What Happened To 80s Icon Sean Young?

Tracking down the star of Blade Runner and No Way Out.

Sean Young as Rachael in Blade Runner
80s sci-fi classic Sean Young as Rachael in Blade Runner. Image Warner Bros Pictures

If you grew up on classic 80s movies, chances are you’ll have seen Sean Young in action.

Starting out with a small role in Bill Murray comedy Stripes, she bagged the part of Replicant Rachael in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner.

Provocatively smoking a cigarette while Ford’s grizzled Rick Deckard puts her through the Voight-Kampff test to determine if she’s human or not, the scene made an immediate impact and left a generation of cinemagoers smitten.

Hollywood producers and directors took note, too. Young worked with David Lynch on the wildly ambitious but chronically flawed Dune, Tony Scott on underrated thriller No Way Out and Oliver Stone on zeitgeist financial drama Wall Street.

A cruel twist of fate came in the late 80s when she was cast as Vicki Vale in Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s Batman. After falling from a horse during rehearsals, Young broke her arm and had to be replaced by Kim Basinger.

Losing a role that could’ve heightened her profile even more was a blow, and several years later she allegedly stormed onto the Warner Bros lot wearing a homemade Catwoman costume to convince Burton to put her in Batman Returns. The part, of course, ended up going to Michelle Pfeiffer instead.

Young even went on The Joan Rivers Show dressed as Catwoman to plead her case, but the incident seemingly left a sour taste in the mouth of Hollywood producers. Young’s frankness was too much for some, with her admitting that being “direct” wasn’t helping her career.

Today a leading lady as honest as Young would no doubt be praised to the rafters, but the 80s were a different time.

“The city of angels? It’s the city of devils. The city of smiling cobras. This town eats venom for breakfast. Me, I just eat a nice breakfast,” Young said in a 2008 interview with Entertainment Weekly.

“I’ve been forced to deal with my character assassination. I never hurt anybody in this business, ever. But, the sin is not with me.”

Young did have a plumb role opposite Jim Carrey Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and since then she’s guest-starred on TV shows ranging from ER to The Young and the Restless, plus appeared in quality indie movies including Kurt Russell cracker Bone Tomahawk.

She has as many as ten new movies in the pipeline and, after raising her two sons, the film career seems to be back in full swing.

Young might not have a role in upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049, but with nostalgia more powerful maybe its time for a comeback.

Just imagine the kind of role Quentin Tarantino could conjure up for her?

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Loaded digital media manager Simon Reynolds has written about film and entertainment for various leading websites since 2008. Follow Simon at @simonreyn