A really great, candid interview with Chloë Sevigny from London Evening Standard, in which Chloë talks about (among other things) turning 40, dealing with criticism and the media attention, her problems with social media and having once tried to conform to mainstream expectations. Chloë is also on the cover of this week’s ES Magazine. Full article on the ES website or under the cut.
Eternal indie kid Chloë Sevigny: when I’m walking the red carpet all I can think about is the criticism
by Sophie Heawood
She’s the eternal indie kid, fashion favourite and film darling. With a cult TV hit and three movies due out, Chloë Sevigny tells Sophie Heawood why motherhood is next on her wish list
It’s something of a tradition nowadays to turn 40 and announce that life has never been better. Forty is the new 17! Grey is the new platinum blonde! You’ve never felt sexier and here’s another laboriously rehearsed selfie to prove it! So it’s quite reassuring to meet the actress Chloë Sevigny, who is about to turn 41, and discover that she is having none of it. That, in fact, she has become quite disturbed by the whole unpleasant business of growing older.
‘I didn’t think I’d give a shit about turning 40,’ she admits, sitting beside the pool at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles. Or rather, sitting at a table behind some trees beside the pool, as she doesn’t want everyone else at this celebrity hangout to overhear our conversation. ‘But I swear, when it happens there is a shift. I don’t know if it’s psychosomatic, or what, but I feel like in my late thirties I was looking really good and now I’m on the decline. And it makes all the rest of the stuff that goes with being an actress a lot harder. A lot more insecurity, a lot more anxiety.’
Hang on a minute: this is Chloë Sevigny, labelled the Coolest Girl in the World by The New Yorker magazine when she was just 19 years old, hanging out with Lower East Side skaters and playing a young HIV-positive woman in the controversial cult movie Kids. Who then starred in The Last Days of Disco, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry and gave Vincent Gallo a blow job in The Brown Bunny. Whose way with vintage finds meant that she created her own deadpan take on the blonde bombshell look: long legs, a scowl and a frilly skirt — the anti-cheerleader.
At the height of Britpop, she dated Jarvis Cocker. In 2012, she did a Miu Miu campaign and became best mates with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. I don’t actually want her to scroll through Instagram and sigh about cellulite like the rest of us. I want her not to give a damn. Also, she’s acting in American Horror Story: Hotel now, a hilarious TV series of grisly supernatural dramas that has become a massive hit, with Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell among her co-stars. Sevigny plays a doctor who is also the mother of a vampire — and it seems to be going really well. ‘Oh, it is,’ she agrees, clearly delighted, ‘but I can’t watch it back because I look like a monster! It’s very hard for me. When I’m walking the red carpet all I can think about is the criticism.’
She’s laughing as she speaks, and there’s no panic in her voice, but clearly this fear is painful. ‘I’m seeing a psychoanalyst and she’s helping me,’ she says. She’s been working on the image Sevigny projects. ‘So, like, what’s been helping me is trying to be a lot warmer. I always had a bit of a shell, and [the paparazzi] thought I was mean, or cold, or whatever. I would be so defensive and they’d notice that I’d put up this wall. So now I’m going to these events being super-friendly, and it really helps.’
She was actually on the red carpet the night before we met, at a gala event at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, wearing a flowing yellow Gucci dress with tigers and butterflies on it. ‘It was a little wild, and the tabloids love to make fun of me, so this was like feeding [disparaging comments] to them on a silver spoon. But f*** it. I love what Alessandro [Michele, the newly installed creative director] is doing at Gucci.’
She says she’s always had a paunchy tummy, partly because she suffers from scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that leaves her back slightly hunched, and that’s why she likes to show off her legs — to deflect attention. I ask if her therapy involves hypnosis, like telling herself ‘I can walk the carpet, I can walk the carpet’? ‘No, thank God,’ she says, ‘it’s not that pathetic, ha-ha-ha.’
In 2006, Sevigny was cast as Nicolette Grant, the pained second wife in a Mormon marriage in the HBO series Big Love. It was surprise casting for the indie It Girl, but it worked; she did it for five years and won a Golden Globe. But while she’s glad she reinvented her career, she regrets agreeing to the idea that she had to reinvent herself. ‘I remember my publicist saying, ‘People associate you with being weird, and that is hurting your career.’ Trying this, “I can be the pretty girl-next-door thing” was a disaster. It was false. The photos are so disturbing.’
So, to re-embrace her offbeat style, Sevigny curated an art book filled with photos of herself in various kooky ensembles, which was published by Rizzoli in April. She also designed a clothing range for Opening Ceremony and says both projects were ‘fulfilling in a way that acting isn’t’. The photos were all taken by other people, though — Sevigny can’t get her head around selfies.
‘I looked at Lily-Rose Depp’s Instagram and it’s all pictures of herself — and people love that!’ She sounds truly perplexed. ‘I’m just not interested in inviting people in that way.’ For the record, Sevigny has 182,000 followers on Instagram, but says she only joined to promote her book. ‘Then I started this series called “I Heart Actresses”, putting images of women out there who aren’t so cookie-cutter. It’s been fun, but then I’ll see some comments and get scared. I know you’re not supposed to scroll down, but…’
You really don’t ever take selfies? ‘I can’t do it. Even when I’m on my way somewhere and my boyfriend’s like “Show me a picture!” I try, look at it, and feel horrible.’
Ah, her boyfriend — the rather gorgeous director Ricky Saiz, who she’s been with for the past year or so. The day we meet, gossip websites are reporting the couple have had a secret wedding. Sevigny hasn’t heard the rumour and chuckles, unaffected. ‘There’s no way I’d get married without a pre-nup, as my mother would never forgive me. And yes,’ she laughs drolly, ‘my mother is still in charge of my life.’ (On cue, her mother sends her a text saying how nice she looked on the red carpet the previous night.) Sevigny does want children, though. ‘I feel like it’s now-or-never time. I’m dating a younger boy, so he’s not necessarily ready, so it’s ride or die. It’s unfortunate that as a woman you’re faced with this time pressure: Do you do it alone? Do you break up with the young boy? Do you meet an older guy who wants children, but then you’re just a woman looking for a man to have a baby with? I’m open to surrogacy, adoption, all these other things. I dreamed my whole life it would be a natural occurrence. Now that it seems like it has to be forced, it takes on a different connotation — what do you actually want from it?’
Sevigny is great company, a natural conversationalist and surprisingly open. None of her hang-ups seem moany or vain — she simply doesn’t spend time trying to think up any better answer than the truth. Someone who has known her for years tells me she has always been straightforward. Organised, too: she hates to be idle and keeps all the clothes she’s ever worn in neat storage systems. Not that she enjoys admin. ‘The other day I had to spend half a day emailing, trying to produce a movie on my own. I was like, this makes me crazy.’ She wants to move into directing and is starting with a short film about a little girl who turns into a cat. ‘I’m on a fantasy trip right now.’
Next year she has three films coming out: Love and Friendship, with Kate Beckinsale, directed by Walt Stillman. It’s an Austen-period drama shot in Dublin, for which Sevigny spent months practising her accent only to be told she should sound American so that Stephen Fry, who plays her husband, could make a joke about sending her back to Connecticut. She was gutted. Then there’s a twisted sci-fi film Antibirth, starring her best friend Natasha Lyonne (from Orange is the New Black), and Look Away, with Matthew Broderick, about a girl who cannot physically see her mother.
She rents a bungalow on Venice Beach in LA half the year to shoot American Horror Story: Hotel, where she loves riding her bike on the sand and has enjoyed some nights out with her new friend Gaga — ‘she’s just so chill’. But she hates LA — ‘all that driving and relentless sunshine’. Home is very much still New York, where she recently moved from Manhattan to an apartment overlooking Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, which is closer to her family. (She grew up in the Connecticut town of Darien.)
In June she watched Kids again at a 20th-anniversary screening. ‘Every day someone comes up to me and says something about that film. Seeing it again was a lot more emotional than I had anticipated. I’m sad now that there wasn’t a stronger female represented in the movie. Kids was a boys’ movie. But it was the thing that heralded me.’
Then she laughs. ‘I was like,’ she puts on the tone of an affronted Mary Whitehouse, ‘this is so racy! It couldn’t get made now. The scene in the park where they basically gay-bash…’ Later, she says she feels ‘a little sensitive right now towards the teen thing — the exploitative nature of working with young people’.
As for her reputation for being cool, she says the British press created it. ‘They made it a thing in the 1990s. England was cool. I spent so much time in London back then — Soho House, the Met Bar, The Groucho. Britpop was fun.’ I wonder if she now wants to forget about being cool. ‘Oh, I hope not. I hope I’m still cool,’ she says. ‘I think Jim Jarmusch is the coolest person I know. Jane Fonda is still cool. I hung out with Anjelica Huston the other night — she’s way cool. I hope I can hang on to something. I think there’s a confidence, and a vulnerability, in those people. You feel like they know who they are and there’s a true sense of that — they’re not phoney.’Chloë Sevigny couldn’t be less phoney, so I’m going to call it: she’s the Coolest Middle-Aged Woman in the World.
‘American Horror Story: Hotel’ is on Fox on Tuesdays at 10pm
© ES Magazine 2015