While her peers were dozing off in trigonometry or trying to avoid gym class, 16-year-old Ione Skye was having a blast acting in her first feature film.
"Compared to high school... I was really into it," Ione, 50, tells Yahoo Lifestyle in an exclusive chat ahead of her appearance at the 'All About Women' festival at the Sydney Opera House.
The British-born, Los Angeles-raised star is part of a 'Women In Film' panel with Netflix's director of content (ANZ), Que Minh Luu, and Mirrah Foulkes, the Aussie director of 2019's Judy & Punch.
The trio will discuss their 'firsts and lasts,' such as their first cinema experience or their first big break. For Ione, her big break came about almost by chance when her older brother, actor and musician Donovan Leitch roped her into an audition when she was 15.
She made her screen debut in the 1986 thriller, River's Edge alongside Keanu Reeves and the experience cemented her love of acting.
"My first film happened to be very well-written and fun. I was working with people who were really terrific and a lot of teenagers so it was the perfect job," she says.
Spot the difference
At the time, Ione was straddling the two worlds of childhood and teenagehood and she admits she was pretty naive about the film industry as a whole.
"I barely knew the difference between what a director or a producer did.
"I thought I would get on set and someone would offer me drugs right away! I had all these ideas of what it might be like and I didn’t really know what was what."
Illicit substances weren't immediately offered and instead, Ione found herself getting lost in her scenes and characters — "I would almost not hear the director say 'cut'" — as well as crushing hard on people she worked with.
Ione's role in Cameron Crowe's 1989 cult classic Say Anything... saw her become a bona fide star but it was also around that time that she first started noticing how she was treated differently from her male counterparts.
"I was young, pretty and I noticed that people spoke to me as if I wasn’t as intelligent as the men or boys," she says.
An eye-opening experience on the set of a medieval TV show in England a little later in her career has stuck with her to this day.
"A lot of actresses were being put in clothes that were pushing their boobs up and the crew were being particularly kind of like, ‘phwoar, hey,’ with them and I remember thinking that that was really annoying.
"I’m not saying American crews are better but something about the raunchy British crew, they were just, like, going for it, that really stuck out to me."
'A long time coming'
Having spent the last 35 years living and working in Hollywood, Ione has this to say about the #MeToo movement of the past few years.
"It’s a long time coming and I think it’s really, really exciting.
I love that the conversation keeps evolving and deepening and the layers of what is considered consent are coming up in work and dating life for women and men to learn about. I love that [the focus of #MeToo] is not just one thing — such as being overtly sexually harassed — that there are so many levels and layers. Of course, it gets messy sometimes and confusing for people but I think it’s just terrific and whatever changes peoples’ ideas so it becomes the new norm the better, I feel.
In November 2020, Ione, her two daughters and her husband, Aussie musician Ben Lee left LA behind and moved to Sydney which she says has been a breath of fresh air.
"The way that [Australians] are about the [film] business, it’s more relaxed but just as creative and ambitious.
"It’s nice for me to step out of the Los Angeles movie business pressure, it’s more dramatic over there and social climb-y. All of the stuff you would think it is. Even though I’ve been in LA my whole life and I have all those connections [...] it’s really nice to try on this other way of working here."
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