Cover Story

Odd Woman Out

The agony and ecstasy of Sean Young -- Hollywood's edgiest actress can't help going to extremes

The red rock country outside Sedona, Ariz. (pop. 7,720), is an otherworldly place where crimson spires and low buttes cut a jagged silhouette into the cobalt sky. The roads stretch like dusty ribbons around the mountains. Some of them, like this scrappy street headed out of town, finally give up into dirt. The air is still, and for a long time there is nothing to see except brambles and flowering cacti-no cars, no people, no animals. At the road's end, looking surreally out of place in this rugged desert background, there is Sean Young, waiting on the edge.

Strikingly pale, as thin and wispy as a drinking-straw wrapper, she is dressed in filthy white cotton leggings, a light blue cotton top, and white rubber-soled boots. Her hair has an inch of dark roots and then becomes a tangle of tricolor blond, the result of a movie-related dye job. A green bruise and a small maroon scratch decorate her left forehead, the result of an angry outburst. She is startlingly beautiful in spite of herself. She strides from the front of her seven-room, adobe-style house, which she calls ''the Shonderosa,'' and extends a tiny white wrist. ''Hi, I'm Sean Young,'' she says, as if my hundreds of phone calls and several broken appointments could possibly have led me to anyone else out here in the middle of nowhere.

Hollywood seems very far away, and so do the days when Sean Young, 32, seemed like the Next Big Thing in movies. But it was only four years ago that she was riding high, after a series of sizzling-yet-vulnerable performances in films like the cult favorite Blade Runner and the surprise hit No Way Out. She had a plum role as Batman's leading woman, Vicki Vale, in the movie that would become the No. 5 box office sensation of all time. But then she injured herself falling off a horse during the Batman shoot and was replaced by Kim Basinger, and her career has been plagued with missed opportunities and fractious relationships ever since. Cast as Tess Trueheart in another high-visibility project, Dick Tracy, she was ousted after seven days because she and Warren Beatty didn't get along. Of the movies she has appeared in — The Boost, Cousins, Fire Birds, and A Kiss Before Dying — only Cousins (in which she plays a supporting role) had much critical or commercial success. Her new effort, the low-budget Love Crimes, which opened Jan. 24 to poor notices and box office, is not faring any better. The story of a repressed district attorney (Young) who becomes obsessed with a serial sex offender (Patrick Bergin), it has been advertised heavily and promoted by Young on TV talk shows, but it arrives with a troubled past: Its ending has been written, rewritten, shot, reshot, re-rewritten, and re-reshot.

Meanwhile, Young has developed a much more dramatic reputation off-camera. Her flamboyant campaign last year to become Catwoman in the forthcoming Batman sequel — she prowled around publicly in her own Catwoman getup — was spectacularly unsuccessful. More troubling is the continuing fallout from the harassment lawsuit that James Woods, her costar in The Boost, and Woods' then-fiancée Sarah Owen, filed against her in 1989, alleging in part that Young left an iodine-splashed, headless baby doll on their doorstep. (Word was that Young had been spurned by Woods, though both stars claimed they never had an affair.) Young denied all charges, and the suit was settled out of court, but the episode still raises questions among those in the film community about her personal soundness.

''When I hired her for Cousins, I got a lot of phone calls from people saying I was crazy,'' recalls director Joel Schumacher, but he enjoyed working with her nonetheless. ''Sean is an artist, and she doesn't know how to monitor herself. She will pour out her emotional road map of the day to you, and it can be quite frightening.'' A Hollywood agent puts it bluntly: ''The perception of her is that she is unstable.''

''So you're not going to ask me about the Woods thing, right?'' Sean Young says, clicking on a tape recorder she has been carrying around. The interview — her last in print, she vows — hasn't even begun. ''Bobbalu! She wants to talk about Woods!'' she yells to Robert Lujan, 31, the actor she met on the set of the miniseries Blood and Orchids in 1985 and married in November 1990. Lujan, in sweats and a ponytail, stops tinkering at his computer and leads us into the living room to discuss the inevitable — the fact that, yes, people do still wonder about her and Woods. We are followed by a menagerie of dogs and cats Young collected from various movie sets.

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