Retrocon 2024

Interview with Ione Skye from 'Say Anything'

(This interview was originally published January 11, 2013 on the now-retired Kickin' it Old School blog. It is one installment in an incredible series of interviews we are republishing on Rediscover the '80s for posterity and your enjoyment. These are more than just interviews in a way; they are more like '80s timelines or oral histories on their respective subject matters. Please keep in mind the original date because some content could be specific to the time of the interview, though the majority should be timeless and totally rad.)

When the opportunity presents itself to ask a few questions to someone who contributed to the awesomeness of the '80s, I will continue to share those answers with you right here. Again, lucky for me (and hopefully you), I do get to share a little more awesomeness with you.

This time that awesomeness is Ione Skye. She is best remembered as "Diane Court" (whoa) in one of my all-time favorite films, 1989's Say Anything... That role alone puts Skye in a special place for me. And I am quite shocked that she did not go on to much bigger opportunities after that. She has appeared in over 50 different film or television roles during her career thus far. Skye is actually her middle name as she is the daughter of Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan (Leitch) who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. Though she was born in England, she was actually raised in the U.S. Find out a little about her, Say Anything... and much more as we get on to some selections from my interview with Ione Skye...

Q: At what age and how did you get your start in acting?

Ione: My brother [Donovan Leitch] started my career. We were both teens. I was 15 years old at the time. He was acting and auditioning. We were both in the LA Weekly and the casting director for River's Edge saw our pictures. She asked him while he was reading for the film if I would, too. She liked my look. I was shy but tried my hardest and got the part. I went to class and did some plays later on.

Skye made her film debut as "Clarissa" in 1986's River's Edge which went on to win Best Picture at the 1986 Independent Spirit Awards. The film was directed by Tim Hunter and co-starred Crispin Glover, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper among others. Here is a scene from River's Edge featuring Skye and Reeves...

Q: How did the role of "Diane Court" in 1989's Say Anything... come your way? What do you remember about the audition process and how you were chosen for that role? Did you read with John Cusack?

Ione: The role of "Diane Court" was an audition. I first met Cameron with Moon Zappa. She helped me by getting him into me. I think my father being Donovan was a plus because Cameron loves music as we all know. I knew this was a great project with Jim Brooks producing. It was a long process of auditioning and very nerve-racking. Cameron Crowe pushed me to take it very seriously and work very hard on the auditions.

John Cusack didn't want to play another teen in a love romp so Cameron had to really court him. I never actually read with John. He was just offered the part, but we did improv in the rehearsals together and did hang out a bit before we shot. That was fun; the three of us, Cameron, John and I meeting in my apartment or in one of the locations to get into some of the scenes.

Say Anything... was written and directed by Cameron Crowe (his directorial debut) and released in theaters in April of 1989. It is a romantic comedy with plenty of drama added in for good measure. The film stars John Cusack as "Lloyd Dobler" and Ione Skye as "Diane Court", two very different individuals who, despite the odds, end up falling in love following high school graduation. I was in high school when this film came out and it very much connected with me which is likely why it remains one of my favorite movies to this day. Here is the trailer for Say Anything...

Q: What were your expectations of the film and role when you first began? Were you excited by the script and character?

Ione: I was finding my way with the part. The character is complex. She and John's character were two sides of Cameron. A whiz kid in school devoted to a parent - my part. And John playing the eccentric, not typically handsome, charming teen. I was often uncertain and insecure playing the role. Those two, Cameron and John, were so talented and confident.

"Diane Court" is best described in the film by Lloyd's friends: "She's a brain trapped in the body of a game-show hostess". She is the gorgeous high school valedictorian who realizes she might have spent a little too much time studying and not enough time socializing during her high school years. She has a fellowship to study in England to show for it though and her over-protective single father disapproves of her allowing Lloyd to distract her. The unlikely couple do seem to bring out the best in each other.

Q: What are your feelings regarding the "Diane Court" character? How much of the character was already on the page and how much did you bring to it? Is "Diane Court" at all similar to who Ione Skye was at that time?

Ione: I think I brought a warmth to her, a softness. And she brought out my fiery side. I was a terrible student, she was top of the class. I related to having a single parent and feeling disappointed when finding out they weren't perfect. In her case, the father really was criminal but I could still relate to the feelings of being protective of the single parent you chose to live with after the other parent splits.

Q: I am huge fan of Cameron Crowe. What can you tell us about Crowe and your experience working with him?

Ione: Cameron is passionate about his work, about films and music. He believes in his projects. He is earnest and very smart. He is cozy but private. He believed in me and pushed me throughout the film to get into it. I have a tendency to withdraw; he helped keep me outward and in the world, in the role.

Q: I adore the "Lloyd Dobler" character played by John Cusack. What did Cusack bring special to that role and character? What can you tell us about Cusack and your experience working with him?

Ione: John helped develop "Lloyd Dobler". He made him a kick boxer, he wrote the great speech about not wanting to buy anything, sell anything... John is political and brought that edge to the character. John was terrific to work with. He goes deep with his films and roles. He makes one feel acting is admirable. He was younger and more of a ladies man and having fun back then which was fun, but his brightness and talent was also taken seriously by him. He is a seeker and unafraid to explore and learn. I was very impressed with his theater company he had with Tim Robbins, The Actors' Gang.

Q: "Diane" and "Lloyd" had tremendous chemistry on the screen. Did that come natural or did you two have to work hard to create that? Did you and Cusack become close during filming? Are you still friends and/or have you kept in touch since then?

Ione: We became friends. We had chemistry and didn't really do anything to make that happen other than hang out a lot and talk about whatever we were into. We both admired each other. We never fooled around but were in love as friends. I think you can see that come through. Later, we had a brief romance. We are both dynamic in some ways and when we do meet or talk it does have a great energy.

Q: The film included several very emotional scenes. Were those particularly difficult for you especially as you were only so young at the time?

Ione: I was actually just 16 when I did the film and yes the emotional scenes were tricky. I can shut down at times. We re-shot some of the scenes because I didn't get to where it needed to go. For me as I got older, I have been able to be more emotional as I don't fear making mistakes like I used to.

Here is a video set to the Peter Gabriel song "In Your Eyes" from the film's soundtrack featuring many of the scenes with Lloyd and Diane...

Q: John Mahoney played your Dad brilliantly in the film. What can you tell us about Mahoney and your experience working with him?

Ione: John Mahoney was terrific and nice. He is fun and light but, as you could see, can go dark when he has to. A joy! He wasn't intimidating because he is such a welcoming person.

Q: What were your feelings about Say Anything... when the film was released in 1989?

Ione: I was surprised by the lines around the block to see it. I was very pleased to be a part of a well-received film. I was insecure back then and that affected some of the experience, but mainly I was in heaven working on a film I knew had great people making it from the DP [Director of Photography], Laszlo Kovacs, to the Producers, Polly Platt and James Brooks. I was thrilled to have worked with such bright, creative, interesting people.

Q: Did you ever expect it to catch on and become such a favorite and meaningful film to so many while you were making it?

Ione: We were so into the film ourselves as we were making it. It felt right that other people would be into it watching it. We were pretty puffed up about the film as we made it. It's really wonderful to have people adore the film and be moved by it still- that it has stayed alive all these years for people.

Q: What are your feelings about Say Anything... now over 23 years later?

Ione: I still can't watch it objectively. Maybe when my 11 year old daughter sees it for the first time, I will be able to watch it without thinking only of what was happening while we were filming.

Q: Any other interesting memories about making Say Anything... that you can share with us?

Ione: One day my driver and I were late to work. I was driving even though he was supposed to, I think. I was speeding to the location through residential streets in Hancock Park. A cop put on his siren to pull us over. I knew if I just made it to the set I'd be fine. And I was. Once the cop saw the big production, he let it go. The perks of people losing a sense of reality whenever they see a movie camera, I guess.

Q: After that tremendous performance as "Diane Court", I would have expected you to become one of the next in-demand actresses to take off. That did not seem to happen. Were you surprised or frustrated at the time that it did not lead to more high profile opportunities? What can you tell us about that time in your career right after Say Anything...?

Ione: At that time, I got into a big relationship Adam Horovitz [Ad-Rock] of the Beastie Boys which ended up becoming my first marriage. I toured a lot with them and I was happy doing that, so my acting career wasn't my primary focus.

Skye eventually married Horovitz in 1992, but they separated in 1995 and were divorced in 1999. She married again in 2008 to her current husband, Australian musician Ben Lee.

Q: Are there any '80s roles (TV or movies) that you auditioned for and did not get that would be surprising or particularly interesting especially looking back now?

Ione: 'Heathers' [1988] and 'Mystic Pizza' [1988] are two jobs I heard I had a good chance of getting, but I didn't actually go for.

Q: Please tell us a little about where your acting career has taken you since that time. How have your priorities or goals changed over the years? What are some of your proudest professional accomplishments?

Ione: 'The Rachel Papers' [1989] was top drawer. My clothes were fantastic - shooting in London in the late-80s. Great time to be there. I loved working with River Phoenix [in 1988's A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon'] who was a friend as well. I liked 'Gas Food Lodging' [1992]. I like the role I played in David Fincher's 'Zodiac' [2007]. Some jobs didn't end up as great films or TV shows, but were still great personal adventures in great places like the Sahara Desert, Rome, England and France. I also just filmed more of 'Arrested Development' [new episodes of the television series will be available on Netflix beginning in May of 2013].

Q: Please tell us about Ione Skye Paintings. Has painting always been another passion of yours?

Ione: I've been painting for about 20 years. I liked to draw a lot when I was a kid. It's natural and I enjoy that it is possibly less complicated for me. I have had a few art shows and I still don't get the same amount I scrutiny as I did being an actress.

You can see some of her work on her website.

Q: What else has Ione Skye been up to more recently? Both acting and otherwise?

Ione: I have been directing shorts with Selma Blair, Margaret Cho and, my husband, Ben Lee. I sell paintings. Still acting a little in great projects, like I said before, 'Arrested Development' and the David Fincher film. Also did a Christmas movie filmed in Dublin last year and just did a film with Jacki Weaver (recently from 'Silver Linings Playbook' and 'Animal Kingdom'). I take UCLA extension classes for filmmaking and writing. I have a children's book coming out in about six months called "My Yiddish Vacation". I cook for the homeless once a month. Doing Kundalini yoga for more inner work. And am raising my 11 and 3 year old daughters.

I am very honored and appreciative that Ione was able to take some time to answer some questions so I could share them with you here. I can't tell you how excited and flattered I was to get this opportunity ("Diane Court, whoa!"). I want to take this occasion to again thank Ione Skye for her contributions to '80s pop culture especially through her wonderful role in Say Anything... and, even more, for going back to the '80s with us here for a little while as well.

Follow @OldSchool80s on Twitter for a daily dose of  '80s nostalgia and read more Retro Interviews on RD80s.

Close Menu