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INT: Chloe Sevigny

Feb. 28, 2007by:

Chlo Sevigny first gained notoriety with the KIDS, from the disturbed mind of Larry Clark. After that, she continued to take on interesting and challenging roles in such films as GUMMO, BOYS DONT CRY and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. Her controversial role in THE BROWN BUNNY continued to gain notoriety but she still carried on with her unique career. She has recently found success in the HBO Series "Big Love" which has earned here a whole new audience. But alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. she appears in the highly anticipated new film from David Fincher, ZODIAC. Although a secondary character in the film, she brings a sense of realism and takes the audience along with her as her frustration with her Zodiac obsessed husband begins to take a toll on their marriage.

Ms. Sevigny recently stopped by The W Hotel in Westwood to talk about her role and what it was like to work with David Fincher and her costars. She is a lovely woman who is far apart from the usual Hollywood actress. She is honest about her career and I can honestly say I dont think Ive heard an actress laugh as much as she did. She is very open about her work in the film and how she feels about working on her very first studio picture. She also spoke about working on BIG LOVE with a surprising take on how involved HBO is in the production of the series. Read on for more.

Chloe Sevigny

Im assuming you probably werent alive when this was actually happening. How much did you know ahead of time?

Well, my parents lived in Marin County right before I was born and I was born in 74 so I guess they moved right before it really started. Or were things really happening then to as well? The dates Im a little rusty on [Laughing]

Did you know about it?

I didnt know about it.


No, no, not until like I was never one of those teenagers that were fascinated with serial killers but I had lots of girlfriends who were and they lent me their books and [Laughing] so I started reading Robert Graysmiths books and then I got too scared and I had to put them down. But I wanted to read a bit of the extent of his obsession and realize what my husband was really getting into and how in depth he got into it so, you know

Its rare that in this kind of movie to get to play like meeting someone, you really get to develop a character and develop a relationship together. Did that surprise you that is was such a non-thank-less role?

Was it? I dont know. [Laughing] I always thought that my character, which Im fine with, was more to service Jakes [Gyllenhaal] character. To show how his obsession just, you know, the effect it had on his home life and how his relationship fell apart and how all other requirements he had in life he just kind of forgot about and got completely consumed by Zodiac. So I felt like I was helping to show that aspect.

Was that not a reservation? Ive heard actors say before that theyre not particularly interested in just being the wife or the girlfriend

Right well for me, this was my first studio picture and it was David Fincher and I havent always been selecting my movies by the character. I never did that, it was always the overall picture, the director, who else was involved and I would just feel like were all just little pieces of a puzzle. Im not so, I need more lines here, more lines there. Im happy if Im pleased with the script and the director and the work thus far to just serve the purpose of the greater good of the movie. Im okay with that.

This is your first studio picture?

It is. Yeah, I think Ive had other pictures that have been like financed by, you know, Fox Searchlight or Im not even sure to be honest actually. Or if they were just picked up afterward and just distributed by them. But this is my first real

Well did you notice much difference?

Not really. I mean trailer I guess, you know. I hadnt always had a trailer or um time was really the big difference, the amount of, the luxury of time and being able to do as many takes as you want. I guess everybodys heard the stories of Fincher and how he does sixty to eighty takes and my first day, my very first day, we shot an exterior shot of Jake and I in the phone booth in the rain on a street in San Francisco. And it was like one shot with a page and a half of dialogue so there was no inter cutting so it was very tricky, the technical, the camera move and light and the rain and blah, blah, blah.

But like ninety takes into it I started having a breakdown. [Laughing] I come to New York and Im totally jetlagged and it was like three oclock in the morning I didnt know where I was, I couldnt make sense of the lines. He kept like going after that, this one line over and over and he wanted me to be drier and Im like, Im already so dry [Laughing] how could I have more dry sense of humor than I already have. So you know I went home and cried. [Laughing]

And then I had a couple of drinks and I felt better. And the next day he called and apologized which I thought was really nice. But nobody warned me that thats what he did to every actor that came to the set. Every actor would kind of have to go through this kind of shake down or whatever you want to call it and but it wasnt only to fine tune performance because he is so technically obsessed a lot of it was camera move or lighting or background. It wasnt just performance always.

Is that by choice that you havent done a studio picture before now?

I guess I just havent been offered one that I was interested in. Ive had some offers but more commercial fare than this even, even more fluff pieces or whatnot. And Ive mostly worked with auteurs, writer/directors in the independent world and I guess its kind of what I always wanted to stick to. And with Fincher, I believe that he has a vision, we all know that he does obviously and I really enjoyed his pictures and going into his world and wanted to be a part of that so

And when you watch the movie and see stuff where you had done a lot of takes do you understand what he was trying to get out of you by doing all those things?

I dont think it was really a psychological thing. Maybe with Jake more, he was trying to break him down a bit more but with me I think it was more I didnt do quite as many as Jake did I think it was more technical things. I enjoyed that, on most of my movies that I have done I get maybe one, two or five at the most. So to be able to try all these different things you really like realized why these great performances come out of these big studio pictures often because you get so much time. The one scene I come with the divorce papers at the end, we had to re-shoot.

So we did it once and then we came back months later, you know, towards the end of them wrapping the picture and we had to shoot it again and the next day they were going to turn around and shoot Jakes coverage. We showed up the next day and, oh, your coverage was too dark so I had to do the same scene three times. So I guess in total I probably said those like three pages of dialogue like almost four hundred times. If you factor in all the different coverage, you know, the establishing, the singles, the two shots, the blah, blah, blah, blah, I probably said those three pages of dialogue like four hundred times. [Laughing]

What are your thoughts about why David Fincher isnt here today, rightly or wrongly it kind of sends the message that he may not have a lot of faith in the movie.

Oh, but hes shooting. Hes shooting [The Curious Case of] Benjamin Button and I think he is gonna do, him and Jake, who is also shooting I think in Morocco I dont know what hes doing. But I think theyre gonna have their press days in New York.

Can you talk about working with Jake; he seems like a very talented actor, a really sweet guy. Theres gotta be some deep dark secret to him.

Hes an egomaniac. [Laughing] No, no, no, well, hes an actor. But no [Laughing] Hes very what I was surprised about was how young he was actually. Hes not as mature as maybe you know, hes twenty-seven. Hes young, you know, hes been growing up kind of coddled by this industry and his parents, whatever. So he has a very young spirit to him, very boyish. Where I thought hed be a bit more You know, hes very serious about his work and concentrates and you know I was very impressed with his work ethic actually. But he is very boyish.

What do you think the commercial prospects as a big studio film? What do you think the commercial prospects are and is that an important?

I think theyre pretty huge. I mean, Ive heard people complain about the length. But when you the success of CSI [CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATIONS] and all these other crime scene I dont know the titles of them, I dont watch those shows but I guess there seems to be a huge market NUMBERS, right? Isnt that anther program? I think people are really interested in the process of the investigation and thats kind of what our movie is about. And people will be fascinated by [the] huge leaps and developments that have come in such a short amount of time. You know, even if these guys had a frickin fax machine it would have been, you know [Laughing] not to mention all the other crazy things that I dont know the technical terms, sorry.

Did doing your first studio picture, even though its Fincher, did it make you go, maybe I can do another studio picture or?

I think so. You know if I thought the film was challenging and/or subversive in a way. And I think it would be important to me that it would be a director that would have final cut or that I knew would

So it really needs to be someone with status because final cut is not

I think so. Maybe Id like to do like a fluff piece, romantic comedy one day if I found one that I thought was very clever or you know, funny. Im not opposed to studio, I mean its not like, Im not doing studio. Im so purist or whatever, something like that ever, nothing had ever come to me that I thought was right, or Id never gotten the part that Id wanted to.

[ZODIAC] is broken down into two themes; the crime scene theme, the crime element theme, and theres also the theme that your involved in, the really kind of more like an art film theme, the obsession theme. Which does strike me as being more of the kind of film that you might work on because those scenes are smaller and they are much more personal, much more emotional, perhaps more than the other scenes; did you see that?

Yeah, and that is what was interesting to me about the story and my part in the movie as approaching crime or serial killer, something from that angle and how it took over this poor guys life.

And several not just him.

Not just him. Yeah.

At least three of them were completely obsessed with and couldnt leave it alone.


The ripple of the victim part around them, youve got the primary victims and their family and then youve got the people who are working on the case and it just kind of [works] out like that.


Your character really brings that home. You were talking about just to serve it but it really kind of brings that back to us again about how she is shes smart, she has so much going for her and yet here she is being neglected and you ask why would he do that. Which is why your character is as developed as it is.


Did you have any contact with the [Robert] Graysmiths ex-wife?

She came to the set one day with one of her children, one of her daughters and we chatted. She was very spunky and she had a lot of sass. [Laughing] So I tried to incorporate that a little bit into it, you know I wanted us to have a little, like a soft, nice moment, more nice moments, more than me just coming down on him. But David wanted it to steer more towards me always being frustrated with him. I thought that was a little one-notish. [Laughter]

Are you more confidant in your abilities as an actress now that youve gone through something as trying as ninety takes with a demanding director?

Um I guess so. I mean, I think having experienced that I look forward to working more in that kind of arrangement or working with someone thats that obsessive. Because Im really obsessive with props and when I feel like my director isnt in control of the entire frame then my I kind of doubt him or her a little bit. And what I liked about David is that I felt he was entirely in control of everything and obsessive with the props that the guy [would] take a ruler and measure how much was in the cup between every take and just like I kind of got into his [frame of mind]. But he was very kind and a really sweet, kind face, he kind of looked like a boxer, little flat nose and I thought he was very charming.

But in a way arent you getting when you work with a director like that, your giving away a lot of your autonomy because hes got ninety takes to pick from, he could sort of shape your performance whereas if youve got two or three takes?

Id rather have more.

Youd rather have more?

Yeah. And then you just hope, hopefully youll work with a director

With David Fincher youd rather have more

Yeah. And Harris Savides, the DP whose the best in the business. I think that anybody that loves film is gonna love this movie. I mean, obviously any cinephile likes Fincher for whatever reason but I think from the production design to the costumes, every aspect of the movie is so well realized that I think people will really enjoy it.

Could you talk about Woody Allen, where does he fit in, in that group?


He kind of lets actors go doesnt he?

He didnt really direct me at all. Like I remember reading a quote that Judy Davis said, how many pictures did she make with him, maybe like three, and he maybe said three words to her in total over the three pictures. He didnt really say that much to me either but some of the other actresses, he was really directing them. And I was like, give me some notes [Laughing] going through the motions or whatever but I really wanted to be like, molded by him, but I was just a supporting character so

Have you seen any of SISTERS yet, the film you did with director Douglas Buck?

I havent. They sent me a DVD because I did a remake of Brian De Palmas Sisters a couple of years ago with this guy, or last year with this guy, Douglas Buck who made shorts called Family Portraits which are these three horror films that are mind-boggling. He made them on a shoe-string budget and so anyways He sent me a DVD because they are going to South by Southwest but I wanna wait and see it on a big screen. So I havent seen it yet.

Who is your sister?

Did you see the original? I play the reporter, the more unflattering part. And Lou Doillon plays the Margot Kidder, shes the daughter of Jane Birkin. And Stephen Rea plays the mad scientist or whatever he is.

Did you have the chance to see THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED?

I havent but I heard that Im all over it. [Laughing] In more ways than one. [Laughing]

That film obviously has now changed sort of the I know you had a problem with, there was that one scene, I think it Hilarys [Swank] and your first love scene [from BOYS DONT CRY] and what do you think of the changes that may come about or have come about as a result?

I mean, Im not aware of any changes. I still think that the M what are they called?


M.P. double A or whatever are too lenient on violence and really, too tough on sex. I think its kind of you know. I dont know.

How has the success of BIG LOVE impacted your movie career? Are you having to pass on thing because of your schedule?

No. We have to shoot six months a year in Hollywood or Los Angeles which is hard for me because Im a New Yorker. But I havent I mean Ive read things that, Oh God thats really great. Oh, theyre really interested in you. But of course, my commitment is to the show and it could go for six seasons. Were at the end of season two and Im starting to look for things to do while on hiatus. But last hiatus, I made three pictures, I made ZODIAC, I made a film called LYING that went to Cannes this year and I made SISTERS.

And I felt like it was too much. By the time I got to SISTERS, I was so drained, I felt like I had nothing left to give. And it was [a] really low budget movie and I had to act, so practically nothing for half the movie and it was so difficult. Its difficult to do horror. To be, [Feigning shock] you know, really scared all the time. I was like Wow these girls are amazing. I kept feeling like I was Naomi Watts in THE RING. [Laughing] Did you like the film? Did you see it?

I havent seen it. But of course Im very familiar with the original. I talked to him for about two hours so I feel like Ive seen it.

Hes yeah. Hes an encyclopedia of knowledge of film. He could really walk the walk and talk the talk so now Im just nervous about

I know. I cant wait to see it.

Yeah. He referenced a lot of great things.

Whats the gist of LYING, what is that about?

LYING is about a bunch of girls that go away for the weekend Upstate New York. It was in the Directors Fort Night at Cannes and its directed by a friend of mine [M. Blash]. We made it for like a hundred thousand dollars and its me and Jena Malone and Leelee Sobiesky and Meryl Streeps son, Henry something.


Yeah, it was great. And my character is a compulsive liar. And I bring these girls up to this weekend like house, getaway and I claim its mine and I just spew all these lies and its just kind of more of, we really it kind of meanders and doesnt really go that much of anywhere. He was kind of more inspired by PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, like some of these girls, lying around in the fields and you know making pretty images but it was more a study on lying. You see her telling little white lies or big lies or lies to entertain herself or lies to protect other people and all the different kind of lies that you can say and why you do them. Its kind of interesting movie, if you like slow movies with pretty girls in the sunshine. [Laughing]

This film is going to be at South by Southwest?


I got a chance to see you in WHAT THE BUTLER SAW, any plans for more theatre?

Did you! Id like to, Id like to. Its always a big commitment and know with the show and because HBO still hasnt decided if we are going to do a third season and we never know how long theyre gonna give us as hiatus or not. So, it might be tricky with timing but Id love to do something else. Actually Scott Elliot has offered me numerous other parts and the timing has always been off so but I think hes great and Id love to do theatre. Id love to do Broadway. Get a car to bring you to theatre. I saw Mark Ruffalo last year in, was it Awake and Sing?


Did you see it? He was brilliant. It was a great production.

How is it working with HBO in general?

I was really surprised because I thought you think, oh, they do all this great work and its challenging, the executives control everything. I was shocked. I thought the creators would, you know, theyd give somebody notes and you know.


Yeah. They do give you a lot of money compared to other studios, you have more time, you know. We get ten days per episode, which, each episodes an hour I think. The Sopranos gets, I think twenty days. As each season passes you get more days or whatever but the execs are really involved, that was the most surprising thing for me. But its been really challenging playing that part and really rewarding because Ive been doing things that I hadnt thought I could do or done before.

Do you have any personal feeling about bigamy?



Or bigamy? Um, I have strong personal feelings that I think Id like the show to address more as far as these compounds and how repressed the young girls are. And I feel like we have an obligation to, I think, show more of the injustice. I think next season theyre thinking of showing an aspect of my character or one of her, I dont know something that she has wrong her, I cant really explain it any further that will really bring a lot of light to the situation. So I hope that we do more of that.

Has the show generated a lot of opposition from the Mormon Church?

No. They are mum. They are mum. Because they felt like the more they talked about it the more press it would generate. And they are completely right. So I heard, though I have friends whose parents are LDS, and I heard that they were [doing] like an internet, e-mail campaign saying dont watch it, dont say anything but according to HBO our ratings went [up]. [Laughing]

In Kids, you were the one trained actress in Kids or?

No, actually I mean Id gone to like summer theatre camp every year growing up and I had always aspired to be an actress. I was actually in some commercials when I was a kid. And then my mother pulled because she thought the world was a little too twisted and she wanted me to be a kid more. And so they hired a professional actress, Mia Kirshner and then two days before shooting they fired her and hired me, so thats someone elses misfortune.

Did you, like Rosario [Dawson] and other people in that movie, did you just kind of all of a sudden have an acting career?

Yeah. Basically yeah, thanks to Harvey Weinstein.

Were you skateboarding in a park and thats where they found you?

No, I was watching the skateboarders.

Whats the proper pronunciation of your last name?

Seven-Knee. Like the number seven, knee.

Thank you very much.

Thank you.

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