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One of a very small number of Academy Award-nominated actresses who also fronted a hard-edged rock band, Juliette Lewis was only 18 years old when she was thrust into the spotlight following her unforgettable performance in Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear" (1991). In quick succession, Lewis co-starred as one-half of young, sexy, murderous couples for whom crime was a just a game in "Kalifornia" (1993) and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Her way with discreetly vulnerable outlaws had audiences believing the actress herself must be unhinged, and a mounting drug problem proved there was some truth to the typecasting. Lewis had difficulty regaining her visibility in Hollywood following her detox, but shifted her focus to music where she proved to be a terrific front woman and formidable singer in her own 1970s style punk band. Lewis toured internationally for years in support of several charting albums, occasionally resurfacing in indies and cable movies, where she made an effort to expand on her well-worn image of dangerous ingénues as well as kinder and subtler characters in more domestic-oriented dramas.Born June 21, 1973, in Los Angeles, CA, Lewis was the daughter of film and television...
One of a very small number of Academy Award-nominated actresses who also fronted a hard-edged rock band, Juliette Lewis was only 18 years old when she was thrust into the spotlight following her unforgettable performance in Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear" (1991). In quick succession, Lewis co-starred as one-half of young, sexy, murderous couples for whom crime was a just a game in "Kalifornia" (1993) and Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994). Her way with discreetly vulnerable outlaws had audiences believing the actress herself must be unhinged, and a mounting drug problem proved there was some truth to the typecasting. Lewis had difficulty regaining her visibility in Hollywood following her detox, but shifted her focus to music where she proved to be a terrific front woman and formidable singer in her own 1970s style punk band. Lewis toured internationally for years in support of several charting albums, occasionally resurfacing in indies and cable movies, where she made an effort to expand on her well-worn image of dangerous ingénues as well as kinder and subtler characters in more domestic-oriented dramas.
Born June 21, 1973, in Los Angeles, CA, Lewis was the daughter of film and television player Geoffrey Lewis and mother Glenis, a graphic artist, who had seven marriages and 11 children between them. Lewis wanted to be an actor from the time she was six, and when she was a teen she landed her first "daughter" roles in the Showtime miniseries "Home Fires" (1987) and the ABC series "I Married Dora" (1987-88). Anxious to get on with a full-time acting career, she dropped out of high school at age 14, passed her equivalency test, and became an emancipated minor at age 15, which allowed her the same workplace freedom as adult actors. While the young actress had already found her experience on sitcoms like "The Facts of Life" (NBC, 1979-1988) and "The Wonder Years" (ABC, 1988-1993) constraining, she tried to gear herself towards drama with a starring role as a 15-year-old facing the death penalty for murder in the TV movie, "Too Young to Die?" (NBC, 1990), which sparked a long-term relationship with co-star Brad Pitt. But her feature film debut as the third actress to play the daughter of bumbling suburban dad Clark W. Griswold (Chevy Chase) in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" (1989) confined her to emotional territory very much in keeping with the sitcoms she loathed. Her turn as a series regular on "A Family For Joe" (NBC, 1990), starring Robert Mitchum no less, was thankfully her last in a sitcom.
The following year she gave a breakout performance as the thumb-sucking nymphet struggling for independence from her warring parents in Martin Scorsese's chilling remake of "Cape Fear" (1991), which earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Her sensuous scenes with a psychotic killer (Robert De Niro) were the most talked-about in an already talked-about remake, and Lewis' brightly piercing eyes and pouty mouth suggested a free-spirited, waifish and dangerously provocative young woman questing for emotional fulfillment. Boyfriend Pitt escorted Lewis to the Oscar ceremony the following year, where the actress' unusual pairing of a sequined gown and corn-rowed hair (and her red carpet explanation that she was going "native") raised a few eyebrows, and suggested that the 18-year-old was perhaps more eccentric than her starlet counterparts. The edgy ingenue was next cast in a supporting role as a college student who becomes involved with her professor (Woody Allen) in Allen's "Husbands and Wives" (1992), sympathetically essaying the would-be "other woman" role in a film whose story of a crumbling marriage and the husband's affair with a much younger woman mirrored the Allen-Mia Farrow breakup. Expanding on her child-woman of "Cape Fear," Lewis began her "psychotic waif" period playing Gary Oldman's peroxide blonde moll in Peter Medak's hopped-up neo-noir, "Romeo Is Bleeding" (1993). That same year, she adopted a horrifically hilarious spastic laugh and adolescent gawkiness for "Kalifornia" (1993). On the road with homicidal partner Pitt and yuppies David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes, Lewis' clueless trailer park Lolita was a perfect "enabler" for Pitt's serial killer.
Lewis was back on the road in Oliver Stone's satirical take on the media,"Natural Born Killers" (1994), where she shared sociopathic tendencies with fellow love-thug Woody Harrelson during a Southwest killing spree. To her credit, Lewis ably captured the frighteningly odd emptiness of her character's moral inattention. Tucked amidst these on-the-edge roles was an atypically sweet, subtle turn with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in Lasse Hallstrom's engaging and offbeat family drama "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993). Following a brief return to comedy in Nora Ephron's cringe-worthy holiday ensemble "Mixed Nuts" (1994), Lewis reteamed with DiCaprio in "Basketball Diaries" (1995), where she returned to her familiar low-life terrain with a small role as a drug addict and hooker. She gave audiences an early taste of her singing talent in Kathryn Bigelow's stylish sci-fi thriller "Strange Days" (1995), and held her place on the outskirts of mainstream film with an appearance in the Robert Rodriquez/Quentin Tarantino vampire outing, "From Dusk 'Til Dawn" (1996). Unfortunately, the fast pace of Lewis' personal life was mimicking her out-of-control onscreen reality, and she could no longer hide her drug addiction by the time she was cast in the "Terms of Endearment" (1983) sequel "The Evening Star" (1996) as a substance abuser.
Taking an 18-month hiatus from movies, Lewis got herself together with the help of Hollywood's Church of Scientology, and returned to pictures in the indie romantic comedy, "Some Girl" (1998). Her next project was Garry Marshall's much more ambitious "The Other Sister" (1999), in which Lewis starred as a mentally challenged female coming of age. She married pro skateboarder Steve Berrea in 1999, and gravitated again towards outlaw material with "The Way of the Gun" (2000). In an abrupt but successful about-face, she starred as the daughter of mentally challenged parents in the TV movie "My Louisiana Sky" (2001), earning a Daytime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Special. The following year she earned Emmy and Independent Spirit Award nominations for playing a tough New Jersey girl in the 1980s-set "Hysterical Blindness" (HBO, 2002), co-starring Gena Rowlands and Uma Thurman. She teamed with Jennifer Lopez in the low-grade thriller "Enough" (2002), as a woman who tries to help her friend escape an abusive husband (Billy Campbell). The following year, Lewis had a supporting role as the girlfriend of Luke Wilson's character in the hilarious feature, "Old School" (2003), a raucous comedy about a trio of thirty-something buddies who try to recapture their college years by starting their own fraternity. She next starred alongside Sharon Stone and Dennis Quaid in the minor thriller, "Cold Creek Manor" (2003).
With her position in Hollywood receding into the past, evidenced by her starring role in an original film for CourtTV, "Chasing Freedom" (2004), Lewis sought a new outlet in music, where she proved a formidable and appealing front woman of Juliette and the Licks, a 1970s-styled glam punk band. The sinewy, writhing and sexually charged Lewis was like an uncaged animal onstage, with raspy pipes that perfectly suited the musical genre. The band's debut EP, Like a Bolt of Lightning was released in 2004, and from its considerable underground buzz, the band advanced to the UK singles charts with the title track of the 2005 follow-up You're Speaking My Language. While the Licks lit up stages at summer festivals, Lewis appeared on the big screen in the adaptation of the 1970s cop series, "Starsky & Hutch" (2004). In 2006, Lewis made her London stage debut as the heroine of Sam Shepard's classic play, "Fool For Love," and a third album, Four on the Floor was released. While not as commercially successful as her second album, it did produce two charting singles. Lewis spent considerable time touring in the UK, the United States and Europe, putting her acting career on hold. She resurfaced with a vengeance in "Whip It" (2009), Drew Barrymore's directorial debut in which Lewis co-starred as the coach of a female roller-derby teen and the terrifying archrival of a newcomer on the circuit (Ellen Page). With its all-star cast of favorite indie film actresses, the film positioned Lewis to regain her big screen visibility and remind viewers of her fiery onscreen appeal.
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Lewis announced in December 1996 that she would enter a drug rehabilitation facility for treatment.
"I didn't take my 'Cape Fear' [Oscar] nomination seriously. I was getting praise, but I didn't know what was remakable about what I did. So then it made me go, 'What are you talking about? I'm no good.' I became self-destructive, and I acted out. I had this teenage attitude.
"Now, I appreciate that nomination. It's a game. It's what we--the show business world--do to acknowledge each other. And if it should come again, I'll keep my head on my shoulders." --Juliette Lewis to Daily News, February 21, 1999.
"People said I was a drug addict before I was a drug addict, so there you go. That's what usually happens in the movie business. The scandals are always tantalizing to somebody. But let's not confuse my wacky style with a substance problem." --Juliette Lewis in Us, April 1999.
"I was a pothead from when I was 13."-Lewis Moveline November 2002
Lewis is the lead singer in a band called The Licks
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