What Really Happened To Leelee Sobieski? – The List01/07/2021
If you were around in the ’90s and 2000s, then Leelee Sobieski’s face is one that you’ll definitely recognize. Sobieski got her start as a child star in the ’90s, and has starred in many hits throughout her career such as Jungle 2 Jungle, Never Been Kissed, and Eyes Wide Shut. By the time she was in her teens, Sobieski’s star seemed unstoppable — but as the new millennium rolled in, Sobieski’s acting roles began to dwindle. After a while, the actress disappeared from Hollywood altogether, leaving people to wonder where she’d gone.
What happened to make Sobieski leave the industry? The answer is a complicated one, and to understand it we have to look back at her career and her personal life. The good news is that Sobieski is happy with her decision and is living a happy life out of the public eye. Here’s what really happened to Leelee Sobieski.
Leelee Sobieski got her start as a child star
Leelee Sobieski was a little girl when she started her acting career. As noted by the New York Daily News, Sobieski was just 11 when she was discovered in her school cafeteria by a casting agent. Her career started off slowly in made-for-TV movies before she landed her big break in the 1997 comedy Jungle 2 Jungle.
While Sobieski had always thought she’d follow a creative path, following in the footsteps of her mother, a writer, and her father, a painter, acting was not a medium she had thought of pursuing until the opportunity fell in her lap. “It was like, this deck of cards and all these chips had been dropped in front of me, so why not play poker?” she told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1999.
While not immediately successful in the industry, Sobieski took acting lessons and learned “the rules of the game,” setting her down a road that would lead to stardom.
Leelee Sobieski was a big deal in the '90s
Leelee Sobieski racked up a slew of film and television credits in the ’90s. Her first TV movie, Reunion, came out in 1994 and was followed by roles in films and shows like The Home Court, NewsRadio, F/X: The Series, Deep Impact, and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries. One of her best known roles is that of Aldys in 1999’s Never Been Kissed, which she starred in alongside screen legend Drew Barrymore.
Sobieski didn’t shy away from challenging parts, either. That same year she starred in the titular role in the miniseries Joan of Arc, in which her character was burned at the stake; she also appeared in Eyes Wide Shut playing a teenage sex worker. It was difficult subject matter for someone so young, although Sobieski told the New York Daily News in 2001 that she thought her casting “was an especially creative choice” as she “didn’t even have breasts yet,” and had to wear silicone in her bra. Vice noted, however, that Sobieski — who was just 14 when she filmed the movie — wasn’t even “allowed to know the full context” of her role until she was older.
Leelee Sobieski had arcs on several shows in the new millennium
Leelee Sobieski’s momentum carried her through to the 2000s. She starred in a number of productions at the turn of the millennium including the films Here on Earth, My First Mister, Joy Ride, The Glass House, Lying, Heavens Fall, In a Dark Place, and The Wicker Man. Sobieski also had arcs on several television shows during this time including Frasier, Dangerous Liaisons, and Hercules.
For a time, it looked like Sobieski would remain one of Hollywood’s brightest stars for years to come. And while Sobieski’s career continued throughout the 2000s, it had slowed down by this point. Then the actress only appeared in a handful of roles in the 2010s, and most of them were in shows rather than films. Sobieski’s credits during that time include roles in the television shows Drop Dead Diva, The Good Wife, and NYC 22.
Leelee Sobieski missed out on having a normal childhood and adolescence
By the time she was 16, Leelee Sobieski was a bona fide star. And while her early success may have seemed fortuitous, it also prevented her from having a normal youth. As noted by The New York Times, Sobieski found herself juggling school and her career, and it wasn’t unusual for her to head to a photoshoot straight from school without having time to change her clothes. That’s when she was able to go to school at all — when filming, Sobieski had to keep up with her classes through the assistance of an on-set tutor.
Sobieski wasn’t even able to attend her high school prom because she was filming Joy Ride. “We all felt like such jerks,” the film’s director, John Dahl told The Baltimore Sun. The crew all pitched in to buy Sobieski flowers, and Dahl called her “a real trouper about it,” but it was just one more way that Sobieski had to grow up too fast.
Sobieski felt not only the weight of fame but also responsibility, telling AnOther that she took over paying rent for her family’s home at the tender age of 15.
Leelee Sobieski went to college
Even though Leelee Sobieski was a successful actress by the time she was in her teens, she always wanted to keep her options open. In 2001, the 19-year-old actress decided to attend college at Brown University, even moving into a dorm where she shared a room. “If I’m going to have the college experience, now’s my time to do it,” she told The Baltimore Sun.
Sobieski continued to act while she was in school, in spite of the fact that people told her she was “nuts” and didn’t have the time for college. Sobieski was determined to make it work, however, telling The Morning Call, “it’s very important to me.”
Sobieski enrolling in college classes helped give her a taste of normal life, but her time in college was about more than achieving a milestone. Sobieski was also able to nurture other artistic talents at school. While ArtNet noted that Sobieski didn’t finish her degree in visual arts at Brown University, taking the time to explore that passion for art would prove to be of critical importance in Sobieski’s life.
Leelee Sobieski was uncomfortable with her growing fame
Despite the fact that she got her start in the industry at a young age, Leelee Sobieski was never very comfortable being a public figure. In a 2001 interview with the New York Daily News, Sobieski expressed ambivalence about her growing fame. While she said she’d “be really happy” as a bigger star, she added that she was “also really happy not being one.” Sobieski said that she never thought that she would become so well-known, confessing that she’d be perfectly fine if she never acted again as she had other interests she wanted to pursue. “I hope to do many things in my life,” she said.
That same year, Sobieski told The Baltimore Sun that she didn’t like the fact that her salary had become public knowledge. “You don’t want people to know what you have in your bank account,” she explained. Not surprisingly, as she grew older, Sobieski also grew more private. While Sobieski had been rather open about her personal life in her younger years, her growing fame made her reluctant to share too many details about her personal life.
People thought Leelee Sobieski's star fizzled out after she starred in several flops
While Leelee Sobieski continued acting through the 2000s, many of the films she appeared in were not well received. Here on Earth was released in 2000 and was snubbed by critics, holding a tomatometer score of 17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. The films Glass House, 88 Minutes, and In the Name of the King: Dungeon Siege were similarly ill-received.
Sobieski even received two Razzie nominations in 2009 for worst actress for her roles in 88 Minutes and In the Name of the King: Dungeon Siege. It was a surprising turn of events for the talented actress, who was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2000 for her role in Joan of Arc, and again in 2002 for her part in Uprising.
A succession of poorly received films would be daunting for any actor, but Sobieski had other reasons for leaving the acting industry.
Leelee Sobieski got married and had kids
As noted by OK!, Leelee Sobieski tied the knot in 2010 with menswear designer Adam Kimmel. At the time of their marriage, the couple already had a daughter named Louisianna. A son, Martin, followed in 2014. Sobieski threw herself into motherhood and married life, and it was a huge part of the reason she said goodbye to her acting career.
In 2012, Sobieski told Vogue that she was happy to be focusing on her real life. At the time, she was just on a break from acting, but the groundwork for her retirement from the industry was already there. “Ninety percent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don’t want to do that,” she told the outlet, adding that “it’s such a strange fire to play with.”
Four years later, it was clear that Sobieski didn’t regret her decision to step away from Hollywood. “I… am just a mom and an outsider [to the film industry],” she told Us Weekly, adding that wanting to focus on her children was the main reason she quit acting.
Acting was never Leelee Sobieski's passion
For people who view the profession of an actor as a glamorous and enviable job, it can be hard to understand why someone who’d made it in such a difficult industry would want to leave it all behind. For Leelee Sobieski, though, being a star was never something she’d really aspired to. Instead, her career was one that had come about largely through luck.
Things may have been different if Sobieski had truly been passionate about acting, but she wasn’t. It was something she enjoyed, but never something that she felt compelled to pursue. Sobieski explained to AnOther that for her, acting was more about paying the bills than anything else. “Acting was never my passion, unless I was working with someone really interesting and smart,” she revealed.
Sobieski referred to many of the roles she took on as “a money project,” explaining that she felt a burden to be financially successful. “I had a lot of pressure and things got complicated for me,” she added.
Leelee Sobieski hated doing kissing scenes
After leaving her acting career behind, Sobieski grew more candid about the difficulties of the profession. In an interview with AnOther, Sobieski referred to acting as “a gross industry” that requires the “selling [of] your appearance.”
Sobieski also revealed that she hated kissing scenes so much that each one drove her to tears. “I couldn’t stomach it,” she recalled. Sobieski explained that she hated kissing someone she disliked, but she also hated being paid to kiss someone she did like, saying it made her “feel really cheap.” Kissing scenes were especially difficult for Sobieski because she was so young and some of her earliest kisses were on film, blurring the line between acting and reality. “It might have been acting, but it was real for me,” she continued.
Sobieski’s experiences were so traumatizing that she challenged the idea of children even being allowed to act at all. “I don’t know why it’s legal for a child to act unless they can sell oranges or whatever legally too,” she added, calling allowing kids to act “a crazy double standard.”
Leelee Sobieski made an acting comeback… sort of
While Leelee Sobieski’s acting resume lists a credit as late as 2018, her comeback isn’t what it looks like. The Turkish TV movie Amerikali Katz might have been released internationally in 2018, but the film was actually released in 2009 in Turkey.
Sobieski also had a role in 2016’s The Last Film Festival but, again, the movie was filmed years before its wide release. Per IndieWire, the film stars Dennis Hopper — who passed away in 2010 — in his final role. The movie was left unfinished for years until a 2015 Kickstarter campaign raised the funds necessary to complete it. Director Linda Yellen explained in a statement on the film’s Kickstarter page, revealing that “filming…came to a halt” after Hopper passed away. This, combined with funding issues, led to its delayed completion.
Sobieski’s true last roles date back to 2012 when she appeared in the movie Branded and on the show NYC 22. By that point, she already knew that she wanted to step away from acting, but told ArtNet that she “reluctantly” took on her final acting role because she was in need of the money.
Leelee Sobieski launched a career in art
While Leelee Sobieski told Us Weekly in 2016 that she might consider a return to acting one day if she were “playing sweet grandma,” she’s seemed happier to pursue a different creative field: art. At the time, Sobieski said that she painted “secretly,” but it wasn’t long before she’d launched an art career exhibiting and selling her work.
While it may seem like an odd transition, Sobieski did study visual arts in college. “I’ve been doing this for my whole life, pretty much,” she told AnOther in 2018, adding that she “always acted to be able to afford paints.” Even when she was acting, Sobieski was constantly painting, going so far as to line her trailers with plastic so she could paint on breaks from filming. “Painting was always my goal; I just kept getting distracted with work things and paying bills,” she explained to Artnet.
Sobieski’s been well-received in the art world. In addition to paintings, she creates virtual reality pieces and 3D-printed sculptures. “This is definitely cooler than being the nerd in a romcom,” wrote Time Out of one of her shows in 2019, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.
Leelee Sobieski and her husband prefer to live a private life
Leelee Sobieski may be a respected figure in the art community, but she still chooses to stay out of the limelight. While she does have social media, she rarely posts; her Instagram account is mostly art-related, offering very little insight into her personal life.
The desire for a life out of the public eye seems to be one shared by her husband, Adam Kimmel. While Kimmel may not have been as well known as his wife, people have speculated about Kimmel’s whereabouts just as they have wondered what happened to Sobieski. “What happened to designer Adam Kimmel?” asked a 2017 article from GQ Style.
Like his wife, Kimmel retired from the public eye and is focused on his family. “I was just like, ‘I want to be a good husband, I want to be a good dad,'” he told the outlet.
Leelee Sobieski is living in the moment
Leelee Sobieski has no regrets about leaving the pressures of Hollywood behind. She’s quite happy to focus on her art and raise her family, making an effort to avoid not just the spotlight but also the pressures of technology. In an interview with Oprah, Sobieski said that she makes a point of disconnecting one day a week.
From Friday night to Saturday night, Sobieski and her family turn off their phones, internet, and even TV. When they first started doing this, they realized that they were able to spend more quality time in nature and with loved ones, leaving them “refreshed by the break.”
Disconnecting also helps Sobieski live in the moment. She explained that when she first became a mom she was constantly pulling out her phone to take pictures and videos of sweet moments, to the point that she wasn’t “feeling them.” While she still takes pictures, at other times she just “let[s] this moment exist.”
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