It isn't the paddle, it's not the canoe
It isn't the river, or skies that are blue
It isn't the love song that brings joy to you
It's the girl! Yeah! It's the girl. --"It's the Girl," by Abel Baer and David Oppenheim, 1935.
She is 22, with a boy's name (she says) and three movies out: Bill Murray's "Stripes," as a female MP; "Blade Runner," in which she plays a beautiful robot who falls for Harrison Ford; and "Young Doctors in Love," with ads that show her smooching through a surgical mask in the surf.
She strolls into her neighborhood pub in Greenwich Village like your sister. Or, if your sister gets on your nerves, like somebody else's sister. Or, if you don't have a sister, like the sister you always wanted.
So let's ask the ebullient, slender, career-in-bloom Miss Young one little question, while she orders one little Heineken, and then be quiet and let her talk. Lucky for us, she is in a talkative mood, and we will hear all about getting discovered, what it's like to say "kiss me, kiss me" to Harrison Ford, the nature of comedy, and being 22.
Miss Young, how does it feel?
"Very new, very surprising. I mean I went to Interlocken Arts Academy, that's in Michigan, and then I got out when I was 18 and I worked for nine months as a cancer therapist and said to myself, I've got to quit this, so I did, and went to Florida, not knowing where my next paycheck was coming from.
"But I'd decided what I wanted to do. When I got back to New York I went right up to the door of this director I knew and rang his doorbell on Grammercy Row, and he gave me 'Butterflies Are Free' to read, right there.
"I didn't know anything about acting. I had no technical idea at all how to do it, but I got them laughing. Then I got a screen test and an agent at ICM International Creative Management , which was where my mother's agent was -- literary agent, she's a writer, her name is Lee Guthrie -- until he retired and became a fish farmer in Maine. Her agent did. Really!
"So my agent started sending me out. I never have learned to act. Acting doesn't exist! You can put yourself into a role, or put somebody you know into it, but I can't stress enough that there's no such thing as acting.
"My first movie was 'Jane Austin in Manhattan.' Yeah, I know, nobody ever heard of it, it played on the BBC. But I was cast as a young actress who didn't know how to act, sort of an airhead, lovable but helpless. Then I met Steven Spielberg and began testing for the part of Marion Ravenwood in 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.'
"I know what you mean, yeah, things happening so fast. Here I had been working in my lung cancer place, and now . . . Well, I wondered if it was healthy for me. Was I kidding myself? But then I thought, the moment I'm kidding myself, I'll stop, right? It's like what Golda Meir said: 'If I don't believe in myself, who will? But if I only believe in myself, who am I?'
"Anyhow, Steven Spielberg flew me to California twice for 'Raiders,' and I came in second but Karen Allen got the part. Then I did five commercials. Nuance perfumes, Avon, Levis -- the Levis' one where two people in love are walking in a train station, and he gives her a kiss good-bye?
"I think the secret why I got those parts--of course I got turned down by tons, too -- was that a lot of actors walk in with all their fingers pointed to themselves. Whereas I really don't.
"No, it's true, I didn't have any formal training at all. At Interlocken I studied flute, violin and dance. Well, I was a fairy once in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' But I only had one line. I couldn't imagine going to college. I used to lie to my teachers about it, they were concerned. 'Sure, I'm going to Juilliard and continue my studies,' I'd say. But I knew I wouldn't.
"I think what got me the part in 'Stripes' was that I was much funnier off the script than on. Then Ivan Reitman, the director, flew me to California and gave me a car -- a little Camaro. Then on my birthday -- Nov. 20 -- we started shooting in Louisville, Ky. Fort Knox, if you want to get technical. I was just turning 21. No, wait a minute. Just turning 20.
" 'Blade Runner?' Okay, we can talk about 'Blade Runner.' But you know what I like? Dancing. That's where I'm headed, I think. Mark my words, when Fred Astaire is gone, dance movies will come back bigger than ever. 'Blade Runner' was a good movie, but it doesn't make you feel joyous and happy, like musicals do.
"Yes, I know. A lot of people like the scene where I say, 'kiss me, kiss me' to Harrison. Personally, it's not one of my favorites. How would you like to have somebody grab you and throw you around a room? I had bruises all over me. And Harrison's beard was all grown out, and scratched my face. The whole scene just reminded me of a woman getting beaten up. I didn't see how my character, Rachel, could go up to his room after that.
"It was really a rough day. Harrison tends to play love scenes either angry or funny. It isn't just acting, you know. Somebody really is throwing you against a wall while you're supposed to be telling them you love them. I was a wreck. I had three or four weeks off after that scene.
"The scene I liked the best was where Harrison tells me I'm a 'replicant' a robot with emotions and I cry right on cue. Yes, they're real tears.
"It really wasn't much of a laugh, making that movie.
"Making 'Young Doctors in Love' was completely the opposite. I really needed a comedy by then, and it was a wonderful experience. I think I learned how to be funny, how to rewrite a scene so it's funny. I used to just get carried completely carried away.
"Well, there're just funny ways to do things. Like the Mafia guy, Hector Elizondo, who was wearing women's clothes all the time. Well, even though he's in a dress, he remains a Mafia guy. That's called opposition! That's what makes it funny.
"Or the little guy trying to hang up the phone that he can't reach. He keeps running by, throwing the receiver and missing. I used to have to hold my nose to keep from laughing and ruining my makeup.
"The only thing that bothered me about 'Young Doctors' was that I had a dance scene, but my character wasn't supposed to be that good a dancer. I mean, she was a doctor, so dancing was only a hobby. So I had to dance like she would dance, not like me. That was what the director wanted, anyhow.
"Dancing is really the thing, don't you think? I remember being 15 years old and walking out of 'Singing in the Rain' in Cleveland, Ohio. Oberlin was my home town. I had an autograph book and everything. I wish the big musicals would come back. That's what I want to do. That's where I think I'm headed.
"I know, I know -- my big selling point is being sort of like a virgin, kind of naive. They made me smoke in 'Blade Runner,' I guess to look older. I went out and intentionally bought dresses that I thought an older person would buy. I even went into a grocery store and bought some Pampers, just to see what it would be like. How the people would look at you, and stuff. I have to do that, because my instinct is usually to be a little girl.
"Sure it's fun being 22. Sometimes I feel 12 and sometimes I feel 80. But don't worry, I can take care of myself. It's just having the intensity to ask for what you want."
It had begun to rain in Greenwich Village, and Sean Young's bottle of beer had run out. Walking home through the brimming streets, where cabs honked rudely and umbrellas bumped each other in passing, she was hard to keep up with.
Miss Young appeared to be dancing. She did not appear to be getting wet.