Juliette Lewis, the return of a myth that burned too young

She made her film debut at age seven and was legally emancipated at 15. By age 20 she had worked with Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and Oliver Stone, had been nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and starred on covers for her relationship with Brad Pitt. . At the beginning of the nineties, Juliette Lewis (Los Angeles, 48 ​​years old) was omnipresent because she fit, or was made to fit, in all the fashions cheered from the trend magazines, from the grungy to the heroine Chic, the riot grrrl or the indie. “No one else looked or sounded like her. Whether she tried to appear vulnerable or volatile, she had a playful, uninhibited spontaneity,” Ryan Gilbey wrote in Guardian.

In the mid-nineties, after barely five years of reign, her addictions and her hardly accommodating personality separated her from the front row, like other generation companions such as Winona Ryder or Christina Ricci. With this last one she finishes, by the way, to coincide for the first time in yellowjackets (Movistar+), revelation series of the month, a mix of Lord of the Flies, They live Y lost which has returned it to the international spotlight.

For Juliette Lewis, dedicating herself to acting was a logical consequence within the family lifestyle. Her father, actor Geoffrey Lewis, a regular in Clint Eastwood movies with an unfathomable background as a secondary, saved the babysitter by leaving her daughter in the production trailer while he worked. Until, during the filming of Bronco Bill (1980), when Juliette was seven years old, he took her out of the trailer and put her on camera for the first time. She would not stop chaining appearances in comedies and family films such as my girlfriend is an alien (1988) and Help! It’s Christmas already (1989).

A young Juliette Lewis in a promotional portrait for ABC in 1987.ABC Photo Archives (Disney General Entertainment Con)

At 14, after one of the sitcoms in which she participated forced her to take acting classes, she considered quitting, but the test came to the cape of fear (1991), where he beat 500 applicants and changed everything. “In the comedy they were trying to turn me into a robot, but when you have a Scorsese validating your natural instinct, you think, ‘Maybe I’m doing something right after all. she remembered years later. Apart from her undoubted talent, she also helped her get the role of her, who at that age was already emancipated from her parents. Her reasons were not economic misunderstandings or mistreatment —like other child actors, see Edward Furlong or Macaulay Culkin—, but the actress simply had the approval of her parents.

“I wanted to work, I hated when they said ‘we lose the girl in five minutes!’ and had to do the job in a hurry. And he also had to pay a legal guardian who sat around doing nothing for $600 a week. I didn’t need those things.” declared a Los Angeles Times in 1991. “I know it sounds radical, but when you start acting and you talk to other child actors, it’s the first thing they tell you: ‘If you want to get a job, the industry likes it on your resume that says you’re emancipated because that way you can work more than eight hours. It sounds like slavery, but it is a formula to circumvent a law, dedicated precisely to protecting minors from exploitation, which was also used by other stars such as Alicia Silverstone.

the cape of fear It doesn’t rank among the highlights of Scorsese’s filmography, but the scene in which Robert De Niro seduces Lewis, a 15-year-old girl — even though Lewis was 17 — by a tough ex-con 30 years older defined his career.

“In that little tango between our characters, all I knew was that he was going to come up to me and say, ‘Danielle, can I put my arm around you?’ According to the script, he was kissing me at the time, but all Scorsese said was, ‘Bob is going to do something. You let yourself go.” What De Niro did was stick her thumb in Lewis’s mouth and the actress, whose background was still pretty slim, had to improvise. “I’m sure they didn’t know how she was going to react, if she was going to stay on the scene or she was going to lose her mind.” She stayed and responded as she believed her character would respond. After pulling her thumb away from the actor, she begins to suck on it, she doubtfully looks into his eyes and asks, “Did I do it right?”

the cape of fear It brought her Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. Hollywood went wild with her precocity and, unsurprisingly, continued to exploit her. In his next film, husbands and wives (1992), was the object of desire of the author, Woody Allen. This time the man he was kissing was more than 40 years older. The actress, one of the few in Hollywood who has not disowned Allen, remembers the fear she had of losing a job that came to her while she was overcoming a bad breakup. “At that time, she was sad. She was really depressed. Woody pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen, Juliette, your attitude needs to change or you’re going to end up in the unemployment line,’ she confessed years later in a radio interview with Howard Stern. “Woody just wanted her to be grateful to be where she was.”

In real life, his partner was more Apollonian than De Niro and Allen. A handsome, almost unknown actor who began to make his way after a few minutes in Thelma and Louise: Brad Pitt. Although today it is hard to believe, at the beginning of the nineties the star was her. Director Dominic Sena brought them together in Californiaa road movies about serial killers where they were a couple of white trash Hollywood version, that is, greasy, smelly and hyperbolically attractive, just the opposite of what someone would really find in a trailer park in deep America. The couple became one of the attractions of the press.

When Lewis premiered Natural Born Killers (1994), a misunderstood work by Oliver Stone, critics and audiences believed wholeheartedly that the violent psychopath Mallory Knox was a copy of the one who played her, Lewis herself. “The animosity I faced was due to being a woman. For a woman to play a savage, a sociopath, upsets people. Woody [Harrelson, su coprotagonista] He wasn’t labeled crazy.” lamented in Los Angeles Times. “When I worked with George Clooney years later, she was surprised to meet me: ‘Wow, you’re not crazy.’ And it’s a compliment, but it can also be a crippling accusation, made only because I played an extreme character.” The actress began to perceive the worst side of the industry. “It was what they called the alternative or the weird one, because I didn’t turn into a vampire as soon as they slapped me.”

And the nineties went 'boom': Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis, at the premiere of 'Johnny Suede' in Los Angeles in 1992.
And the nineties went ‘boom’: Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis, at the premiere of ‘Johnny Suede’ in Los Angeles in 1992.Kypros (Getty Images)

then it came Strange Days (1995), by Kathryn Bigelow, an apocalyptic vision of the year 2000 that mixed racist riots and souvenir dealers. Lewis showed her singing facet by performing two songs by her beloved PJ Harvey. He was still working but the relevance of his movies was on the wane. After participating in the vampire comedy open until dawn (1996) took a break to try to curb drug addiction that had started at the age of 13. “Marijuana got boring. And I started using harder drugs. I was playing in the dark and didn’t know how to handle it.”

To overcome his addictions, he turned to Narconon, the rehabilitation program based on the principles of L. Ron Hubbard, the father of Scientology. She had been raised as a Scientologist and even today she defends that religion. “A lot of nonsense is said on the subject. For me it is a philosophy that strengthens. A form of knowledge and I am very spiritual. In addition, it is perfectly compatible with rock, ”she declared to EL PAÍS during one of her visits to Spain.

It did not recover the success of the early nineties. His career stopped dead. In 1999, Lewis married the skater professional Steve Berra and disappeared from the radar. His film career was diluted and the musical grew. “Music has always been my first priority, so I finally thought, ‘Fuck it, it’s now or never. I’d better get started on this while I can still sport some outfits decent”.

Juliette Lewis, during a performance by her group Juliette and the Licks at the Download Festival in England in 2016.
Juliette Lewis, during a performance by her group Juliette and the Licks at the Download Festival in England in 2016.Ollie Millington (Redferns)

In 2004 he formed Juliette and the Licks and released Like A Bolt Of Lightninga punk rock record reminiscent of Courtney Love from hole. Unlike other Hollywood stars, his was not a flirtation that dies after a single in comfortable recording studios. Lewis became involved with the group with the same energy that launched his film career and spent the next two years touring with his group touring Europe in a van. “Music does not give the money that the cinema”, confessed to The Independent. “But that’s okay, I’ve never felt particularly financially driven.” The reviews were mixed, but among them it was never highlighted that the actress was not taking it seriously. “Lewis is exactly the kind of iconic presence that boringly boy-saturated rock needs,” David Peschek praised in Guardian.

From then on, he combined his musical facet with his cinematographic one, but maintaining a much lower profile. She participated in comedies with good box office like Those college parties (2003) or Starsky and Hutch (2004), but it was the drama August (2013), where he shared the poster with Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, which gave him his most important role in his last years. “Six months earlier I had almost lost my father. My sisters and I had joined too. What he brought to the film was having to deal with the mortality of your parents.”

In addition to cinema and music, he has not neglected television either. But in series that seemed destined to be the new great sensation like Wayward Pines, endorsed by the production of M. Night Shyamalan, passed without pain or glory. Without so much hype and saucer came what has become the new obsession of the small screen, yellowjacketswhose unpredictable success has caused many to set their eyes on her again and wonder where she has been all this time.

While basking in the attention he’s garnered, he works on a new version of queer as folk, Russell T. Davies’ groundbreaking play on the gay scene in Manchester, which has already had a lackluster American version and in which he will share the screen with Kim Cattrall. She will also continue with her music career and trying to figure out if she is a singing actress or a singing actress. “The interpretation drives me crazy. It’s a horrible industry, but I don’t know which is worse: music, fashion or movies. They’re all horrible, but they’re all better than being an accountant or a sweeper.”

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Juliette Lewis, the return of a myth that burned too young

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