How Blade Runner’s leading lady Sean Young faded into obscurity after Hollywood scandals

She was the leading lady in one of the most influential science-fiction movies of all time, Blade Runner, so what caused Sean Young’s career to fall apart just a few years later?

According to the actress, a legal scandal and the ire of “powerful, terribly vindictive men” left her reputation in tatters by the mid-1990s.

“I’m really glad that I survived whatever I was going through as a famous actress in my 20s and early 30s,” she told People in 2023.

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Actress Sean Young holds a parasol at the 1988 Academy Awards April 11, 1988 in Los Angeles, CA.

“I do think that the industry has always been predatory. I don’t think that just happened in recent times.”

Young got her start in the 1980 flick Jane Austen in Manhattan but didn’t truly rise to fame until 1982, when she starred in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cult classic alongside Harrison Ford.

The film should have been the start of a long and illustrious career for Young, but she claims it’s where her trouble started.

According to Young, director Ridley Scott refused to work with her again after she allegedly rejected his romantic advances during filming.

She alleged the reason the divisive ‘love’ scene between her and Ford’s characters in the film was so aggressive was because Scott wanted to “get even” with her.

Sean Young as Rachel and Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard in 'Blade Runner' (1982).

The scene has been widely debated in recent years, with many viewers saying it depicts sexual assault.

Then director Oliver Stone cut down her role in the 1987 film Wall Street massively after clashing with Young several times on set.

She was also targeted by co-star Charlie Sheen, who infamously wrote ‘c–t’ on a sheet of paper and stuck it to Young’s back during filming. 

“Of course if I were a man I’d have been treated better. Duh,” she told The Daily Beast in 2015.

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Sean Young and Charlie Sheen.

“Ever since the movie business began, women have been treated as a commodity. There was always someone grabbing you, and I just ignored it.”

Though Young went on to star in a few more successful films in the ’80s, including No Way Out alongside Kevin Costner, the trouble behind the scenes continued.

She has been open about the fact her “big mouth” and sense of humour did her no favours and likely offended several “leading men”.

Young has also suggested men in Hollywood took issue with her outspoken personality, but the biggest blow came in 1989, when one took her to court.

Actress Sean Young showing off her unshaved arm pits in 1990 in Manhattan in New York.

James Woods, who co-starrer with Young in The Boost, sued her for harassing him and his then-fiancée, alleging Young stalked him and left a disfigured doll at his home.

She denied the claims and insisted Woods was suing her out of spite after she turned him down.

The case was later settled out of court, with Young awarded $US227,000 (approx. $344,000) to cover her legal costs, but it couldn’t fix the damage to her reputation.

After being cast in Tim Burton’s Batman, Young was injured and replaced by Kim Basinger. She campaigned for a role in the sequel but was shot down.

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Sean Young dressed as Catwoman begging Tim Burton for a role.

In 1990, she was cast in Dick Tracy, only to be let go for not appearing “maternal” enough and replaced with Glenne Headly.

Young later claimed that the real reason she was dismissed from the flick was because she rejected director Warren Beatty’s advances. He denied the claims.

Then in 1992, while working on Love Crimes, Young became one of countless women in Hollywood who were sexually harassed by former producer Harvey Weinstein.

He exposed himself to her during production, she revealed in 2017.

“I really wouldn’t be pulling that thing out because it’s really not pretty. Put that little thing away,” she reportedly told him, but rejecting him only caused more damage to her career.

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Young’s roles got smaller and smaller through the ’90s and her last big hit was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in 1994, where he co-starred with Jim Carrey.

By that time she’d moved to Arizona and started a family with actor and composer Robert Lujan, whom she’d married in 1990.

Young went on to have two sons with Lujan and though she appeared in a few independent films and TV shows, her time in Hollywood was well and truly over.

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She and Lujan divorced in 2002, then remarried in 2011, the same year Young checked herself into a rehab facility for alcohol abuse for the second time. Her first stint was in 2008. 

Unfortunately, leaving Hollywood didn’t put an end to the scandals in Young’s life.

In 2012, she was placed under citizen’s arrest after allegedly slapping a security guard when she was asked to leave an Oscars after party.

Sean Young

“I just want everyone to know that I was sober, extremely well behaved when a very stupid security guard went postal on me and then The Academy’s very stupid lawyer recommended a ‘private person’s arrest,'” Young wrote on Facebook afterwards.

“I have grounds for a lawsuit against the Academy, although I believe a public apology to me would be much better.”

The charges against her were later dropped.

In 2018, she and her son were caught on camera removing two laptops from the production office of the film Charlie Boy. She had been set to direct, but was replaced.

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Sean Young attends the premiere of TNT's "The Alienist" at iPic Cinema on January 16, 2018 in New York City.

The New York City Police Department confirmed to People that Young was “wanted for questioning” in connection with the burglary at the time.

The laptops were later returned through Young’s attorney and no charges were filed. She claimed it was a misunderstanding.

“I gathered what I believed to be my property but later discovered I was mistaken,” Young said in a written statement. 

Her last major film appearance was in Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to the 1982 classic, in which she makes a 30-second cameo as the ’80s version of her character Rachel.

Sean Young's character was recreated with VFX in 'Blade Runner 2049'.

It was achieved through the use of archival footage and a body double. 

“And there was nothing I could do about it,” Young said in 2021.

“They paid me some money, made me sign a non-disclosure agreement and gave me 30 seconds. And I was like, fine.”

Today, she avoids the spotlight and rarely gives interviews.

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