Chloe Sevigny has been part of the Hollywood Indie scene for almost two decades. Beginning with an auspicious but controversial debut in Kids and scoewd rave reviews in the Oscar winning Boys Don’t Cry and more recently in Woody Allen’s Melinda Melinda. Sevigny is currently scoring rave reviews in the acclaimed TV series Big Love which returns for its second series later this year. The actress currently co-stars in the thriller Zodiac and taled exclusively to Paul Fischer.
Question: You don’t do these kinds of big movies very often, if at all, and so first of all what did you think you could do with this character when it was offered to you?
Sevigny: I agreed to do the movie not so much as a character as just more so to serve the greater good of the movie and to work with David Fincher, because I think that he has a very distinct vision amongst all of these kinds of mediocre filmmakers working today in the business. Then I thought the character was interesting in that she’s not this kind of girly girl but she’s very practical, smart and kind of tough with her husband and I like that about her in that aspect of their relationship. Also she was very respectful of him and kind of let him run his course with this whole Zodiac mess that he had gotten himself into.
Question: Now I mean in your case you didn’t really need to do any research on this because I assume that in terms of your character, it’s pretty much what’s on the page. Did you allow yourself to do anything, did you meet with the real character?
Sevigny: I read most of Zodiac Unmasked. I didn’t get through it because I found all of the insane detailing into all of the investigations just a little too much for my taste and a little hard to get through and the violence was definitely hard for me to read. It was very disturbing and I met with the real wife of Robert Graysmith. She came to the set with her daughter, briefly. But we didn’t really get too in depth into their relationship or her life or anything.
Question: Is it hard to make a character like this stand out?
Sevigny: I found it was very hard and I was afraid that she was going to be very one note. I felt like they should have had some more tenderness somewhere in there and a little more intimacy or something, you know. Even if it was just a hand on the shoulder or something between them.
Question: Because there’s no real glimpse of their relationship. One minute they were dating and the next minute they were married with children. It was like you didn’t really know …
Sevigny: Well he actually had two children ….
Question: I was kind of surprised when I heard that you had decided to do a television series but then I saw Big Love. Why do you think the time was right for you to do this?
Sevigny: I think when I turned thirty. I’ve working consistently in film but not to the extent that I was really making enough of a living to buy a house or things like that I’ve always worked in independent films so ….
Question: Yeah I guess the Bunny movie didn’t really pay off a house and mortgage….
Sevigny: Neither did Boys Don’t Cry, you know or American Psycho or Woody Allen or Shattered Glass. All those movies were made just a little over scale. So I just felt like the time was right to maybe do something that would be consistent. Of course with Big Love I loved the story and the character and I’d been actually flirting with the idea of trying to do something with HBO because I love their programming and, so it just seemed right. I was blown away by the pilot and then met with the producers and the creators and they told me a little bit about where they wanted it to go and a bit about this character and where she comes from and I was just fascinated.
Question: You must have known right from the outset that it was going to be controversial in certain regards.
Sevigny: I don’t really feel like it has been.
Question: Has anybody come out and said ‘This is not really what it’s like’?
Sevigny: No, not at all. The Mormon church hasn’t said anything because it didn’t want to draw any more attention, and I feel like the second season we’ve shown a lot more of the distinctions between LDS and FDLS, you know, where any concern came from from any sort of religious group if they heard anything at all is they wanted to make sure there was distinct separation between the two.
Question: Despite this relationship that she’s in, she’s also the most conservative of the three women and that is exemplified by her physicality as well as by her attitudes towards the younger member of the trio. You don’t strike me as being particularly conservative.
Sevigny: I’m much more conservative in my life than I am in my films that I’ve made. I think I’ve played out a lot more of my fantasies or whatever I might want to be on the screen than in my life.
Question: Is this woman in some ways closer to you than women you’ve played?
Sevigny: Oh I guess so. I think I am quite old fashioned in the way that Nicki is. You know, not that I’m, you know, not to the extreme that she is but I do think we share a lot of similar values.
Question: What is the second season going to take us to?
Sevigny: Where’s it going to take us to? Well it’s a much faster pace. Everything moves along really quickly in the second season. It’s pretty shocking to see the turnaround from the first season, because the first season kind of began very slowly where you had to establish all these characters. So I think that was part of why the first season was kind of slow. And you see a lot more of Barb and her being exiled from her family because they are LDS and they can’t condone her living this lifestyle at all and you see a lot more of Rhonda and what happens to her and Margene becomes a lot more uppity which I find very annoying but ….
Question: You personally or the character?
Sevigny: The character.
Question: It’s interesting that you were saying that you kind of felt that you were – I don’t know if you were in a rut as an actress, but that you were dissatisfied by the fact that your career had been limited to quote unquote independent world. And I’m just wondering why you think that was and do you regret in some ways establishing yourself as an independent actress.
Sevigny: I think a lot has to do with the fact that I live in New York City so I don’t have the opportunities to meet on a lot of the projects, or any projects. I mean nobody meets in New York any more and nobody comes there for castings. There’s no auditions to be had, the industry is basically dead there except for Killer Films and they obviously know me very well. I’ve worked with them on numerous occasions. So I think that’s been difficult. Maybe I have dug my own hole or grave to a certain extent, you know. Being labelled as something. I think once you’re labelled as something in the way that Parker was or Lilly Taylor was, then all of a sudden you’re just that.
Question: When you started out as an actress though, I mean you’re obviously very passionate with a very strong, independent spirit. Is that what you wanted to do when you started out, being east coast?
Sevigny: I don’t think it had anything to do with east coast. I think it had to do with my tastes and I think in the nineties it was, you know, the independent world was flourishing and I worked with Steve Buscemi in my second picture and worked with all these great character actors and I was just like, ‘these are the kind of movies I want to make’. Then I worked with some bigger movie stars and it was rattling because of the control that they had on the set and the way they behaved and other things and I just thought ‘I don’t think I want to work with big movie stars’ so that had a big effect on me. Then I went back to making my little movies and just continued on them. Most movies I’ve made I’ve been lucky enough to have – they’ve called and been interested in me and like even with Zodiac, they called and said David Fincher is interested in Chloe for a part. Will she come in and read for him?
Question: That’s flattering.
Sevigny: It was very flattering that he would think of me.
Question: As a young woman in an industry that is so ferociously competitive is it frustrating?
Sevigny: It gets very frustrating and I hate to succumb to it but I do feel like it’s a lot to do with the way you look and then I’m beating myself up, you know, not that I think I’m unattractive. I’m not Kate Bosworth or along the lines of one of those girls. So then I start do dissect myself in a way and I’m thinking I feel like I’m talented and you know, so what is it? Why am I not getting the part so then the only thing for me to turn and then beat myself up over is, you know, my looks or something. And that’s why this town, not that I’m fishing for any compliments or anything please, but I’m just – that’s what does my head in. And that’s what makes me hate the business. I think it’s that. But then I get in a mood and think maybe am I not talented? Like why isn’t it happening? Am I just not ambitious enough? Am I not going out there enough? Am I not passionate enough? I don’t know.
Question: Why do you want to be an actress in the first place? What was it that drew you to this profession?
Sevigny: When I was five years old my mother brought me to see Annie on Broadway and after that, that’s what I wanted to be. I saw these little girls up there acting in this other place in this other world when I was a kid and my favourite show was Little House on the Prairie and I wanted to live that. Not that I wasn’t happy with my life but I just wanted to live in another time and another place and, I don’t know, I’ve always loved, when I was a teenager I drifted into all these different youth cultures and wore these different outfits as a way to express myself and I think it’s just to inhabit other kind of characters or people. And I love movies.
Question: Did you ever know that it was a practical thing to do? I mean, there’s a difference between little girl fantasies and the reality of working as an actress. When did you know that you could do this, possibly do this as profession.
Sevigny: After I made my first move, Kids, and people came to me and started offering me other movies and I thought well maybe I could make a living.
Question: That would have been a very interesting debut. Looking back on that experience and presumably – that wasn’t without its controversy.
Sevigny: Oh no absolutely not, no.
Question: What was that experience like? How old were you when you did that?
Sevigny: I was either eighteen or nineteen actually, yeah. There were very few of us underage even though people think that we were. Rosario was underage. She was like 16 or 15. I actually just read in Christine Vachon’ book A Killer Life she writes like ten pages about making the movie Kids.
Question: Can you look back at that early ork of yours and be objective about it now?
Sevigny: I look at a scene and some scenes I think ‘Oh I thought I actually did something there’. I think I have a hard time watching myself overall but yeah, I haven’t seen Kids in so long, I don’t know.
Question: Do you hope that Big Love will give you the kind of exposure that you’ve been after to lead to other things or do you think it’s …..
Sevigny: I don’t think exposure but I think maybe shows people my ability to inhabit other characters if I get the opportunity to. I think I have played a lot of smaller and more supporting parts. Since Boys Don’t Cry I haven’t had that meaty of a role. I did this movie Three Needles which nobody see. It was a great part. And I actually inhabited that part and it was really well realised and same with Big Love and I feel like if people give me the opportunity to do something like that, I think I can really run with it.
Question: Do you have anything that’s coming up?..
Sevigny: I have two other features in the can and I’m trying to find something for a hiatus.
Question: What have you finished?
Sevigny: I finished a remake of Brian De Palma’s Sisters produced by Ed Pressman who produced the original one.
Question: Who was in the original Sisters.
Sevigny: Margot Kidder. Lou Doillon plays that part. I play the annoying journalist.
Question: Oh was that easy for you?
Sevigny: It was very hard shooting that movie actually. Because I made, well we shot the first season of Big Love, shot Zodiac, shot this movie called Lying in upstate New York, it was in Cannes last year and the Directors’ Fortnight. So then I made Sisters so by the time I got to Sisters I was emotionally drained.
Question: How close is this to the De Palma original?
Sevigny: Very close. Very close. He rewrote the script but it’s the same premise, you know, the same story. But yeah, it’s scary. Not as scary as Zodiac because it’s not based on reality.
Question: And when do we see Big Love returning?
Sevigny: In June.
Question: That’s a long time.
Sevigny: I know. They had a problem with the scripts. That’s what took so long.