An actress with a face that, like it or not, burns itself into your memory, not to be forgotten once initially exposed, feisty young actress Juliette Lewis once commented that her ability to look alternately attractive and repellant was a key element to her success, claiming that many attractive actresses simply can't be ugly if needed. Ugly she was as a viscously sadistic serial killer in Oliver Stone's notorious Natural Born Killers, in sharp contrast with her role as the virtually seductive cyberpunk-siren in the futuristic Strange Days.
Born June 21, 1973, in Los Angeles, CA, Lewis had a distinct wild streak from her earliest days. Daughter of graphic artist/actor Geoffrey Lewis, Lewis realized her dreams of becoming an actress at the age of seven, turning those dreams into reality by becoming a professional actress at the age of 12. Distressed at the obstacles refraining her from fully immersing herself in her dreams (namely school and her parents), Lewis became legally emancipated at 14, gaining exemption from child-labor laws and the ability to work more than five hours a day. The final obstacle, high school, Lewis hurdled by dropping out at the age of 15, earning her equivalency exam with the aid of a tutor. That same year, she was arrested for being underage in an underground disco.
Moving to Hollywood and living for a short period with actress Karen Black while seeking work, Lewis moved into an apartment with friends, finally finding the independence she had so diligently pursued. The payoff for her persistence was not far behind, as Lewis soon landed a role in the Showtime-produced Home Fires (1987). Following up with light comedic roles in the suburban extraterrestrial comedy My Stepmother Is an Alien (1988), and taking the role of Audrey in the third installment in the vacation series National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Lewis was well on her way to fully achieving her dreams of stardom. Her dramatic turn as Amanda Sue Bradley in Too Young to Die, the true story of the first minor to receive the death penalty, earned Lewis well-deserved praise and the recognition that would carry her forward into more challenging territory.
Lewis' breakthrough role came in the form of the awkward and rebellious daughter flirting with a psychotic Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear, a role that earned her an Oscar nomination. More mature roles began to follow such as Johnny Depp's love interest in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and in her first foray into the mind of a serial killer, Kalifornia (both 1993). Her most notorious role to date, as the homicidal Mallory to Woody Harrelson's psychopathic Micky in the controversial and numbingly hyperkinetic ode to excess Natural Born Killers, displayed her remarkably enthusiastic ability for boundless exorbitance.
With a few exceptions, namely 1999's The Other Sister, Lewis' post-Natural Born Killers career was filled with supporting roles and ensemble parts. She was the pregnant kidnapping victim in the noirish The Way of the Gun and played Jennifer Lopez's best friend in the domestic-violence thriller Enough. In 2003, Lewis played Luke Wilson's excessively unfaithful wife in Old School. Director Todd Phillips enjoyed working with her so much he cast her in 2004's high-profile comedic retooling of TV's Starsky and Hutch.
She kept working steadily in a variety of projects including The Darwin Awards, Catch and Release, Drew Barrymore's rollerderby comedy Whip It, and she teamed up again with Todd Philips for his 2010 comedy Due Date. She appeared in the ensemble drama August: Osage County, an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, in 2013. Lewis then joined two television series at the same time, playing a detective in Secrets and Lies and a bartender in Wayward Pines, from executive producer M. Night Shyamalan. Both shows premiered in the spring of 2015.