When Juliette Lewis formed a rock band and began touring about six years ago, she expected rejection.

After all, she was already a major movie star, with films such as “Natural Born Killers” and “Cape Fear” on her resume. So she figured people would think she was just some rich movie star who thought it would be fun to play at the rock band thing.

“I’ve never minded those judgments. I expected judgment and rejection. I was prepared for that by working in films, which is not a simple or easy industry either,” said Lewis, 37, speaking from a van somewhere between concert stops in Detroit and Toronto. “I knew I would be the resident freak show.”

But, Lewis is quick to point out, she’s been playing and recording for six years now, so she figures her commitment to music is evident. She feels like she’s proven she’s not just playing the role of rock star.

“It’s not like knitting; you can’t just take it up every once in a while,” said Lewis. “This is a hunger in me that I had shelved for a long time.”

Lewis said even booking agents were skeptical when she started, worried that she’d leave a tour in the middle of it to go make a film. She thinks a big part of her commitment to live music is that it lets her have a connection with people that movies do not.

“It’s really why I started in music, to get this connection with people, and it’s become a perverse pleasure to go outside my comfort zone like this,” she said.

Lewis began acting in TV and film as a teenager, and was not yet 20 when she appeared in Martin Scorsese’s remake of “Cape Fear” (1991), for she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She got critical raves for her scary turn with Woody Harrelson in “Natural Born Killers” (1994), and has gone on to have an eclectic career involving all sorts of characters, from ditzy to menacing. She was in the roller-derby film “Whip It” (2009) as a tough roller-skating diva.

Currently, she’s in the just-opened comedy “The Switch” as a friend to main character Jennifer Aniston.

As a child, Lewis dreamed of a career that involved drama, live theater and music. She played piano and sang show tunes, and listened to everything from the Cure and New Order to the Who, Janis Joplin and Miles Davis.

But she became so successful at films at such a young age, the other things took a back seat.

“Even though I was successful at movies, I felt incomplete. There was this other aspect of my creative voice,” Lewis said. “When I got to be about 30, I thought, ‘If I don’t do this, I’ll have a world of regret.’ It’s not like me to be complacent and full of fear.”

Lewis’ first band, the Licks, was a rotating cast of musicians that backed her on punk-tinged rock songs. She toured extensively, and did gigs and festivals with groups such as the Killers, Foo Fighters and Muse.

Lewis says some of the earlier songs she wrote were “muscular guitar rock,” but that her latest album, “Terra Incognita,” has “more textures,” with songs that are about contrasts. “They’re about feeling disillusioned, but hopeful; cynical, but full of innocence,” she said.

When she’s not making films or playing music, Lewis likes to go to concerts. She’s seen Jay-Z recently, and saw the Who with her father.

“That made me cry,” she said. “It was beautiful.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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