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SOBIESKI, LEELEE : Soldier's Daughter Never Cries

It was meant to be…14 year old Leelee Sobieski’s life was like a rehearsal for her role as Channe in A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, she tells PAUL FISCHER.

There seems to be a lot in common between 17-year old actress Leelee Sobieski and the character she plays in A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, a teenager who divides her time between her Paris home and the US. Sobieski herself spent several years raised partly on a ranch in the Camargue region of France and partly in New York City. "It seems that it was a role I was born to play", comments the actress from her Prague hotel room (see note at left).

A Soldier's Daughter is divided into three segments; the first two are set in Paris in the 1960s, the last on the U.S. East Coast in the early 70s. In the first part, the fictional Willis family - crusty but affable father Bill (Kris Kristofferson), high-strung but fun mother Marcella (Barbara Hershey) and resentful, pre-teen daughter Channe (Luisa Conlon) - welcomes a new, 6 year old adopted son, Benoit (Samuel Gruen), into their impressive Paris apartment. The parents immediately lavish the boy with warmth while Channe, miffed at the prospect of competition, takes a much longer time to accept her new brother.

"I identified with this character in many ways"

The little French kid remains sceptical; he's so used to being shuttled between orphanages and foster homes, he keeps his tiny valise packed at all times. The main crisis of this section is whether Benoit's young mother will ultimately sign the adoption papers. The real drama, though, is in the children's discovery that they can allow themselves to love and be loved. The second part takes place a few years later. Benoit has changed his name to Billy as an expression of trust in his American father, and the adolescent Channe (played for the rest of the movie by Sobieski) has taken up with a flamboyant, effeminate school friend, Francis (Anthony Roth Costeans). The platonic relationship is an intense, invigorating and intellectually stimulating one, but as Channe's hormones drive her toward more masculine boys, the friendship strains and cracks. A few years later, Bill's failing health forces the family back to America. The older Billy responds sullenly to the new environment. Channe takes a different tack and soon develops a fast French girl's reputation among the high school boys.

"I identified with this character in many ways. We're both from families between France and America; we're both creative and a bit flamboyant. I hope I wouldn't be as cavalier as she was during certain periods, but we're definitely more alike than we are different." Working with her esteemed adult co-stars was also an invaluable learning experience, she says. "You learn more through osmosis just working with very talented and mature people."

She was born Liliane Rudabet Gloria Elsveta Sobieski – ultimately shortened to Leelee. "Yeah, that was quite a handful", she says laughingly. In true Hollywood tradition, Sobieski was discovered by a casting agent while having lunch at her high school canteen. "I think I was making these funny faces or something, so she asked me to audition for this TV movie, and after that, I was hooked."

"He was great, very shy and quiet, but with a twinkle in his eye." on Stanley Kubrick

Bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Helen Hunt, Sobieski won an international following as the youthful bride of Elijah Wood in the box office hit, Deep Impact. That, coupled with her acclaimed work in Soldier's Daughter led her to audition for one of the most anticipated films of the year: Eyes Wide Shut. "I can't tell you a thing about the movie, and I don't know that much - they only gave me parts of the script relevant to me."

But working with Kubrick remained a dream come true. "He was great, very shy and quiet, but with a twinkle in his eye." She says she expects to be "totally surprised by the film."

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Currently starring opposite Kris Kristofferson and Barbara Hershey in the critically acclaimed A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, the beautiful teenager will also be seen opposite Hollywood super couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, in Stanley Kubrick's upcoming Eyes Wide Shut. At time of writing (January 1999) she is in the Czech Republic playing the title role of Joan of Arc in a new American TV miniseries. Asked how she will make this pure and virginal Joan different to those who came before her, she quips; "I'll be the first real-life virgin to play her."

.. in Deep Impact

.. in Jungle to Jungle

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