On Friday of last week, for about 40 minutes, as she rode home to Astoria from her tap-dancing lesson, I spoke to Sean Young, the actor who rose to fame in 1982's Blade Runner and then subsequently “saw my career go up in flames” in a series of professional setbacks (among them: she lost the role of Vicki Vale in 1989's Batman when she fell off a horse, and was fired from 1990's Dick Tracy).
There was the tabloid fodder, too: In the late ‘80s, James Woods sued her for harassment (the case was settled out of court), she campaigned for the role of Catwoman by dressing up as an iteration of the character on an episode of The Joan Rivers Show (Michelle Pfeiffer eventually won the role), she was kicked out of Vanity Fair’s 2006 Oscar party for trying to crash it, and then she she did the same thing at the 2012 Governor’s Ball and was arrested. “The more I tried to defend myself, the crazier I looked,” Young told me of her controversies.
Along the way, she made movies she described as “clunkers” and appeared on reality TV, which she told me was “the least fun thing that I did.” She concedes though that her stint on Celebrity Rehab helped her quit drinking.
Now, at 56, she still works, though the movies are generally smaller than they were in her career’s heyday. She’s promoting Mickey Keating’s Darling, a black-and-white Polanski-esque descent into madness, in which Young cameos. She agreed to talk with Gawker about her career, her controversies, and the beliefs she writes about on Facebook, from the existence of chemtrails to anti-vaccination positions, and support for Donald Trump.
Below is a transcript of our phone conversation, which has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.
Gawker: You appear in Darling briefly. What do you think about this movie?
Sean Young: I think it’s a good effort by a…well, I guess Mickey might be called a millennial. Are the millennials in their early twenties?
I think so.
I think it’s a very insightful effort to create something viable under limited circumstances. I think he does a great job at creating a story that keeps you interested.
Was there anything specifically appealing about this movie to you?
The appealing thing was to help my friend [Darling star and executive producer] Lauren Ashley Carter out. I did another show with her a few years ago called Jug Face, and I really like Lauren. I think she’s an up and comer. She’s funny. She asked me a few years ago what my advice was, and I said, “Be your own producer.” I think she has to run with that idea. I’m proud of her. She put the team together. She does a great job in the film. It didn’t kill a lot of my time to help her out and so I was happy to do that for her.
Darling is, broadly, a horror movie. You’ve done quite a few of those over the years. Do you have any particular affinity for the genre?
I don’t actually really like horror that much. I just like my friends. If my friends call me and want my help, I’m happy to help. It helped them for me to be in the picture. But I don’t have any dying, burning need to be in a horror show. Having said that, I think Mickey did a great job with it. It’s very stylish.
It helps them for you to be in the movie because Sean Young is still a name in 2016, right?
That’s correct. And ain’t nobody gonna change that (laughs).
When we talk about Sean Young, we talk about your roles, but we talk about a lot of other things as well. I wonder how you feel about the entire narrative arc of your public image? In my opinion, the antics have only made you more interesting as a human being.
Well, I’m happy to hear that. It doesn’t bother me now. I’m a 56-year-old woman, and yes I do look good for my age and I’m in good health. I can’t be bothered with worrying about it anymore, but I spent a lot of years in…look, I would call it desperation. I saw my career go up in flames and it was heartbreaking to me. The more I tried to defend myself, the crazier I looked. Even though that’s not really fair, what I learned quickly is that fair has nothing to do with it. It’s all perception. It’s all what people believe, it’s not really what’s in fact accurate. I have a unique experience and I’m called upon a lot now from people who have been in the business for a while and want my opinion or who are up and comers and would like my advice. And the funny thing is is the aperture under which I can observe all of this is quite extensive, from really massively huge budgets to low budgets to reality TV, which I think is a scourge on the earth, but it’s what’s paying people now. A lot of people’s bread and butter is coming from reality TV, and people watch it. You have to ask yourself: where do you want to make your living?
You did at one point chose to make your living via reality TV.
A few times, and it was the least fun thing that I did, but in some ways it was the most lucrative. I was very grateful. I’ve been very grateful, even for the clunkers that I’ve been able to do, because I was able to take care of my family and pay my bills and put money away. I’m a very practical girl. I’m Capricorn rising. I like to take care of my business and make sure things are in order. I’m not the…whatever the reputation has been in terms of whether I’m allegedly crazy or not. I can tell you unequivocally that I’m a very sensible girl and very practical.
The infamy, I think part of that was not having learned the protocol. When I was in my 20's and very famous, very under the spotlight with Blade Runner and all the other films I did in the ‘80s, it’s not particularly educational in terms of what the rest of the world puts up with on a day-to-day basis. You’re sort of pandered to when you’re young and you’re the star. And that makes sense. So my education, in terms of being more practical, has come later in life. But I’m grateful for all of it.
Do you think that being famous as young as you were affected your development at all? Did it mess with your head?
Oh hell yeah. Absolutely. I didn’t understand the rules. I would do it the same. I underwent a lot of sexual harassment, and I know there are probably women who would put up with that. I never did, and I paid a high price for that. There’s a lot of people who paved their way to the top by opening their legs. That was not something I could ever do, and that’s all right. It’s not just women who put up with that stuff either! Men put up with it too. In my opinion, it’s not a gender issue. It’s a power issue. I had an interview earlier today and one yesterday, and I don’t do a lot of interviews ‘cause I…talking about myself is, like, my least favorite thing. But the previous two interviews were women and they were talking about gender. I was like, “You know, that’s not really a newsflash, is it?” Women have always been paid less. In some ways it’s changing, because the population at colleges is made up of mostly women. Because women will bitch less and work for less, they’re working more.
I guess what’s galling is that it’s not a newsflash and yet it persists.
Well, yeah. It will persist and it’s designed that way. That’s the way it is. That’s why I said to Lauren, “Be your own producer.” I admire Sandra Bullock a lot. There are a lot of pictures she does that I don’t love, but there are quite a few that I do. She has a kind of trademark. She’s her own producer. She’s got a business head. She knows what her brand is. She knows what she’s good at selling in terms of what she can do. Very sensible girl. I was encouraging Lauren to do the same. Don’t wait for producers to hand you stuff. Create your own stuff. That way you’re more in control in what you want to do. And then gender and pay and all that stuff is a moot point.
You said you’ve been sexually harassed. Do you name names?
Oh, not on your life.
Why? You’re so outspoken about so many other things.
Because it won’t hurt the person I name, it’ll only hurt me. If I thought that it would actually hurt the person that’s responsible for it, I would, but it won’t. It’ll just hurt me.
Because people won’t believe you and it’ll be a big controversy…?
No, they’ll believe you and then they’ll say, “You have a big mouth.” And then they won’t want anything to do with you, because they know what they are.
Is navigating the movie industry, then, to this day for Sean Young a matter of strategy and choosing your battles?
No, I wouldn’t say so at all. I would say that my career is mostly over in the sense of I’m not really ambitious and the big boys don’t call me. I’m not in really, really big movies. I make a difference in a small way to a lot of people who are wanting to build careers for themselves and who need a quote-unquote name in their show. I won’t do just anything, but I’ll do a lot for my friends. I just think that’s more human. I like that about myself.
It seems like a matter of progress that you can very casually say, “My career is mostly over,” whereas it seemed like for years, that’s not anything you’d be willing to concede. You were fighting.
I think that’s accurate. Really, when I was out fighting for roles, nobody had a sense of humor. I guess I came off as much more threatening or powerful than I actually was aware of. I’m not really that kind of fighter, so at some point, I was like, “This isn’t fun.” And if it’s not fun, what’s the point? I’ve had a lot of fun, though, since I moved back to the East Coast in 2012. I’ve helped a lot of people, and I know a lot of people. My part of the story is that I never really was particularly ambitious. I know it might have seemed like I was, but that’s not really true. I think that if I was, I would have nurtured those relationships better. I have some social awkwardness that dogged me for a lot of years. I just wasn’t comfortable. I wasn’t perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I wasn’t crazy. So that was kind of painful. You know, like, “Crazy? Crazy? No, no over here: that’s crazy.” Robert Downey Jr., waking up in a neighbor’s son’s or daughter’s bed drunk, that’s crazy. Me? No, I’m not crazy. And I’m certainly not the first person in Hollywood to have an alcohol issue. I was a little bit of a whipping girl, and my wings were clipped by a few people that were in a position to do that.
What did you end up thinking about Michelle Pfeiffer’s performance in Batman Returns, which is considered to be one of the great blockbuster performances of all time?
I thought she was fine. Obviously, I don’t think it was as good as if it would have been me (laughs). She does fine, but the thing I didn’t like about the way they wrote the character is they had to make Catwoman crazy, like mentally unstable. I thought it would have been fun to have her be like, “Yeah, I can kick your ass and not even think about it. I’m that bad. I’m bad to the bone, and it’s not because I’m mentally ill. It’s because I have an axe to grind with all these guys who have kicked my ass all these years.”
Everybody knows that Woods has been crazy for years. Everybody’s known that. That’s not a newsflash either. As unfair as that [situation] was, the upside is that I’m not him, and I don’t have to look at my life and say that I ever did that to anybody else. People that I’ve worked with over the years, they’re still calling me. They want to work with me. I’m light. There are people in Hollywood who are afraid of me, but they don’t actually know me. Most people in Hollywood that do make the effort to call me or know me or ask me or offer me something…there’s a lot I did. So I continue to work. I think the best way to put it is: I feel cherished, I feel appreciated. Not so much in the big boys department, but it’s a tough business. Not every environment is as healthy as every other environment.
Do you think ageism played into your career trajectory at all?
Well, it’s a youth-driven business, obviously. And I’m not going to say yes to some role where I’m going to have to be in a sex scene with anybody anymore. The door swings both ways.
You wouldn’t do a sex scene?
Not anymore. I’ve done that, and I’m not interested in that anymore. And I never really was, but it was in the script and I had to do what I was asked to do, and whatnot. Yeah, there is ageism, but it’s not a newsflash. I’m sure that that’s been true from the very beginning. And it’s not just true in our industry, it’s true in every industry. People want to hire younger people. And young people are quicker and more alert, although there’s an argument against that now because the generations do seem to be getting less well-read, and their attention span is suffering from all the exposure to technology and television and media that I think there’s some truth to that. But there’s also an incredible adaptability among younger generations.
It’s a very interesting thing to watch. I think what the millennials are having to do is really respond to the lack of funds and support from what really should be their industry, but the baby boomers aren’t really out of the way yet. They should be retired. These 75-year-old folks running things, in particular the gatekeepers, is like…you should be out of the way. Go join your yacht and let other people take over. They don’t because they don’t want to get old. They don’t want to face their mortality. Maybe they could put that in terms of a lack of humility.
I was looking at your Facebook. You’re a Trump supporter.
At the moment, I am, although I did look at this guy Andrew Basiago. Have you heard of him?
I don’t know. I don’t think so?
Go to the website, andy2016. I’m sure he seems like a complete madman, but when you listen to him and you listen to all of the interviews he’s given…there’s something to that guy. I can say that I’m a Trump supporter in that I’m not a Hillary supporter, because I’m too aware of all of the criminal activities that have been in the Bush administration and the Clinton administrations. I mean, these are cronies, they know each other. One or the other, it doesn’t matter, the same policies still go on, which is more war in the Middle East, and more selling of arms to places that will assure that we have to go in there and have more activity. It’s just fuckin’ crazy. I’m just not for that. I wouldn’t vote for Hillary, so I believe Trump will be the only alternative. But I looked up this guy Andrew Basiago, and I may vote for him, I gotta tell ya. It seems like Trump could be controlled opposition. I don’t know. Hard to say.
Trump’s racism puts me off the most.
Believe me, maybe it’s just that it’s out. You know what I mean? That he says it out loud? All of these people are elitists. You don’t see the actions from our governors, whether they are Democratic or Republican. Let’s put it this way: If the parties were really independent and they were actually really not corrupt, then you wouldn’t see what’s going on going on. They’re all corrupt. The two sides are the same. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t see the things going on. We wouldn’t have a federal reserve. You would be able to audit the books. You have some people who are in charge, who are mostly behind the scenes. Their mistakes aren’t published. They’re not known.
It terrifies me that Trump seems to be bringing out the worst in this country, though. There’s violence at his rallies, a belief that whites are the master race amongst his supporters…
But don’t you think it’s by design? I almost think that’s by design. I think it’s a distraction. You get everybody fighting against one another, and then the people who are actually running the country, whose names aren’t out there in the press and aren’t out there in the front pages, they can sit back, put their hands behind their heads, put their feet up on the desk and have a good laugh at everybody, saying, “Ha, ha, ha, we actually vote.” We don’t vote. It’s like George Carlin said: We have owners. And you ain’t it! Trump, Hillary. Go study some George Carlin videos about the government and you’ll see where my point of view is. I’d rather have Trump than Hillary, but they’re the same. It’s a dog and pony show. It’s entertainment. It’s reality TV. It’s a little more intense than it was in past years because they know the audience needs a vigorous workout. It’s all bullshit.
You’re also anti-vaccination, huh?
Yeah, I am.
There does seem to be evidence that as a result of that stance, whooping cough and measles are making a comeback.
Well, I wonder who’s spreading it. The thing is, you have a very big pharmacological industry, and they want those bucks to keep flowing. It’s definitely not impossible to imagine that there are agents that spread this kind of thing. Remember when the English came over with blankets that were laced with tuberculosis and they gave all those blankets to the Indians? You think that doesn’t happen today?
Thus your belief in chemtrails.
Yeah! Man, we’re getting it from all kinds of areas. I know people will call me a conspiracy nut or whatever, but the evidence is out there. There’s an interview on Red Ice Radio from the guy who worked at the CDC who said that there was evidence of autism and they buried it. And the whole idea that a corporation is responsible for performing their own tests. Are you fucking kidding me? We’ll do our own in-house testing and then we’ll present what we want, and that’s supposed to be the evidence that the EPA accepts? You don’t think there’d be any conflict of interest in that. This stuff is obvious, it’s just that people are finding it hard to believe that there are any corrupt career criminals.
So you are a conspiracy theorist?
Oh absolutely, yes… That’s not my word for it. I would call it alternative reality.
No, that’s a first. What? Tell me that again.
There’s a reveal that your character is a man, and everybody gets sick at the news. It’s saying that trans people are disgusting.
That went right over my head. I just think that there is an agenda to push lifestyles that don’t encourage or support procreation because I think that the elites want less people on the planet so they will support and push lifestyles that don’t necessarily have a lot of procreation.
But we’re talking about a very small segment of the population.
Yeah, but I think the more you support either homosexuality or transgenderism—all of which I think are natural and actually people are born that way. I think that you can learn it as well, but most of the people who I’m friends with who are homosexual are very convinced that they were that way from birth, and I’d have to agree.
Right, you don’t have that experience and can only trust the people who do.
And all of my friends who are gay seem to feel that way. Maybe one of my friends felt that they learned it in their school age years, and have conflict about it as well. I know two people who don’t really want to be gay, because it’s a harder choice for them to be gay—quote unquote not as normal. But, I mean, to me it’s not even about being normal these days! We’re living in insane times. It’s just insanity, some of the things that are happening in the world. Absolute insanity.
Do you have plans to write a book? You should.
I hear that a lot. I do write in a journal, I have since I was 13. I’ve never…like if you write this article and it goes: “Sean Young, Conspiracy Nut,” I’m just gonna be like, “Oh god.” I don’t like being in the crosshairs anymore. There’s too many people whose veil hasn’t been lifted yet, so they don’t really see this in terms of how I see it.
Are you happy?
Yes, I am. And I’m really proud of myself for being happy. One of the things that makes me happy is to not be in the crosshairs and not be under that kind of pressure. I could never be a politician. It would just bring up every hostile instinct I have. Who wants to live that way? I just want to go to my tap dancing classes and be in good health and not have to work at anything that I don’t like.
Darling is now playing in select theaters.