Those who grew up in the 90s will instantly recognize the face of Leelee Sobieski. During the final years of the decade, Sobieski became a household name for her starring roles in film and television projects alike. Oddly enough, while Sobieski’s fame rose quickly, she also seemingly disappeared from the entertainment industry just as quickly. While many might think that the decline of Sobieski’s acting career was due to choosing poor roles in her later films, the reasoning is far more complex. In this article, we’ll look into the highlights of Sobieski’s career and why she chose to leave Hollywood.
Born in New York City in 1983, Sobieski was discovered by talent agents at the food court of a private school. Praised for her likable personality and strong resemblance to Mad About You’s Helen Hunt, industry insiders persuaded the young Sobieski to audition for a part in Interview with the Vampire. Although Sobieski lost the part to Kirsten Dunst, she nevertheless got on the radar of Hollywood casting agents. Three years later, Sobieski got her big break when she was cast as Karen Kempster in the Tim Allen-led comedy Jungle 2 Jungle. Although the film itself fared poorly with critics, Sobieski’s performance got her noticed by some of the entertainment industry’s biggest casting directors.
The years 1998 and 1999 are regarded by most as the most important time in Sobieski’s career. First, Sobieski starred alongside Morgan Freeman in the disaster film Deep Impact. Produced on a budget of only $75 million, the film grossed an impressive $349 million. Later that year, Sobieski appeared in the drama A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries. Sobieski’s performance in the film was lauded by critics, who praised her charm and called her one of Hollywood’s rising stars. A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries also saw Sobieski earn her first big award nominations, including a Young Artist Award and a Chicago Critics Association Award.
Also appearing in Never Been Kissed with Drew Barrymore, Sobieski was given the honor of being cast in Eyes Wide Shut, legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s final film. 1999 would see Sobieski’s biggest achievement: the television miniseries Joan of Arc. Sobieski’s turn as the Catholic saint and revered French leader scored her nominations at both the Golden Globe Awards and the Emmy Awards.
Sobieski’s career quickly went downhill after Joan of Arc. The once prominent actress began appearing in films that were both critically panned and box office flops. In 2000, Sobieski co-starred with American Pie alum Chris Klein in the romance Here on Earth. Although critics found Sobieski’s performance likable, the film was one of the worst-reviewed pictures of the year and was a commercial bomb, only making $10.5 million on a budget of $15 million. One of Sobieski’s other films, the 2001 horror-thriller Joy Ride, achieved positive reviews from critics and audiences alike, but underperformed at the box office.
As the decade dragged on, Sobieski starred in films that were largely ignored by moviegoers. Turning to television, Sobieski had a minor role in the CBS drama The Good Wife before leading the police procedural NYC 22 in 2012. The series only lasted one season and was one of Sobieski’s final acting roles.
After disappearing from the acting scene, reporters began asking what Sobieski was doing in numerous interviews. Sobieski usually responds that she is retired from acting and enjoys being a full-time mom to her kids Louisiana and Martin, whom she had with her husband, fashion designer Adam Kimmel. Commenting on her acting career, Sobieski feels that the entertainment industry is “gross,” complaining of how Hollywood sexualized her roles. Sobieski also feels that she was pressured to act from a young age, having paid her family’s rent when she was only 15.
Having retired from acting, Sobieski continues to express herself creatively as a professional artist, drawing on canvas and through virtual reality headsets.