Leelee Sobieski was born Liliane Rudabet Gloria Elsveta Sobieski in New York City, the daughter of Elizabeth (née Salomon), an American novelist and screenwriter who also works as Sobieski’s manager, and Jean Sobieski, a French painter and artist who appeared in French and Italian spaghetti Westerns during his youth, as well as dated actress Jean Seberg. Sobieski’s first name, “Liliane”, was the name of her paternal grandmother. Sobieski has a younger brother, Robert, who attends Princeton University. Sobieski’s maternal grandfather, United States Navy captain Robert Salomon, was Jewish and Sobieski grew up in a “pan-religious” family; she has said that she is “proud of [her] Jewish roots”. She has claimed that her “great, great, great, great uncle” was John III Sobieski, one of the elected kings of Poland who saved Europe by riding West with the Polish army in 1683 to lift the siege of Vienna from Ottoman Turks. Sobieski speaks fluent French, although she does not speak Polish. Her father currently lives in France. Sobieski rose to fame in her mid-teens with her appearance in the movie Deep Impact (1998) and played a modern Lolita in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (released in 1999, although she was not even fifteen when her nymphet-like scenes were shot), which led to the forming of a firm friendship with the director. The title role in the TV movie Joan of Arc (1999) earned her an Emmy nomination and a Golden Globe nomination and a second nomination followed her portrayal of Tosia Altman in the TV movie Uprising (2001).
Sobieski’s fluency in French landed her roles in the Merchant Ivory Film A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries (1998), L’Idole (2002) and the miniseries Les Liaisons dangereuses (2003) with Catherine Deneuve and Rupert Everett, an adaptation of Laclos’s classic novel of sexual intrigue.
Because of her resemblance to actress Helen Hunt, the two were pitted against each other on the 59th episode of the satirical claymation television series, Celebrity Deathmatch.
Nine Days released a song “Leelee” in tribute to Sobieski. In the song “Wonder (If She’ll Get It)” by Superchic[k], Sobieski and one of her movies, Here on Earth, were mentioned.
Sobieski has described her upbringing as “bohemian”, having often attended Shakespeare in the Park and art galleries in SoHo during her childhood. During this time, she attended Trevor Day School and spent her summers in her paternal grandfather’s ranch in the Camargue. Sobieski attended Brown University but dropped out after two and a half years. She is an ardent fan of Nina Simone and has a half Yorkshire Terrier, half Pomeranian dog named after her.
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