For much of the 80s, a bona fide movie star
March 30, 2015 12:43 PM   Subscribe

"In the hands of another actor, she could have just been one more detail in Scott’s design scheme, a clothes horse in a coil of cigarette smoke. But Young makes Rachael breathe. It’s a tricky role: she must seem slickly artificial, while hinting all the time at warm humanity. As Harrison Ford’s jaded ex-cop Deckard falls for her, the whole film hinges on us understanding why. That she pulls it off owes a lot to her raw presence – but presence is the lifeblood of movies."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (44 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's a great essay, and I was glad to be reminded of how good she was in No Way Out.
posted by languagehat at 12:59 PM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Interesting piece. She obviously had some troubles, but those are so common in Hollywood as to be unremarkable, and yet her few moments of public embarrassment, her minor fights with costars, and her substance abuse problem were treated as evidence of some sort of madness. I think she's right -- if she were a male star, there would have been a different structure to the narrative. She would have been seen as an intense creative partner with strong ideas, rather than "difficult." Her public embarrassments would have been seen as amusing eccentricities, rather than proof that she's a lunatic. The James Woods story would focused on the fact that Young actually won the case -- as the story mentions, she was awarded $227,000 -- and not on the unproven allegations of bizarre behavior.

She was a wonderful actress and obviously a smart person, and she seems really damaged by her experiences, and that's just criminal.
posted by maxsparber at 1:00 PM on March 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


She also showed a wonderful sly comedic ability in Fatal Instinct (a spoof of movies like "Basic Instinct" and "Fatal Attraction").
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


No mention of Ace Ventura, eh? That was one of the first times I remember feeling sorry for an actor in a movie.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:08 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


She was and is, incredible.
posted by Oyéah at 1:11 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I always liked her.

Tell me of your homeworld, Usul probably runs through my head every single day.
posted by Kafkaesque at 1:13 PM on March 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


My first semester at NYU, all the drama students had to take a weekly "business of theater" seminar which was basically "someone from each and every profession in theater gets up to talk for an hour about 'here's my job, and here's what that actually means'" - lighting designers would talk about "what is lighting design", literary managers would explain "what the hell is a literary manager", etc.

And at some point, despite the fact that "what is an actor" may seem an obvious question, they had a session about actors - and Sean Young was one of the two actors thus invited to speak to us. She was still on enough of a career "high" that I felt surprised and privileged that she'd come to talk to us; but I don't really remember much about what she said, because it sounded like a lot of her career had taken a somewhat unusual and unlikely path, so she couldn't really give us any practical "here's what I did and it's what you should do" advice. I do remember she laughed a lot, as if she were slightly baffled she was asked to have been there.

I got the sense that she was something of an unusual and distinct personality who was either unwilling or unable to play any of the kind of socio-political games a celebrity-level career required; she could play any part in front of the camera, but she could only be an unedited version of herself off screen, and that proved to be a disadvantage.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on March 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


“Honestly Danny boy, I’m not sure what you are calling the Sean Young story because if you go ask any normal person walking the street they will most often say: ‘I LOVE her.’”

QFT
posted by chavenet at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


An amazing actress; I hope she was happy with this profile. I know it made me like her as a person.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


My favorite line/delivery of hers was, "Looks like a baboon in a closet at midnight."
posted by nom de poop at 2:00 PM on March 30, 2015


Rutger Hauer is an interesting counter-example, actually; he's had a similar career arc, frankly, not so much because he was kept down but rather because it took only a few years for people to realize that he was pretty one-note and sort of an uncannily lifelike representation of a human rather than an actual human (which is why, it turns out, he was good at playing a replicant.) But when people talk about Rutger Hauer, they almost never think of the wretchedness that was Ladyhawke – ugh – no, they lapse into laudatory phrases about the brilliance of his work in Blade Runner, when in actuality he was the one who just happened to have been handed the best monologue in the film, and delivered it convincingly enough to pull it off. This piece is right: Sean Young (and Daryl Hannah) are much, much more skilled in that film than Rutger Hauer (or Harrison Ford, for that matter) and bring humanity and warmth to the movie in a way that none of the men in it do. And they do so without the big, shiny monologues that the guys get. And yet when people talk about Blade Runner, it's all Harrison and Rutger and Ridley.
posted by koeselitz at 2:09 PM on March 30, 2015 [17 favorites]


he was the one who just happened to have been handed the best monologue in the film, and delivered it convincingly enough to pull it off

I'd always heard that Hauer wrote the monologue, although it seems like it was a bit more complicated than that. Still, he wasn't just Ridley Scott's meat puppet in that movie.
posted by figurant at 2:22 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno, Blade Runner is so weird. The whole movie dances this weird jig with the idea of objectification and I can never tell if it's creepy brilliant or just creepy. The scene where Deckard pushes her up against a wall always turns my stomach. Like, are we setting this scenario up because we're trying to show how you can treat people like disposable objects, or are we setting up this scenario because we want a reason to treat the characters like this?

And admittedly part of my head-scratching is the fact that Ridley Scott's films seem to have become steadily less notable... I don't really mean less good, but less distinctive from any other filmmakers, so it's hard for me to give him a ton of credit. Alien, on the other hand, has very human characters, so maybe I should give Scott/the movie the benefit of the doubt after all?

Sean Young is excellent, though... watching her performance, I kind of feel like she is aware she's dressed up as a movie prop and is channeling that to make something interesting.

Re: Rutger Hauer... he just seems to have stiffened into wax somehow. He's so ferally alive in Blade Runner and then it's almost like his face gotten frozen by a stroke or something. I watched Soldier of Orange a while back (an earlier Verhoeven film with Hauer) and he's pliable and relatively normal.
posted by selfnoise at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


Much like Sean Young, Rutger Hauer was astonishingly beautiful in his youth. But based on the photo in the Guardian article, I'd say Young has the better of him.

And he was never a very good actor, just occasionally well-cast.
posted by suelac at 2:23 PM on March 30, 2015


She's absolutely one of he best things about Blade Runner. Also, from her Wikipedia page:

"In 2008, Young competed in the television program Gone Country 2, which included a competition in a celebrity demolition derby at the Henry County Fairgrounds in Paris, Tennessee. Young went on to win the celebrity derby heat and then went on to compete against 21 professional demolition derby drivers. Young finished in fourth place."

I would love to read/hear a longer interview with her.
posted by cyphill at 2:24 PM on March 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


I was thinking of her a while back, for some reason, and saw that she had a FB page, as Mary Sean Young. It's a completely ordinary FB page, just like your friend's mom would have. Pictures of the kids; lots of grinning shots with heads together; reposts of articles with wrong but well-meaning granola ideas. She's a person.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:54 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


She's posting in the Guardian comment section as Mary Sean Young, too.
Really wish we could've seen her Vicki Vale.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:58 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long...
posted by acb at 3:19 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


She's just so perfectly not quite human... just....
posted by Cosine at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2015


Seconding the desire to see her in place of Basinger as Vale. That could have been... menacing? She could cut a very believable journalist.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 3:31 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


For those that haven't read it, Hauers autobiography, All These Moments, is excellent. And though he's never matched Roy Batty when he's in something you know you are in for a certain kind of fun.
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


chavenet: ““Honestly Danny boy, I’m not sure what you are calling the Sean Young story because if you go ask any normal person walking the street they will most often say: ‘I LOVE her.’” ”
The best part of Blade Runner has always been Sean Young. She's all too right, because I love her.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:37 PM on March 30, 2015


It’s strange, how the Blade Runner legend now leaves out both Young and her co-star Daryl Hannah

I haven't seen Blade Runner in a long time but Daryl Hannah made as strong an impression on me as absolutely anyone in that movie except Hauer. Interestingly Sean Young did not - Ford didn't really either I mean he's Harrison Ford I like him but I know what he does - but I haven't seen it in a very long time and probably should again.
posted by atoxyl at 4:49 PM on March 30, 2015


I would have given credit for "the legend of Blade Runner" to Ridley Scott, the set designers, Vangelis, Batty and Pris, approximately in order. But I was a teenager the last time I saw it.
posted by atoxyl at 4:52 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


(and Phil K. Dick)
posted by atoxyl at 4:54 PM on March 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


If I were a man I’d have been treated better

Certainly. You won't find a single person that would disagree with you. But she would've also been treated better had she been sane and talented.

Emma Thompson (2 time Oscar winner) and Marcia Gay Harden (Oscar winner) were both born the same year as Sean Young. So were Allison Janney, Catherine Keener and Patricia Clarkson.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:19 PM on March 30, 2015


I always thought that Harrison Ford's character was a replicant too. So whay ever they did together was a lear.img experience, between two who were becoming human.
posted by Oyéah at 5:32 PM on March 30, 2015


You and Ridley Scott.

I'm less keen on that idea - it makes him less interesting, it robs the story of a lot of its themes, it's a bit of an antiquated twilight zone style twist. Oh, and Deckards now an inexplicably human-strengthed superhuman.

It does get a lot better if you factor in this fan theory though.
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on March 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Blade Runner is and has been my favorite film for most of my life. Its juxtaposition of the '40s and '50s black and white pulp detective story with a near future sci-fi dystopia is utterly seamless.

It was like Alien, the future was not going to be clean. There were going to be roving packs of midgets and children hiding in trash to ambush you if you drove into the bad part of town. Rick Deckard seems like such a Humphrey Bogart role.

From an acting standpoint, you certainly can't leave out Daryl Hannah, she really put herself on the map with Pris. That being said, there's an argument there that the entire cast turned in a stellar performance. Man, that cast is deep. (How is Tyrell/Joe Turkel still alive and Leon/Brion James dead?)

Countess Elena: "She's a person."
Actual people don't seem to work out so well in Hollywood.

Confession, I had a crazy teenage crush on Sean Young as an adolescent. "Tell me of the waters of your homeworld, Usul" indeed.
posted by Sphinx at 5:55 PM on March 30, 2015


Important to know that James Woods by many accounts an arrogant, dishonest, unpleasant asshole.
posted by jfwlucy at 6:10 PM on March 30, 2015


Confession, I had a crazy teenage crush on Sean Young as an adolescent.

You and me both.

Blade Runner has always been a favorite of mine. I was a big Harrison Ford fan prior to Blade Runner but he isn't close to being the best part of this movie. Deckard is just a vehicle, if that makes sense, that takes you around, shows you the sights and introduces you to the amazing characters.

I always thought that Harrison Ford's character was a replicant too

That's what I got out of the director's cut. The unicorn dream and the unicorn origami that Gaff leaves in his apartment seem to indicate that.
posted by MikeMc at 6:29 PM on March 30, 2015


I love Sean Young, etc., but her casting in Dune looks really off to me. She's way too white. I know it's a small nitpick in the general weirdness and wrongness of Lynch's Dune, but she looks nothing like the Chani I've carried a torch for all these years.
posted by signal at 8:26 PM on March 30, 2015


I always thought that Harrison Ford's character was a replicant too

I used to go back and forth on this, pretty much each time I watched the film. Then I read someone's interpretation--I don't remember where; it may have been The Dissolve--that Deckard is a human being who has become nothing more than a machine, and he's re-learning how to be human from a machine that wants to become human.
posted by MrBadExample at 8:48 PM on March 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


It is worthwhile to read the comments on the linked article; Young makes a number of comments very much worth reading. She is quite self-aware.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:38 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


But when people talk about Rutger Hauer, they almost never think of the wretchedness that was Ladyhawke

The what now?
posted by pseudocode at 2:22 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's no Split Second or Wedlock, but come on now.
posted by Artw at 5:46 AM on March 31, 2015


Young's replies to the article can be read here:

https://profile.theguardian.com/user/id/14693461
posted by signal at 5:49 AM on March 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I always loved the way she reaches for her cigarette while taking the Voight-Kampff test, trying to hold absolutely still. Then when she goes to light it and the lighter won't strike she makes a great face, sort of like "real smooth there, perfect replicant lady".

Also I remember her doing a Comedy Central commercial, where she describes her beauty regimen, with the last part being for her mind, including a "combination of sublimation and denial, to keep from remember that all this is meaningless". And I believe this was right when she was in the middle of being trashed in the media as a head case.

I don't know if I have a real point, I just remember her being pretty cool and think it sucks that she was so mistreated by the Hollywood machine.
posted by tetsuo at 7:31 AM on March 31, 2015


I also liked her in Stripes, which came out the year before Blade Runner.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:19 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


But when people talk about Rutger Hauer, they almost never think of the wretchedness that was Ladyhawke

The what now?


The only thing wrong with that movie was the unfortunate (but understandable) miscasting of Matthew Broderick. Hauer is great in it, I think.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:55 AM on March 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hauer's been great in everything I've seen him in.
posted by I-baLL at 11:58 AM on March 31, 2015


So utterly cool and hot at the same time in No Way Out, I completely fell in love with her watching that movie for the first time.
posted by e1c at 11:59 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


> Important to know that James Woods by many accounts an arrogant, dishonest, unpleasant asshole.

"If you ever bought a dog what did you buy? You bought a f**king puppy... You don't buy a thirteen-year-old german shepherd. You buy a nice young puppy - what are you crazy?"
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:18 PM on March 31, 2015


From the comments: "Poor Dannybald, you don't sound well. Is this what you do everyday, is troll the internet leaving negative comments? Oh dear....well, good luck to you anyway."

Classy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:41 PM on March 31, 2015


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