- The Washington Times - Monday, September 17, 2001

TORONTO — Leelee Sobieski has joined the movie-of-the-month club. The 19-year-old actress, who has played Joan of Arc and a latter-day Kubrick Lolita in her short career, is breaking out in a big way with the thrillers "The Glass House" and "Joy Ride" and the independent drama "My First Mister," all arriving in theaters just weeks apart.
The flurry of films — one in September, one in October and one in November — was just a coincidence, Miss Sobieski says in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Joy Ride" premiered.
"They were much more spread out when they were shot, and they just kind of appeared, boom, at the same time," Miss Sobieski says.
She says she's a bit concerned about overexposure, "but on the other hand, I think it's kind of exciting that people are going to see me in all these different types of characters at the same time."
Until now, Miss Sobieski was known best for the title role of the television miniseries "Joan of Arc," which earned her an Emmy nomination, and a small part as a teen temptress in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."
Her other film credits include the dramatic romance "Here on Earth," the comedy "Never Been Kissed," the asteroid flick "Deep Impact" and the literary drama "A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries."
Miss Sobieski's full name is Liliane Rudabet Gloria Elsveta, representing, respectively, the names of her French grandmother, Iranian godmother, her other grandmother and her mother's name translated into Polish. Her father is a painter and her mother a writer.
Miss Sobieski, who is in her first semester at Brown University, was growing up in New York City with no aspirations to act when a casting director spotted her at the cafeteria of her private school and suggested the 11-year-old give it a try.
She met with the casting director's assistant and says she was "really, really terrible."
"I went home and thought, I'm really, really bad," she says, "but maybe I could take some acting classes. Maybe I'll be good. Who knows?"
She took drama lessons, went on auditions and quickly began landing TV roles. She made her feature-film debut in the Tim Allen comedy "Jungle 2 Jungle."
"I started making films, but I didn't really know if I liked it yet," Miss Sobieski says. "It was just kind of, 'Yea, I get to travel and leave school and go away with my mom,' and it was just kind of fun.
"Then, more and more, you get bitten by the bug. You get infected. You just end up kind of loving it. It's such a different lifestyle. There's so much adrenaline. Things are always happening. It's always kind of organized chaos."
Fluent in French, Miss Sobieski recently completed the French-language film "L'Idole" and just finished shooting the TV miniseries "Uprising," about the Jewish rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.
In "My First Mister," which opened last winter's Sundance Film Festival, she dons a black wig to become a gloomy, Goth teen who develops an unusual friendship with her button-down boss (Albert Brooks) at a clothing store.
Miss Sobieski co-stars with Paul Walker and Steve Zahn as motorists terrorized by a murderous trucker seeking revenge for a CB-radio prank in the blackly humorous "Joy Ride."
In "The Glass House," she plays a teen-ager unraveling sinister doings by her guardians after her parents are killed in a car wreck.
"Glass House" director Daniel Sackheim says Miss Sobieski has remarkable self-possession for an actress still in her teens.
"She's aged beyond her years," Mr. Sackheim says. "She's not particularly interested in money or fame for fame's sake. She makes her decisions on the work that interests her.
"There's an awful lot to tempt young actors with, but she has her head so squarely on her shoulders that the usual enticements don't seem to carry much weight with her."
Miss Sobieski says she plans to spend half the year in school and half working. Besides acting, she wants to indulge some other artistic passions: "I love painting. It's my favorite thing to do. I really want to be a painter. I really want to be a director, too.
"I want to keep doing films as an actress, but I want to have more time to do other things, as well, and go to school. And other things can only help you as an actress. If you're going to play a painter, learn how to paint.
"It can only help you to portray a life if you know something about it."

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