
          Prioritizing her backyard over “The Piano,” 1992.
          Holly Hunter won an Oscar as the mute pianist torn between Sam Neill (then at peak “Jurassic Park” fame) and Harvey Keitel (then at peak “Bad Lieutenant” fame) in Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” a critical smash and awards darling. But Sean Young was offered the part first. Young claimed to be too busy “flitting around [her] backyard in Sedona, Arizona” to even bother reading Campion’s (also Oscar-winning) original script. This would have gone a long way towards correcting the trajectory of Young’s star, which had been on the wane since ’87. The aforementioned rumblings of Young bringing “difficult” reputation to sets had seen to that. With that reputation preceding her, it was not infrequent for profiles of Young in the early 1990’s to offhandedly mention how “[a] green bruise and a small maroon scratch decorate her left forehead, the result of an angry outburst,” as if it were just understood that those things would naturally be a part of her wardrobe.

          Incidentally, “The Piano” grossed $140 million worldwide in 1993 receipts, probably somewhere in the $200-250 million range today. Then again, today it’d have struggled to get a release on HBO, let alone theatrically. In the past decade or so, the market has demonstrably shifted away from adult fare, and mature audience interest has turned to the tube for solace. At the time though, “The Piano” would have been a fantastic career move for Young, then staring down the bleak-for-an-actress prospect of her mid-30’s (she was 33 when “The Piano” won three Academy Awards).

          Pissing off Oliver Stone, 1987.
          Stone initially addressed his strained on-set relationship with Young on his “Wall Street” DVD commentary track for the movie’s 2000 pressing on that format (one of my all-time favorite director’s commentary tracks, by the way — Fox sagely retained it when “WS” was issued to Blu-Ray). Young had been cast as Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas)’s shallow wife, Kate. But her competitive instincts had kicked in by the time cameras rolled. She was openly lobbying for the main female role, Charlie Sheen’s love interest Darien, long after Daryl Hannah had been cast in the role, and well into production. Hannah herself was having second thoughts about the character even in the midst of shooting, a high-class interior decorator who can more or less be bought by the right power player. Stone elaborated on how it all went down in the linked Hollywood Reporter piece (the Hollywood Reporter has really done their due diligence on the Sean Young muck-racking front, eh?):

          “It got to a place where I said, ‘I’ve had enough!’ We were at a stable — and the horse standing next to Sean was having an erection — and she just wouldn’t rehearse correctly. So we let her go. She tried to leave with some of the clothes from the movie, and we had a very tough producer who got the clothes back, and I heard she was in the streets of East Hampton, furious, and walking around half-naked.”

          Kind of sounds like par for the course. Young has a long history of public display — she wore a sheer leotard for a one-woman dance recital in high school, she would frequently flash crew members on at least the set of “The Boost,” she removed stuffing from her bra during a 1989 TV interview and threw it into the air. Of course, she had the goods, but still.

          But I digress. Young’s part was not re-cast. Instead, Stone and editor Claire Simpson just marginalized it for their final cut. I can’t say the movie particularly suffers without her, it’s got a permanent spot in my all-time top 5. This was not the only high-profile firing on Young’s resume. Just two years later, she was also fired by writer/director/star Warren Beatty one week into production on “Dick Tracy” (1990), a blatant “Batman” rip-off that was nevertheless a pretty big hit.

          Botching her shot at both Tim Burton “Batman” movies 1988 and 1991.
          In ’88, Young appeared poised to jump a tier in the Hollywood hierarchy when she was cast as Vicki Vale, intrepid reporter and love interest to Michael Keaton for the wunderkind goth Tim Burton’s first “Batman” movie. She had been rehearsing a (later scrapped) horseback-riding scene in the flick when she fell off and broke her arm. With a week until shooting was set to begin on a movie boasting a then-mammoth $35 million price tag, Young was unceremoniously replaced by Kim Basinger. “Batman” went on to be a massive hit, taking in $251 million domestically alone ($540 million in 2016 dollars), and Basinger’s star stayed strong throughout the 1990s, right up to Oscar glory in 1997’s “LA Confidential” as a Hooker With A Heart Of Gold.

          When the inevitable “Batman Returns” rolled around, Burton was looking to cast Catwoman. Sean Young was not on the shortlist (Annette Bening was initially cast, but had to drop out when Warren Beatty knocked her up). She confronted “Batman Returns” producers in their offices on the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, decked out in a homemade Catwoman outfit, and demanded an audition, yelling “I AM CATWOMAN!” When that didn’t work, she recycled the gag during a terrifying appearance on a Joan Rivers daytime talk show (I had no idea this was a thing until just now). Michelle Pfeiffer was cast instead. And I can’t say I could see anyone else from that era doing it much better.

          After weathering broken arms and equine erections, it’d be understandable if Sean Young never mounted a horse again.

          Allegedly pulling a “Fatal Attraction” on James Woods, 1987-89.
          This is the mother-load, although its veracity is something of an open question. BUT IF IT IS TRUE — holy fuck. Also, regardless, it had a permanent affect on Young’s career. Woods, her co-star in the 1988 financial drama “The Boost” (that trailer’s got an amazing elevator muzak soundtrack, by the way), sued Young for stalking him and his then-fiancee (and eventual ex-wife), Sarah Owens. Both James Woods and Sean Young denied the source of the rancor, but a bevy of on-set witnesses (including screenwriter Darryl Ponicsan) testified that they had an intense affair during production (where they played a coke-addicted Hollywood couple). Who broke things off is unclear — the Woods suit alleges there was no affair; his supporters say he ended things which confused, then angered, Young; Young also denies it happened; but her supporters say she ended things. The Woods suit posited that Young went on the offensive — she left them furious voicemail screeds; she trampled $500’s worth of flowers in their Beverly Hills garden; and she sent them anti-abortion newsletters (Owens had recently undergone the procedure), furious letters, plus photographs of corpses and mutilated animals. Finally, the icing on the cake forewent the mailbox and was delivered straight to their doorstep. This ultimate gift was a beheaded baby doll, its chest drenched in iodine to evoke blood. The doll’s face, lying adjacent to its body, was covered in cadaver-channeling white make-up. This was a pretty public case, and it would hit Young’s stock in Hollywood much harder than Woods’s.

          After all the hoopla had blown over, the Woods clan and Young settled out of court and her legal fees were covered (per this Hollywood Reporter article also linked in Listcore Entry #2). Were Woods so confident he could wring more cash from Sean Young in court, you’d expect the case to have gone to trial. Also, in the interest of fair and balanced — and wholly speculative — reporting, this writer has heard some unsavory things about James Woods from some production folks in the know, so it’s hard to say how much of this incident is a fabrication. Did they have an affair (again, they both deny this, but a LOT of folks from “The Boost” seemed to confirm it)? Did the doll deposit actually transpire? Did Sean Young actually pay a guy to hang the doll up by a rope above their door, and subsequently get pissed when he didn’t and wrote Woods and Owens a letter apologizing for leaving the doll with them at all? Was the whole incident slander and hearsay, designed to besmirch a lover who had scorned Woods and riled up Owens? Did Sean Young Krazy Glue James Woods’s penis to his inner thigh while he was asleep as a joke? WE MAY NEVER KNOW, BUT ALL THESE RUMORS ARE A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD IN SOME VERY REPUTABLE MAGAZINES. But, wholly fing s, tell me this isn’t some “Fatal Attraction”-level psychopath behavior.

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  19. Sean Young spoke to us about Blade Runner, Stripes and Dune for Empire’s #80sMonth:https://t.co/dWnCZuwGuL

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  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
    Producer
    In the Name of the King 3, Rampage: President Down
    http://www.uwebollraw.com

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

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

    https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18239152-original-blade-runner-star-sean-young-admits-she-voted-for-trump!-hates-hillary!

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

    —Anonymous

    reply 10 10 hours ago

    Like

  23. Whose Career Is Pretty Much Shelly Duvall Kaput?

    https://www.datalounge.com/thread/18636107-who-s-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.

    —Anonymous
    reply 13
    2 hours ago

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    • 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.

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  24. Thought you might like this, a collection of personal polaroids taken on the set of Blade Runner by ms Young herself. http://www.vintag.es/2016/06/astonishing-polaroids-from-private.html?m=1

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    • Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

    • “Blade Runner” – 1982 . . .

      https://www.datalounge.com/thread/19465383–blade-runner-1982-.-.-.

      The design elements (sets, lighting, and especially, the costume design) were all superb. Sean Young (IMHO) never looked as beautiful as she did here. (And Ford is looking tasty as well).

      —Anonymous

      reply 3 2 hours ago

      Sean Young really fell hard, didn’t she?

      —Anonymous

      reply 4 an hour ago

      Sean Young was so beautiful in this film. In that clip alone, she is stunning. I can understand why people thought she had potential.

      The Vangelis score is stunning. For some reason, though, Vangelis refuses to release the score in its entirety.

      —Anonymous

      reply 6 an hour ago

      Sean Young was really lovely. Not all that pretty but androgynous with beautiful coloring. I love Blade Runner so much but I think Ridley Scott filmed this same scene over again in Thelma and Louise when they are silently driving to the buzzy electric theme song under the desert skies. Beautiful both times.

      —Anonymous

      reply 7 an hour ago

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  25. Good Bad Flicks – Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985)

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