Columbia Pictures / Miramax

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She Was Hollywood's "It Girl," So Why Did Shannyn Sossamon Disappear?

Columbia Pictures / Miramax

As we've explained before, some actresses just seem to become mega stars one minute before vanishing from Hollywood without a trace.

It's not a case of their careers fizzling out, so there must be something to explain their disappearing act.

Shannyn Sossamon quickly became one of the biggest names to hit the scene in the early 2000s, but within a few years it seemed like everyone had forgotten her completely.

Shannyn Sossamon
Columbia Pictures

As the actress reveals, people will often stop her to ask, "You look really familiar. Are you an actor? What you have been in?"

The answers are surprising, and so are Sossamon's reasons for leaving the limelight.

A Rising Star

She was born on October 3, 1978 in Hawaii, but was raised in Reno, Nevada. The day after her high school graduation in 1995, her and two friends moved to L.A. to study dance.

It was then that she changed the spelling of her name from “Shannon” to “Shannyn.” In a 2013 interview she would say “I actually wish I’d changed my whole name. I never felt like a Shannon.  So I added the Y.”

While in L.A. she found work as a model, appearing in commercials for The Gap and in music videos for Daft Punk, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Mick Jagger.

Shannyn Sossamon in Mick Jagger's "God Gave Me Everything"
Sossamon in the music video for Mick Jagger's "God Gave Me Everything"Virgin Records

But it was her job as a DJ that ended up being her big break. One night she was spinning records at Gwyneth Paltrow's birthday party, and her stunning good looks landed her a big part in a major film.

"Yeah, sounds naive and cliche, but that's exactly what happened to me," she explained.

Her breakout role was as Lady Jocelyn, Heath Ledger's love interest in A Knight's Tale, and Sossamon's performance made her a star overnight.

Heath Ledger and Sossamon in 'A Knight's Tale.'Columbia Pictures

While A Knight’s Tale received mixed reviews, she earned two Teen Choice Award nominations and three MTV Movie Award nominations.

She followed up that performance with a leading role in the comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights starring alongside another early 2000s heartthrob, John Hartnett.

Shannyn Sossamon
Sossamon in '40 Days and 40 Nights.'Alliance Atlantis

That's two big parts as the leading lady in back-to-back hit films. But by now you're probably struggling to remember what comes next for Sossamon.

In 2003, she actually co-starred with Heath Ledger again in the horror thriller The Order, but it flopped at the box office, and barely anyone saw it. Sossamon called the late actor "a very special spirit."

Shannyn Sossamon
Sossamon reunited with Ledger in 'The Order.'20th Century Fox

After the film wrapped, Sossamon became pregnant. She gave birth to her first son, Audio Science Clayton (his father is children's book author Dallas Clayton) in 2003.

She later admitted the pregnancy took her by surprise, and it temporarily put her career on hold.

Family Comes First

The actress later told Nylon that her son "completely grounded me and made me look at myself, and my life just became completely different. It was just a gift, and perfect timing, too."

Shannyn Sossamon
Sossamon had a small part in 'The Holiday.'Columbia Pictures / Universal Pictures

Sossamon took time to focus on her son but by the time she returned to acting, her career had cooled down, and she mainly appeared in short films and indie movies.

She appeared on one episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit in 2004, but her next movie role was a small part in 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer.

While she had a small part in The Holiday and was the lead in some straight-to-DVD horror movies, Sossamon's attention was still devoted to her son, and another side project.

Shannyn Sossamon
Sossamon is part of the band Warpaint.Superfora

Sossamon and her sister are part of the band Warpaint, and she put her acting career on the back burner for four years to focus on making music.

"Everything came completely to a total stop"

Shannyn Sossamon in 'Sleepy Hollow.'Fox

Sossamon had a leading role in the horror remake One Missed Call, and has appeared on TV shows like Mistresses, Wayward Pines, and Sleepy Hollow.

While the actress admits she's not a horror fan, she says she doesn't mind being typecast as a scream queen - even if she was once a leading lady.

"The only reason I've done a lot of genre is because it comes to me, and you have to work," she told Uproxx.

"And you know, some have gone better than others."

Shannyn Sossamon

Sossamon also admits that she feels like she missed her chance at stardom, insisting that even in her early career she was never really "famous."

"I know in the beginning, I was 21, and I had done four big films, one after the other," she remembers.

"But when I had my boy I just kind of, I completely, everything stopped. Everything came completely to a total stop."

Still, the proud mom says that was "a blessing in disguise."

"I’m a creative person," she told Nylon in 2015, "so there are other things I can do and I can be easily distracted."

"But [acting] felt like it was supposed to be. I like to think it chose me instead of me choosing it, and I think I’m taking that very seriously now."

Feeling old yet?

Heath Ledger
LA Daily News

While we're taking a trip down memory lane, let's remember Sossamon's frequent co-star, Heath Ledger.

Before he passed away, the talented young star had a daughter with actress Michelle Williams.

The couple met on the set of Brokeback Mountain, and Williams said it was "love at first sight."

Heath Ledger
Ledger with his former fiance Michelle Williams and their daughter, Matilda.Daily Express / Autografas

In fact, the couple welcomed their daughter, Matilda, just two years later.

Despite the fact that Ledger and Williams split before his death in 2008, he was on good terms with the actress and his then two-year-old daughter.

Matilda Heath Ledger
Daily Mail

A decade after her famous father passed away, Matilda is now 12, and many say they see a resemblance to her late dad.

With two talented actors for parents, maybe she'll take up the family business someday.

While we're remembering classic actresses, do you remember the great Lori Petty?

And here are 15 more great actors we totally forgot about.

[H/T: Daily Mail, LA Times]