Many of the teen stars of the ’90s are burned into our brains from rewatching our favorite films over and over. But if you saw them now, decades later, would you recognize them? Leelee Sobieski starred in a string of memorable movies in the ’90s and early 2000s, including Never Been Kissed, The Glass House, and Deep Impact, before quitting Hollywood for good. Now 38 and going by her married name, Leelee Kimmel, the ex-actor has found a completely new creative outlet and is also enjoying being a mom. Read on to learn why Sobieski left acting behind, and see what she looks like now.
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At a young age, Sobieski was spotted by a casting agent who was scouting her New York City private school for talent. She went on to star in several notable films: Never Been Kissed, Deep Impact, Joy Ride, and Here on Earth. In 1999, she earned critical acclaim for her portrayal of the titular character in the miniseries Joan of Arc, which also led to Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. She got her second Golden Globe nod for her role in the miniseries Uprising. And then, in 2012, Sobieski retired from acting.
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“I don’t do movie stuff anymore,” Sobieski told Us Weekly in a rare 2016 interview. The former actor called herself an “outsider,” and said she was dedicated to being present in her parenting journey. “I am just focused on my kids. I think that’s mainly why I stopped.”
But that’s not necessarily the whole story. In 2012, Sobieski told Vogue, “Ninety percent of acting roles involve so much sexual stuff with other people, and I don’t want to do that. It’s such a strange fire to play with, and our relationship is surely strong enough to handle it, but if you’re going to walk through fire, there has to be something incredible on the other side.”
Acting clearly took a toll on the star in many ways. “A lot of the time when you work, it’s a money project basically. I started paying the rent on our house when I was 15, so I had a lot of pressure, and things got complicated for me … So when I could, I stopped,” Sobieski told Another Magazine in 2018. “It’s kind of a gross industry … In acting, you’re selling your appearance so much.”
Sobieski married fashion designer Adam Kimmel in 2010. The couple has two children, 11-year-old Louisianna Ray Kimmel and 6-year-old Martin Kimmel. The day-to-day routine Sobieski detailed for Vogue sounded pretty relatable. In 2012, her days often included “giving Lewi a bath, buying milk, cleaning something, making some decision, reading weird baby blogs, worrying I disciplined in the wrong way.” In 2016, when her son was just over a year old, she told Us Weekly he was “so cute [but] a handful.”
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Sobieski had been painting privately for years, but her art finally debuted publicly in 2018. The former actor was anxious about how her work would be received. “I thought that because of my past, my work would be judged harshly,” she told Artnet News after her first gallery show. “I had to make sure that if everybody really hated them, I would still feel good about it. This is really what’s inside of me, and I’m not trying to be anybody else.” But now she’s confident enough in her work to share it on her Instagram, which is almost completely devoid of her face.
Sobieski admitted, “Painting was always my goal.” She said she was repeatedly sidetracked by work and having to pay bills, but “kept working fervently in secret.” Now she can share the creative pursuit she’s most passionate about with the world.
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