Saturday, June 15, 2024

What happened to Y2K It girl Leelee Sobieski?

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Back in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Leelee Sobieski was right up there with the bright young things of Hollywood.

With her clear on-screen talent and distinctive look – which often saw her likened to a young Helen Hunt – it didn’t take long for the American actress to make her name, racking up credits in some of the most memorable films of the Y2K era, from Never Been Kissed to Eyes Wide Shut.

At one stage, she was everywhere – but in more recent years she’s gradually retreated from the spotlight, her with last acting role coming in 2016.

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Leelee Sobieski and guest attend the Batsheva fashion show during February 2024 New York Fashion Week. (Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

That is, until this year. In February the star made a surprise public appearance at the Batsheva show as part of New York Fashion Week after years of laying low.

Sobieski – who just celebrated her 41st birthday on June 10 – was spotted wearing a chic green coat and boots as she posed with a guest at the major fashion event.

She paired her Fashion Week look with a very noughties-looking pink lip colour.

A few months later the star reemerged once again as she pictured walking the streets of New York in a casual green shirt, maxi skirt and denim jacket look.

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In the photos, the star looked natural as she wandered the Big Apple by herself.

The rare appearances come years after the actress up and left Hollywood after finding success early on in the noughties.

Read on to find out how Sobieski’s star rose, why she walked away from the spotlight, and the artistic path she’s walking these days.

Leelee Sobieski in Never Been Kissed.
The actress in Never Been Kissed, one of her most memorable roles. (20th Century Fox via Getty Images)

Sobieski has a talent scout to thank for getting her foot in the door; she was spotted in the cafeteria of a New York private school, which led her to audition for Interview With the Vampire.

Though she didn’t land that role, the actress appeared in TV movie Reunion in 1994.

The following year, she starred alongside Mark Harmon in short-lived TV series Charlie Grace.

Things really picked up for Sobieski in 1997 with Jungle 2 Jungle, alongside Tim Allen and Martin Short – not bad for a first movie role.

In 1998, Sobieski’s star continued to rise with her role in Deep Impact, but it was the following year that really catapulted her into the spotlight (and into the hearts of those who came of age at the turn of the millennium).

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Leelee Sobieski at the "32nd Annual AFI Lifetime Achievement Award: A Tribute to Meryl Streep"  in 2004. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Sobieski became a well-known face in the 2000s. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In 1999, she starred alongside Drew Barrymore in classic high school rom-com Never Been Kissed as the kind-hearted nerd Aldys.

Who could forget the moment she walked into the prom dressed as part of the DNA double helix? Science has never been more iconic.

Sobieski also starred as Joan of Arc in the TV movie of the same name in 1999, earning her nominations for an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

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1999 also saw Sobieski star alongside Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut.

From there, she starred in movies including Joy Ride, The Glass House and Here on Earth.Sobieski continued acting well into the 2000s, but her on-screen appearances gradually petered out.

Her last acting credit is 2016 movie The Last Film Festival.

Leelee Sobieski and Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut
Sobieski and Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut (Warner Bros via YouTube)

That year, she confirmed to Us Weekly that she was no longer acting, with her focus shifting to family – husband Adam Kimmel, daughter Louisanna and son Martin.

“I don’t do movie stuff anymore. I am totally an outsider! I am just focused on my kids. I think that’s mainly why I stopped,” she told the publication.

However, in an interview with AnOther, she went into more detail, sharing her criticisms of the acting world and the involvement of children within it.

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“It’s kind of a gross industry – well, they all are, when you examine them – but in acting you’re selling your appearance so much,” she said.

“I would cry every time I had to kiss somebody; I couldn’t stomach it. I would think ‘I like this person, so I don’t think they should pay me to kiss them,’ or ‘I don’t like this person, so I don’t want to kiss them. Why is my kiss for sale?’ It made me feel really cheap.”

Leelee Sobieski
Sobieski quit Hollywood years ago. (AAP)

“I don’t know why it’s legal for a child to act unless they can sell oranges or whatever legally too. It’s a crazy double standard and that’s super weird for me.”

Sobieski, pictured in 2019, may no longer be acting, but she’s certainly still channeling her creativity.

Now known by her married name Leelee Kimmel, she’s worked as a professional artist in recent years whose work focuses on painting, sculpture and virtual reality and has exhibited in galleries around the world.

In fact, she told AnOther art had been her first love and she had always “acted to be able to afford paints”.

“It might sound really weird, but that’s what happened – the cards were just dealt to me that way. But acting was never my passion, unless I was working with someone really interesting and smart,” she explained.

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