Chloe Sevigny shares her favorite Woody Allen anecdotes while working on the director's new film, Melinda and Melinda
Indie film queen Chloe Sevigny has certainly matured in Woody Allen's latest opus. Chloe shot to fame in Larry Clark's shocking adolescent thriller "Kids" and later garnered an Oscar nomination for her work in "Boys Don't Cry". She goes high class as a sheltered Manhattan wife who falls for her best friend's lover in "Melinda Melinda". Working with Allen was the completion of a life goal and she had some humorous anecdotes from the set. Chloe continues to keep busy with independent films. She recently completed "Mandalay", the sequel to "Dogville" with Lars Von Trier and a minor role in the next Jim Jarmusch film.
You've taken a turn to playing the upper class businesswoman, from Shattered Glass to this role in Melinda Melinda, are you going for more adult roles?
Chloe Sevigny: Earlier in my career I did a film called "The Last Days of Disco". She was really similar to the preppy girl from a nice family. Even in "Kids", people thought she was some kind of street urchin, but I thought she went to a school like Spence; an Upper East Side girl who went to an all girls school and came from a good family. You want to have some range, but I am from Connecticut and have a nice family. People always think I'm, I hate to use the term it's terrible, white trash, because "Boys Don't Cry" was probably my most widely seen film. People always think you're that person, but you're just an actor.
What was your reaction when Woody Allen offered you this project?
Chloe Sevigny: I was so thrilled beyond belief, because I had actually auditioned for him twice before for other films and had not gotten them and had been very disappointed. I think every New York actor dreams of working with Woody Allen. There's some prestige along with it, so it was very flattering to have the offer. I was terrified. I got to go to his office and read the entire script, which not many actors get to do, I felt like he must like me. So I felt a little bit safer walking into the project, knowing I had been privy to the entire script.
What were the other roles you had auditioned for?
Chloe Sevigny: I think one of them was "Sweet and Lowdown". Another one was one prior to that. I don't remember. When you go in, you don't know the name of the project or what it's going to be. It was before "Sweet and Lowdown" but I can't recollect
How do you think your character would have fared on the comedic side? Had she been placed in that world, how do you think she would have turned out?
Chloe Sevigny: She would probably be a little tight for that world. Amanda Peet's character is sort of my character in that. I think her performance is the best performance in the film. I love watching her busying herself with everything. I think she's great in a Woody Allen film. I was kind of envious that they got to have more fun. It's very hard in Woody Allen's heavier films, the dramatic films. I don't know if I like them as much as his comedies. I think it's harder to work in those types of films.
How did you prepare for this role?
Chloe Sevigny: I didn't do that much preparation or back story. I had one day where we were doing costume and camera tests and hair and make-up tests. I spoke to Woody for half an hour about the character. It was basically him telling me about the character. Tell me all and I'll just use that. So he talked about her for a while, maybe not even half an hour, and that was about it.
We've heard that Woody doesn't really give a lot of direction to his actors. Was that true? Do you find that good or bad?
Chloe Sevigny: He gave me more direction than I expected. A lot of the crew has been working with him since "Annie Hall", they were saying he was really shooting more coverage and more angles and speaking to the actors more than they had ever seen before. I thought we were kind of lucky that maybe he was changing it up a little bit, his directing style. Who knows what he was thinking. I think he was pretty vocal. He would never tell you when he liked anything. But if it wasn't right, he'd let you know, which is all you really need to know I guess.
What are your favorite Woody Allen films?
Chloe Sevigny: There's so many. I love everything from "Manhattan Murder Mystery" to "Zelig" to "Radio Days", one of my favorites. I love Mia Farrow, she's the cigarette girl with a really high voice and then she becomes very glamorous.
You storyline has a pretty dark view of relationships in general. Is that an outlook you share or, without getting personal, what are some secrets you have to making relationships work?
Chloe Sevigny: I wish I knew. I've been in a relationship now for four years with somebody. We're kind of on and off at the end. We're having a hard time letting go of each other. People aren't going to change. You have to except the way they are and make compromise. I don't have any answers, I wish I did.
I have a feeling that some critics will say that the dialogue in the movie is not the way real people talk. Is there ever a temptation to say to the director, people don't talk like this now?
Chloe Sevigny: Not really, he encourages you if you're not comfortable with the word or lines to change it up, or improvise a little at the beginning or the end. He really encourages that. I don't think a lot of us took advantage of that. Maybe because the dialogue is so intimidating.
It works within that Woody Allen world. There are words in this movie that people will be running to look up.
Chloe Sevigny: I know. Try getting directed by it. I actually brought a pocket dictionary to the set.
Was he using ten syllable words in his direction?
Chloe Sevigny: He really was. It was shocking.
What are your thoughts about Woody's representation of New York City? It's very romanticized.
Chloe Sevigny: We see so much grime in New York. I like to see the beautiful side of Manhattan, the beautiful parks and apartments and nice restaurants. It's a nice little escape into his world. I want to look at some pretty things for a couple hours rather than the dirt and the stink.
Have you spoken with Woody about possibly working with him in the future?
Chloe Sevigny: I have not. A funny thing happened the day after shooting. I went to a Knicks game and there's this private elevator you can use. I was in the elevator and he walks in with Soon Yi. I'm looking at him and waiting for him to say something. He didn't say anything and I was just looking at him. Is he not going to say anything? Doesn't he recognize me? Soon Yi hit him and she's like, it's Chloe! Thanks a lot. It was very funny, very telling. I think at the end of the day he just turns it off and walks away.
You're working on a Jim Jarmusch film. Have you completed that yet?
Chloe Sevigny: I've completed it. I play a small part. I did a short film with him a couple years ago that was part of a full length feature called "Ten Minutes Older". It was ten or twelve short films by different directors compiled into one. We have a really good, strong relationship. He's the only director that I've maintained a relationship with. He even calls on Christmas. He said all the parts are for older women, but I have a small part, would you please do it? I just adore him and his movies. It stars Bill Murray. It has a large cast of these incredible women. I play a secretary to Jessica Lange. It was fun, I worked a few days. The movie's going to be good.
What's the story about?
Chloe Sevigny: Bill Murray is kind of this Don Juan character. He gets this mysterious letter and goes on this hunt. It's kind of a detective story, in a Jim Jarmusch kind of way.
You're also working on film called "Mrs. Harris". What can you tell us about that?
Chloe Sevigny: "Mrs. Harris" is a true crime story. Sir Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Turnour, he did the Scarsdale diet and Annette Benning plays Mrs. Harris. I am Dr. Turnour's young nurse and lover.
Did you refer to Ben Kingsley as "Sir Ben"?
Chloe Sevigny: Everybody has to refer to him as Sir Ben. They actually sent out a memo to cast and crew.
Does he personally insist on that?
Chloe Sevigny: He does. Whatever you want to be called, I don't care. People want to be called much more outrageous things than Sir Ben. I was fine with it, but some people gave him a hard time.
Anything else lined up?
Chloe Sevigny: Those two were shot. I did the follow up to "Dogville" with Lars Von Trier called "Mandalay". I did another film called "Three Needles", which is two years ago now, with Lucy Liu and Stockard Channing. That should eventually come out, it's about the AIDS epidemic. That's my favorite part I've played since Boys Don't Cry. I'm waiting eagerly for it to come out.
Do you know what the hold up is?
Chloe Sevigny: There's three different storylines. My storyline took place in South Africa, where I play a novice working in a mission with people infected with AIDS and HIV. Lucy Liu's character took place in China and there was some SARS epidemic. They wanted to shoot on location, but it was postponed, some finance problems. Who knows, independent movies take forever.
Will we ever see you fighting aliens or leaping out of buildings with James Bond?
Chloe Sevigny: I think so. I enjoy a little action every now and then. If it's done well. I'm really excited about the Charlize Theron movie where she plays that cartoon character. I love that cartoon. I met with that director and she had all these great ideas. I think it can be done well if I found the right project.
Dont't forget to also check out: Melinda and Melinda