32-year-old actress Chloe Sevigny is the first one to admit that her acting career is a total accident. Shes not too sure where she was heading, "probably the fashion industry" when she was discovered on thestreets of New York - twice. In 1994, writer Jay McInerney noticed the hip teenager around town, admired her fashion sense, and crowned her the new It girl in a seven-page magazine spread. A year later she caught the eye of voyeuristicphotographer/director Larry Clark who cast her in the controversial teenage sex film Kids. While the film received mixed reviews, Sevignys moving performance as a naive teenager who contracts AIDS got her noticed. Since then the actress has continued to make daring, risky choices regardless of the consequences.
It paid off in films like Boys Dont Cry, which earned her an Oscar nod at 25. Performing unsimulated fellatio on actor/director Vincent Gallo in Brown Bunny however brought Sevigny the kind of notoriety she could well do without. The film was canned and her agency immediately dropped her claiming she was unmarketable. The actress however remains unapologetic about her choices and despite the controversy her career survived. Woody Allen wanted her for Melinda & Melinda less than a year later and shes had Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Manderlay), Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers) and David Fight ClubFincher all lining up to work with her.
Gaynor Flynn caught up with the actress recently at the Cannes International Film Festival where she talked about her upcoming film Lying, that sex scene and shaking off the indie tag.
Gaynor Flynn: Why did you choose Lying? Its another indie film, a category you want to move away from right?
Chloe Sevigny: Im definitely seen in a particular way as the indie queen whatever that means but I feel like my roles are very diverse within the independent films that Ive made but yeah Id like to play something really glamourous, like a bombshell type of character and thats something Ive never done or a period film with fantastic costumes and all that. Id like to play a real woman I think usually people play me younger or play me as the girlfriend and thats what I liked about lying. I thought M (Blash the director) made a mature film with a mature character.
Gaynor Flynn: Do you know what the M stands for?
Chloe Sevigny: (laughs) Yeah but Im not telling because M has been a special friend to me for about five years and he believed in me so much that I feel like Ive become a more confident person after working with him and knowing him because of his belief in me.
Gaynor Flynn: Youve worked with a number of first time directors, is that something you prefer?
Chloe Sevigny: Working with first time directors is exciting because theyre so passionate, and M was all that but the production was utter chaos (laughs). I have never been on such a mess of a movie before. First of all we were so under staffed it was like a ten person crew and theres like one PA and so wed be doing a scene at the top of a driveway and thered be nobody at the bottom of the driveway to tell people that were shooting. I mean its simple ABCs of moviemaking, so cars would just drive on up and were like, youre in the shot it was like duh. Cant we have somebody at the bottom of the hill telling them were shooting so dont come up? Its like theyd never made a movie before which they hadnt.
Gaynor Flynn: In Lying, youre character is very secretative, how would you describe yourself?
Chloe Sevigny: A loud mouth (laughs).
Gaynor Flynn: Are you lying now, or telling the truth?
Chloe Sevigny: Im telling the truth. I am pretty honest and I get in a lot of trouble for it I think and I think Im pretty cynical and pretty negative which also doesnt help either, so Im trying to work on that. That was my New Years resolution try and bemore positive because I always walk away from something and think oh this sucked about it and that sucked about it but Im trying now to focus on the positive. But it always sounds so phoney especially when youre reading interviews and they say, oh we all loved each other, we had such a wonderful time together. Its more interesting to read about the other stuff, and even though there were probably positive aspects the negative ones always stand out.
Gaynor Flynn: The reaction to the film at Cannes has generally been positive, although audiences seem a little unsure of how to read it, why do you think that is?
Chloe Sevigny: Its a very simple movie and I think people are over intellectualising it and saying its this, that or the other thing and its not. Maybe because its so still people think oh if its still it must be pretentious or something but its not its justdone inreal time and I think thats the unfortunate thing about Cannes audiences and European audiences, not that Im trying to upset anybody but I think they read too much into things. I remember talking with Lars Von Trier and you know Lars movies are hilarious and hes like people just read into it far too much and they think of Lars as so intellectual and this andthat but you know theres so much humour in his movies but his films are not understood.
Gaynor Flynn: Well Lars von Trier does talk about being influenced by Bergman and Tarkovsky.
Chloe Sevigny: Maybe its his fault by drawing pretentious comparisons then (laughs).
Gaynor Flynn: You seem to avoid mainstream work, is that a conscious decision?
Chloe Sevigny: I tend to not get offered the mainstream movies. You know most of the films Ive done Ive just been approached by the directors from Woody Allen to Lars. I auditioned for Boys Dont Cry and I campaigned very hard to get that part and I auditioned for Last Days of Disco but most of the other films people have called and said this person isinterested in you, are you available? Will you go on tape for him or come in and meet him? I mean when I got the call from Woody, I went to his Park Avenue apartment, he sat me in a chair, under a light, looked at me for about 10 minutes then offered me the role. That was it.
Gaynor Flynn: When you look back at your first film Kids, what do you think of it now?
Chloe Sevigny: I cant watch that movie. I mean funny enough I watched it without sound recently just parts of it, but I dont really like to look at myself so much.
Gaynor Flynn: Because youve changed so much since then, or you hate your performance?
Chloe Sevigny: I hate my performance (laughs). But I dont like the movie that much. Is that bad to say? I like Gummo very much I could watch that hundreds of times and I like this movie and I feel like Lying will be like that. Like I can tell when Im comfortable and really being honest and I feel like in this movie I was maybe more so than any other film, I can seethat I was very comfortable making it, because when I watch it I can see all my little quirks and stuff so I know I was happy on this film.
Gaynor Flynn: Do you regret doing Brown Bunny?
Chloe Sevigny: No, not at all but I was a little scared about the sex scene. And you know maybe it wasnt the smartest thing to do in hindsight but at the time Vincent was so passionate about the movie and the way he explained it to me it all made perfect sense within the context of that film.
Gaynor Flynn: Would you feel the same today if that kind of role came along?
Chloe Sevigny: No (laughs). I mean when I was younger I wanted to show sex in a real way, not a fake way but now Im a bit older and my tastes have changed, but I still think it was a very immature response to that movie, like ooooohh are we in second grade? I guess Vincent is a very provocative figure and hes very outspoken and I think that hindered the film and peoples response to it
Gaynor Flynn: Were you surprised by the negative reaction to that film?
Chloe Sevigny: Totally. I think Vincent was very hurt by the response and I think we were all a bit confused by it. I think its a beautiful film you know and theres always been films that push the envelope I mean look at Last Tango in Paris and thatbutter scene, that was shocking at the time and audiences were outraged but do we care now? No. Now its considered artistic.
Gaynor Flynn: What other films do you have in the pipeline?
Chloe Sevigny: Well I made a film called Zodiac about a serial killer in the Bay Area of San Francisco andthats with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. I made a movie with a new director Douglas Buck. Its aremake of Sisters, the Brian De Palma horror film with Margot Kidder and I play the annoying journalist andthe Margot Kidder part is played by Lou Doillon, the daughter of Jane Birkin the French actress, shes verybeautiful and very young and it was very hard for me to work with such a young beautiful girl.
Gaynor Flynn: Why is that?
Chloe Sevigny: Its the first time that I felt like oh I can realise why all these older actresses become the way they do because its so hard to be with these young, beautiful actresses.
Gaynor Flynn: But youre only 32 yourself right?
Chloe Sevigny: Yeah, but I felt really old next to her so I can totally understand the whole insecure older actress thing which makes you do crazy things like Botox and stuff. I mean give me ten years and Ill probably be doing the crazy stuff too.
Gaynor Flynn at the Cannes International Film Festival