She grew up in Hollywood with the luscious-lipped good looks that cameras adore. But Ione Skye, the daughter of ’60s pop singer Donovan, never dreamed of an acting career. “I always imagined myself being a writer or a teacher,” says Skye, 16. She did do a little modeling, however, and when director Tim Hunter spotted her in a fashion layout, he asked her to audition for this summer’s controversial River’s Edge. She won the role of Clarissa, one of the film’s emotionally benumbed adolescents. Like it or not, Ione Skye had become an actress.
She does, luckily, like the job quite a lot. “I’ve always been shy, and I kept thinking I would look like such a fool,” she says. “But it was so much fun. I’d go to work even on days I wasn’t shooting.” The movie, about small-town teens who decide not to report the murder of a friend, has received mostly enthusiastic reviews, but Ione’s most valued critique came from her best pal, Frank Zappa’s daughter, Moon. “She said I was nothing like Clarissa, and I took that as a compliment.”
What Skye’s famous father thought she may never know. Donovan and Ione’s mom, Enid, a former model, were separated before their daughter was born. Ione has never seen her dad. “There have been times when that made me the saddest I’ve ever been,” she says. “But if you look at animals, the father usually takes a hike when the kids are born…. It isn’t that important to me anymore.” Recently she dropped her father’s last name, Leitch. “I just didn’t like it,” says Ione, who now goes by her middle name, taken from the Scottish Isle of Skye, where she was conceived.
Ione is spending this summer relaxing in the Hollywood Hills home she shares with her mom, stepfather Billy Karl, a free-lance screenwriter, and brother Donovan Leitch, also an actor. Last year she dropped out of Hollywood High School to make Jimmy Reardon, a romantic comedy co-starring River Phoenix, Stranded, which she calls “an extraterrestrial relationship story,” and an upcoming ABC miniseries, Napoleon and Josephine: A Love Story. But the girl who fell into movies by chance is in no hurry to be a big star. “If all this stopped,” she says, “I could slip back into the way I was. I’d miss acting, but I wouldn’t be wrecked.”