Juliette Lewis was born on June 21st 1973 in Los Angeles, California. Her father is actor Geoffrey Lewis and her mother, Glenis Batley, is a graphic designer. They divorced when she was just a mere two years old. She has two brothers, Lightfield and Peter, and two sisters, Dierdre and Brandy. Her uncle is the late composer, Peter Tod Lewis. She wanted to act since she was six years old, and got her start in TV at the age of twelve. Excited to become an actress, precocious Juliette dropped out of high school at age 14, passed a proficiency course and became an emancipated minor a year later, unbound by child labor laws. Despite having no training, she had already landed daughter roles in the Showtime miniseries “Home Fires” (1987) and the ABC series “I Married Dora” (1987-88), and though she would return as a series regular in “A Family For Joe” (NBC, 1990), starring Robert Mitchum, she found sitcoms constraining, resenting her directors’ insistence that she do nothing with her hands while standing stiffly, geared for the punchline. The TV-movie “Too Young to Die?” (NBC, 1990), which teamed her with longtime love interest Brad Pitt, provided a sample of the dramatic work to come, casting her as 15-year-old facing the death penalty for murder, but her feature debut as Chevy Chase’s daughter in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989).
Lewis’ breakout role as the thumb-sucking nymphet struggling for independence from her warring parents in Martin Scorsese’s remake of “Cape Fear” (1991) rescued her from sitcom purgatory and earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Her sensuous scenes with a psychotic killer (played by Robert De Niro) were the sensation of the movie, and Lewis’ small, brightly piercing eyes and pouty mouth suggested a waifish but free-spirited and sexually–indeed, sometimes dangerously–provocative young woman questing for answers and emotional fulfillment, shattering any notion that she would ever be sitcom fodder again. She stepped in for Emily Lloyd as the college student who becomes involved with her professor in Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives” (1992), sympathetically essaying the would-be “other woman” role in a film whose story of a crumbling marriage and the husband’s affair with a much younger woman mirrored the Allen-Mia Farrow breakup.
Expanding on her child-woman of “Cape Fear“, Lewis began her “psychotic waif” period as Gary Oldman’s peroxide blonde moll in Peter Medak’s hopped-up contemporary film noir “Romeo Is Bleeding” (1993) and adopted a horrifically hilarious spastic laugh and adolescent gawkiness for that year’s “Kalifornia“. On the road with homicidal partner Pitt and yuppies David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes, her clueless trailer-park Lolita was a perfect “enabler” for Pitt’s serial killer. Back on the road for “Natural Born Killers” (1994), more closely matched in sociopathic tendencies with fellow love-thug Woody Harrelson as they terrorized the Southwest on their killing spree, she captured the frighteningly odd emptiness of her character’s moral inattention. Tucked amidst these on-the-edge roles was an atypically sweet, reflective turn with Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in the offbeat “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (also 1993). In 1995 Juliette returned with DiCaprio in “Basketball Diaries” in which she portrayed as hooker.
Juliette also starred in “The Evening Star” (1996) opposite Shirley MacLaine and Bill Paxton. Taking an 18-month hiatus from movies, she cleaned herself up with the help of Scientology and returned to pictures in the independent film “Some Girls” (1998), acting for the first time with Giovanni Ribisi. Her next project was Garry Marshall’s much more ambitious “The Other Sister” (1999), which starred her opposite Ribisi as a mentally-challenged female coming of age. Though many critics objected to the picture’s sitcom-like script, Lewis had chosen it for the compelling parallels between the life of her character (who had spent an extended period in an institution) and her own life as both were reentering the world after an absence. Opinion varied regarding her performance, but no one could deny the risk she took in taking the part or that she was completely honest in its creation. She had once again shown her versatility as an actress.
Lewis was featured in some lighter fare, as a tough New Jersey girl in the 1980s period piece “Hysterical Blindness” (2002), the HBO original movie co-starred Emmy nominee Gena Rowlands and Golden Globe recipient Uma Thurman. She was next seen in the thriller “Enough” (2002), which starred Jennifer Lopez as an abused wife and mother who with the help of Lewis’ character tries unsuccessfully to escape her abusive husband (played by Billy Campbell). Thier bootless attempts result in a plot for Lopez to kill her abuser. Then, the following year, Lewis took the turn from serious to comical when she was cast as the girlfriend of Luke Wilson’s character in the hilarious feature, “Old School” (2003), a raucous comedy about a trio of thirtysomething buddies who try to recapture their college years by starting their own off-campus fraternity.
Next for Juliette came the thriller “Cold Creek Manor” (2003) which featured Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone. 2004 brought a few more film projects “Chasing Freedom” (TV), “Blueberry“, and “Starsky & Hutch”; although Juliette mainly focused on her music career.
In 2005 and 2006 Juliette appeared in “Aurora Borealis” (2005), “Daltry Calhoun” (2005), “The Darwin Awards” (2006), “Grilled” (2006), and the Jennifer Garner flick “Catch and Release” (2006). In 2006 Juliette also guest starred on the very funny “My Name Is Earl” starring comedic actor Jason Lee.
Ms. Lewis has also launched a career as a solo singer and musician, leading a group called Juliette and the Licks which has released a number of recordings. She is working with rock songwriter Linda Perry, among others. In 2006 Blender Magazine included her in their hottest women of rock music list while saying, “[She] delivered sonically varnished melodic punk replete with purring vocals and lyrics that bash porn, pharmaceutical companies and rotten lovers”.
With acting in over 40 films Juliette is sure to have proved an amazing star power that has lasted over decades. She is a unique actress and talented musician that will be around for many years to come.