RIDING HIGH

Byline: Peter Braunstein

NEW YORK — Hollywood is in a dour mood lately, displaying a rare ambivalence toward overtly frivolous box-office fare, but that isn’t affecting the career of Leelee Sobieski. The 19-year-old actress is a very serious girl, who throughout her young career has eschewed the “American Pie” track in favor of weightier projects. She hit many people’s radar screens at age 14 playing a bizarre vixen in Stanley Kubrick’s lavishly creepy “Eyes Wide Shut,” then solidified her stature as Joan of Arc in the acclaimed CBS miniseries. This week, in a rare Jennifer Love Hewitt-like departure, she is starring in “Joy Ride,” an updated version of a Seventies CB-radio psycho-hick road movie.
“‘Joy Ride is kind of an old-school slasher flick, but with real qualities,” says Sobieski. “You don’t expect it to be as original as it ends up being, with its emphasis on character development.”
Sobieski admits an affinity for deep subjects — later this year she’ll appear in the miniseries “Uprising,” about the rebellion of Jews in the Warsaw ghetto during World War II — but still has no inherent disdain for film genres centered around teenage boys having sex with foodstuffs. “When I wasn’t as well known, I would get thought of for those roles,” she says. “I thought ‘American Pie’ was a great movie, and I took a look at the script, but I didn’t think the girl roles were very challenging.”
Sobieski’s getting serious offscreen, too. Following in the tradition of Claire Danes and Natalie Portman, she’s entering the Ivy League this semester as a freshman at Brown University. “I applied to Brown, Columbia, Yale, Vassar, Sarah Lawrence, Barnard, Wesleyan, and Penn, and got into all of them,” she says, but has no illusions about the process. “The school cares about movie celebrities, of course, because you’re going to give them press — like an athlete or a princess would. Ultimately I chose Brown because they let me work out a schedule where I attend school for 6 months, then have 6 months off to work.”
Still, Sobieski emphasizes that getting accepted involved more than sending an autographed “Eyes Wide Shut” DVD to the school that said “To Dean of Admissions. Love, Leelee.”
“They do look at your grades, test scores, SATs, and essay,” she says. “The essay I wrote for Brown was about the making of ‘Joan of Arc,’ and the oppressed women I met in the Czech republic while filming it.”
Before hitting the books at Brown, she wrapped “L’Idole,” filmed this summer in Paris. The shoot, it turns out, allowed for some leisure time. “There’s this great club I went to called Favela Chic, located near Republique,” Sobieski explains. “It plays anything from cheesy Eighties music to rap, it’s open ’til 2 a.m., and as the night progresses the music gets louder and people start dancing on tables.”
Leelee, whose father is French, also appreciated the Gallic approach to filmmaking. “The crew drinks wine at lunch,” she says. “If that happened in the United States, everyone would freak out.”

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