“I don’t want to be famous as a movie star and have the whole world love me, I want to be a creative actress.” – Juliette Lewis
Daughter of fellow actor Geoffrey Lewis, Juliette Lewis was an icon of American cinema throughout the 1990s, famous for her roles in Cape Fear, Natural Born Killers and From Dusk Till Dawn. With strange, gentle mannerisms that well describe many of her misfit characters, Lewis’ talent spans both film and music, with the actress explaining: “I had to give up movies. That’s what I had to do. All I wanted was a future that allowed me to make records”.
Born in LA in 1973, Lewis dropped out of high school at the age of 15 to pursue a career in acting, with her first big break coming a year earlier in 1987 when she appeared in the television film Home Fires. This was joined by the television series I Married Dora where Juliette Lewis took a starring role. In fact, to make herself a more attractive prospect for film and television producers, Lewis sought to be legally emancipated from her parents in order to work more freely. In her own words, the actress stated: “I know that sounds all radical, but when you start acting when you’re younger, you talk to other actor kids and their moms, and they’re like, ‘Yeah, if you want to get a job, they like on your resume to say emancipated minor versus minor because you then can work over eight hours.”
This made way for Juliette Lewis to receive her first big break with Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear in 1991 where she would receive an Oscar nomination for her supporting efforts. Playing the teenaged Danielle Bowden, the daughter of a lawyer under attack by a stalking murderer, Scorsese’s film would prove valuable for Lewis’ future career, with the actress commenting: “He basically validated my instincts and he validated my process and the way I work”. Continuing, she notes: “I don’t approach anything I do like an academic. I’m not trained and I work with intuition a great deal. It is really important you have a teacher or mentor who validates you early on so that you don’t give up, because I was always the odd one out.”
Soon after came Lewis’ transformative role in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers as Mallory Knox, one half of the murderous lead couple in this Tarantino-written crime thriller. Her sensational performance eased some pressure from the film itself that was less favourably received by critics, with even writer Quentin Tarantino stating “I hated that fucking movie. If you like my stuff, don’t watch that movie.”
Since Stone’s film, Juliette Lewis’ career has been marked with several successes and artistic endeavours, including Strange Days, From Dusk Till Dawn, and the creation of her very own band, Juliette and the Licks, in 2003. “I’d got complacent in the movie industry, and I needed to write songs,” Lewis reported, whose band have since completed multiple world tours. “I had to give up movies. That’s what I had to do. All I wanted was a future that allowed me to make records,” she explains, “all this primal energy people respond to in me and my characters is in my music, 10 times more”.
From her fervent life performances, it is clear that Lewis enjoys the creative freedom of such events, feeding off the immediate energy her words elicit. Formed of guitarists Craig Fairbaugh and Emilio Cueto, bassist Jason Womack and drummer Ed Davis, the band’s popular songs include “You’re Speaking My Language” and “Hot Kiss”. Following their first studio album, You’re Speaking My Language in 2005, the band’s subsequent project named Four on the Floor, led them to Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl who ended up recording with them after their drummer dropped out weeks before recording.
Appearing on the final version of the band’s second album, Dave Grohl later persuaded Juliette and the Licks to be a guest act at the Foo Fighters’ Hyde Park performance in 2006 to over 85,000 people. This would represent one of the bands greatest moments before they temporarily split up in 2009, then reunited in 2015 and extensively toured again in 2016.
As of a tweet from band members in May 2018, it looks as though Juliette And The Licks could be back together once more, though this is not to say that Lewis has totally turned her back on the film industry, with her acting credits continuing to climb even as she pursues a passion for music. Such has led her to support Little Kids Rock, a US nonprofit organization that works to support music education in disadvantaged U.S. public schools, demonstrating both her unfaltering love for music and her innate attentive attitude for life.