Pop Culture | Movies | 80s
She Was A Huge Star In The 1980s, So Why Did Sean Young Leave Hollywood?
When Ridley Scott went looking for the perfect actress to play the android who was "more human than human," he settled on dancer and actress Sean Young.
While Young's part as Rachel in Blade Runner was just her third film role, starring alongside Harrison Ford in the sci-fi epic made her an instant star. While she's arguably most famous for this breakout role, Young had no trouble finding jobs in Hollywood in the '80s.
She starred with Kevin Costner and Gene Hackman in No Way Out, where a fiery love scene between her and Costner captured everyone's attention. Smaller roles in Dune (another sci-fi movie with a cult following) and Wall Street cemented her status as one of the decade's biggest stars.
Young even came close to playing Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's groundbreaking superhero movie Batman. She was actually rehearsing for the part when she fell off a horse and broke her arm, being replaced at the last moment by Kim Basinger.
The young actress's fall wasn't just a stroke of bad luck, it was the beginning of her acting career's slow decline. But decades later, as fans look back and ask just why Young vanished from the spotlight, there's two conflicting stories.
Throughout her career, Young was plagued by rumors and gossip, but none were as vicious as the ones about her public clash with actor James Woods.
After starring together as a pair of cocaine addicts in The Boost, rumors swirled that Young and Woods were a real couple.
Then, Woods slapped Young with a $6 million harassment lawsuit, claiming the actress was trying to ruin his relationship with his fiance. He also claimed Young had left a disturbing voodoo doll on his front step.
The story made waves in Hollywood, but Young says her relationship with her costar never really happened. She also blames the lawsuit on the actor's jealous fiance.
"It was a crush being turned down," she says about the story. "That's all.... So sue me! And he [Woods] did."
In the end, the lawsuit was settled out of court, but Woods wound up paying for Young's legal fees.
Young says the whole episode "[boiled] down to two people 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." But even if it wasn't true, it had a lasting effect on her career.
Then, in the 1990s, Young says another powerful Hollywood man helped to finish off her career.
Looking back on her career, Young claims that she was forced out of Hollywood for not towing the line with her male costars and producers.
“The minute you actually stand up for yourself in Hollywood, you’re the crazy one," she explained.
While her legal troubles with Woods were highly publicized, it wasn't the first time Young butted heads with her male costars.
When Charlie Sheen and Young couldn't get along, Oliver Stone had the actress removed from the set of Wall Street, and cut down her part until it almost disappeared from the movie.
And while Warren Beatty says that Young was replaced in Dick Tracy because she wasn't "maternal" enough for her part, Young says she was fired from the movie for turning down Beatty's advances (for the record, Beatty denies this).
Young even crossed paths with Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer who is now notorious for allegedly abusing some of Hollywood's most successful actresses.
In a podcast interview, Young describes an incident very similar to other alleged encounters with Weinstein, where the movie mogul exposed himself to her while she was working on Love Crimes with him in 1992.
"You know, Harvey, I really don’t think you should be pulling that thing out, it’s not very pretty," she said.
In a 2015 interview, Young also hinted that a film producer acted "creepily" towards her near the beginning of her career, before threatening to blacklist her from show business when she rejected him.
While Young did have a notable role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in the '90s, her acting career had dried up by the end of the decade.
After briefly leaving show business to raise her two children, Young returned to television on soap operas like The Young and the Restless, and reality shows like Skating with the Stars.
She was also featured on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, where she confronted her alcoholism. Young says that was the "low point" of her career, "except for the fact that I could retire on the money and I only had to work for 10 days: that part was good.”
While she has made headlines for run-ins with the law in recent years, Young is keeping busy working on small films and in live theater.
Last year, she returned to her most famous role in spirit, coaching another actress who played a new version of Rachel in Blade Runner 2049, complete with a de-aged CGI version of Young's face.
While Young doesn't think a second chance in Hollywood is in her future, she doesn't mince words about why her career went off track in the first place.
“Of course if I were a man I’d have been treated better. Duh.”
Do you remember her classic roles?