Sydney Sweeney is best known for her breakout role on HBO’s Euphoria, where she stars as the emotional Cassie Howard. She’s also acted alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt in the Academy Award-winning film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and is slated to appear in Madame Webb, the first Sony Marvel film with a female as the headlining role. Here’s what the Euphoria star has said about her acting journey.
She created a five-year plan for Hollywood stardom at age 12
Although Sweeney is now becoming a household name, she’s been working in Hollywood for over a decade. Sweeney was just 12 when a rare window opened, in the form of a low-budget zombie movie shooting in her hometown. When her parents balked at her desire to audition for a role, she crafted a strategy to convince them. “I created a five-year business plan that basically explained what could happen in my life if they let me do this, the steps I had to take, things I had to work toward,” Sweeney recalled in an interview with Los Angeles Confidential. “They were like, ‘OK, maybe she’s a little serious about this!’ They let me audition for it, and I ended up booking it.”
That successful audition led to Sweeney’s very first screen credit, in the indie “ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction.” Looking back on the experience, Sweeney told Backstage that being part of the low-budget horror flick may not have been big-time showbiz, but it sure felt like it to her. “The first day on set, I was beyond happy,” she said. “I was so much younger, so everything felt so surreal to me.”
Her career took its toll on her family
Sweeney’s family spent the next few years traveling between her hometown of Spokane, Washington, and Los Angeles for auditions. She had booked small roles in “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Criminal Minds” and other TV shows, but it wasn’t the kind of Emmy-winning work she had hoped for as a pre-teen.
Eventually, they settled in the City of Angels to save money on the routine flights. But financial issues led them to lose their house back in Washington and became one of the reasons for Sydney’s parents’ divorce. Her family ended up sharing a room at a Holiday Inn for nine months, or as Sydney called it, “the poor version of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody.
“After we moved to L.A. so I could act, finances were a huge stress. My dad lost his job and we went bankrupt. They always say, ‘It wasn’t your fault.’ It was,” Sydney admitted in her interview with Cosmo. “And when my parents were getting a divorce, my brother blamed me. But at first, I think they enjoyed L.A. It was an escape from routine. That’s what I tell myself. There was definitely a different, rough route that I could have taken.”
Sweeney’s relationship with her father remains somewhat strained to this day.
“Around the time my parents got divorced, I did act out with guys. I would run into the arms of guys to try to fill this void.…I was looking for love to replace the emptiness of a home,” Sydney claimed. “My relationship with my mom became way healthier, and my dad and I kind of drifted apart, which broke my heart. My brother and I are way better now. Do I wish that we could all be together? Of course, what kid doesn’t? I tried, once. When you’re an actor who’s a minor, a small percentage of your paychecks goes into a bank account you can’t access until you’re 18. I naively thought I was going to have all this money, and I had this grand plan for it. When we left Spokane for L.A., we had to sell the house I grew up in. It was my mom’s dream house. So when I turned 18, it wasn’t even a year after my parents divorced and I thought, I’m going to buy this house back and I’ll save everyone. I’ll get my family back together. Turns out, I had nowhere near enough money. I never cried more in my entire life.”
A few months later, Sweeney’s years of hard work and meticulous planning paid off.
First, she booked “Sharp Objects” acting alongside Amy Adams, and then the ’90s comedy “Everything Sucks!”. The two shows were filmed simultaneously, and she spent some of her happiest months in a long, long time sleeping on flights between shoots. Euphoria came along shortly after that.
Much of Sweeney’s success can be credited to her self-determination: In addition to acting, British GQ reports that she’s also studying entertainment law at business school and running her own production company, among other projects.
“I’ve experienced the way that I don’t want to live, and I don’t want my future children to have to go through the same struggles or see me stress in the same way that my parents did,” she told the magazine. “Nor do I want to see my family have to stress the way that we used to.”
She continues: “I definitely try to control as much as possible, and then have everything put together to stay secure. I want to show younger generations that you can do anything, even if you don’t have the means or the connections.”