There seems to be a lot in common between 17-year old actress Leelee Sobieski and the
character she plays in A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries, a teenager who divides her time
between her Paris home and the US. Sobieski herself spent several years raised partly on a
ranch in the Camargue region of France and partly in New York City. "It seems that it
was a role I was born to play", comments the actress from her Prague hotel room (see
note at left).
A Soldier's Daughter is divided into three segments; the first two are set in Paris in
the 1960s, the last on the U.S. East Coast in the early 70s. In the first part, the
fictional Willis family - crusty but affable father Bill (Kris Kristofferson), high-strung
but fun mother Marcella (Barbara Hershey) and resentful, pre-teen daughter Channe (Luisa
Conlon) - welcomes a new, 6 year old adopted son, Benoit (Samuel Gruen), into their
impressive Paris apartment. The parents immediately lavish the boy with warmth while
Channe, miffed at the prospect of competition, takes a much longer time to accept her new
"I identified with this character in many ways"
The little French kid remains sceptical; he's so used to being shuttled between
orphanages and foster homes, he keeps his tiny valise packed at all times. The main crisis
of this section is whether Benoit's young mother will ultimately sign the adoption papers.
The real drama, though, is in the children's discovery that they can allow themselves to
love and be loved. The second part takes place a few years later. Benoit has changed his
name to Billy as an expression of trust in his American father, and the adolescent Channe
(played for the rest of the movie by Sobieski) has taken up with a flamboyant, effeminate
school friend, Francis (Anthony Roth Costeans). The platonic relationship is an intense,
invigorating and intellectually stimulating one, but as Channe's hormones drive her toward
more masculine boys, the friendship strains and cracks. A few years later, Bill's failing
health forces the family back to America. The older Billy responds sullenly to the new
environment. Channe takes a different tack and soon develops a fast French girl's
reputation among the high school boys.
"I identified with this character in many ways. We're both from families between
France and America; we're both creative and a bit flamboyant. I hope I wouldn't be as
cavalier as she was during certain periods, but we're definitely more alike than we are
different." Working with her esteemed adult co-stars was also an invaluable learning
experience, she says. "You learn more through osmosis just working with very talented
and mature people."
She was born Liliane Rudabet Gloria Elsveta Sobieski – ultimately shortened to
Leelee. "Yeah, that was quite a handful", she says laughingly. In true Hollywood
tradition, Sobieski was discovered by a casting agent while having lunch at her high
school canteen. "I think I was making these funny faces or something, so she asked me
to audition for this TV movie, and after that, I was hooked."
"He was great, very shy and quiet, but with a twinkle
in his eye." on Stanley Kubrick
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to a young Helen Hunt, Sobieski won an international
following as the youthful bride of Elijah Wood in the box office hit, Deep Impact. That,
coupled with her acclaimed work in Soldier's Daughter led her to audition for one of the
most anticipated films of the year: Eyes Wide Shut. "I can't tell you a thing about
the movie, and I don't know that much - they only gave me parts of the script relevant to
But working with Kubrick remained a dream come true. "He was great, very shy and
quiet, but with a twinkle in his eye." She says she expects to be "totally
surprised by the film."