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Most actresses spend their days pounding the pavement looking for work, but not Juliette Lewis. Of late, she’s been turning down roles so she can concentrate on her second career as a rock star — and despite any naysayers, it looks like she’s succeeding. Lewis and her band, Juliette and the Licks, released their second album, “Four on the Floor,” this week.
This story first appeared in the July 26, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“If I’m committed to something, I’m not going to compromise it; it doesn’t matter if Scorsese calls,” says the 34-year-old, who hasn’t filmed a movie in two years. (Her last on-screen appearance was in the 2006 romantic comedy “Catch and Release” opposite Jennifer Garner, and before that she’d taken roles in a few independent films). Presently, Lewis, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in 1991’s “Cape Fear,” doesn’t have any movies lined up. It’s a situation that would drive many a Hollywood thespian crazy, but not Lewis, who calmly says, “I’m not a filmmaker.”
In fact, music was her first love. “I sort of ignored this urge when I was a teenager because I was scared of all that it requires to put a band together,” she admits.
In 2003, after 15 years of acting, Lewis decided to follow her dream of forming a rock band influenced by Sixties and Seventies garage rock. Now back in the States after touring 23 countries, the Licks have hit the road in support of their new release and are currently opening for Chris Cornell during his national tour. Then it’s off to the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago on Aug. 5. After four years of touring, Lewis has grown to love it. “For me, to get the furthest away from home and to create a sense of unity in a crowd that generally would be alien to one another is pretty special,” she explains.
Though Lewis may be trading movie-star status for rock-star fame, her quirky fashion sense remains. “I have a sense of humor about fashion, I don’t take it that seriously,” she says. When performing, Lewis looks like a cross between Iggy Pop and Pocahontas, with skin-tight jeans, leotards and sometimes a Native American headdress. “But right now I’m living out of a suitcase and I don’t have the time to totally put my look together,” she laments. In everyday life, Lewis prefers to wear items from around the world either picked up by her or friends. If she feels like wearing designer, she opts for the up-and-coming labels since she doesn’t believe in “huge names with huge price tags.”
Lewis’ nonchalant attitude toward fashion didn’t stop her from accepting an offer from Costume National’s designer, Ennio Capasa, to have her band pose for the spring 2007 advertising campaign for the C’N’C contemporary line. “I really love their shoes, dresses and cut of their pants and jackets,” she says. The campaign, which is reminiscent of 1981’s “Best of Blondie” album cover, had such positive reaction the company decided to shoot the Licks again for the fall 2007 ads. This time, photographer Stefan Ruiz shot the band in a Paris studio outfitted to look like a full movie set.
So far, Lewis has been happy with her double life, but don’t expect her to add a third career. “I’m not interested in a clothing line,” she admits.
She’s also unconcerned with any fans who might question her new career. “I think you sort of prove how committed you are over each month, over each year and so any doubters may have moved on.”