With so many female-driven films and strong roles at this year's fest, and in the spirit of the opening night film, we'll be profiling some of the most kick-ass females representing at SXSW this week. First up: Barry Munday and Mr. Nice star Chloe Sevigny.
Chloe Sevigny has been a staple of the indie film scene ever since her debut in Larry Clark's Kids, one of a handful of young actresses whose careers are comprised of consistently challenging roles and few critical missteps. She's worked with a litany of modern-day auteurs (including Werner Herzog, Harmony Korine, Woody Allen, David Fincher, and Lars von Trier), and stars on HBO's unorthodox drama Big Love. Naturally, Sevigny ranks atop our list of the bold and daring ladies representing this year's SXSW slate.
Cinematical caught up with Sevigny the day after Barry Munday, the first of her two films at the festival, debuted. (Her second film, Mr. Nice, premiered the next day.) Barry Munday, written and directed by Chris D'Arienzo (Broadway's Rock of Ages), is the crowd-pleasing tale of a verifiable douche bag (Patrick Wilson) who only truly becomes a man when he loses his testicles in a horrible incident; Sevigny and Judy Greer star as two polar opposite sisters who become involved in Barry's life. As the packed premiere screening at Austin's Paramount theater attested, SXSW was probably the perfect place to debut the off-the-wall comedy, which features a memorable scene involving Sevigny, a strip club, and the classic Whitesnake ditty, "Here I Go Again On My Own." (Read Peter Martin's review here.)
Cinematical: How did you find yourself involved with Barry Munday to begin with?
Chloe Sevigny: My agent was a supporter of the film from the beginning. She read the script and was very enthusiastic about it and sent it to me; I actually read for the part of Ginger first, and then it went to Judy [Greer]. We had a really great meeting, I really loved Chris, and we got along really well. He came back to me saying Judy's going to play Ginger, but would you be interested in playing Jennifer? And I thought, why not? I think I've been playing a character you love to hate on Big Love, and on the big screen I'd like to try something along those lines but a bit different. In the movie, I think Jennifer's character is funny because she's kind of a seductress. It was kind of interesting to play that kind of bitchy role.
Cinematical: Jennifer and Ginger are sisters in the film, but are polar opposites. Is it tough to switch from going for one role in a movie only to be cast as another completely different character?
Chloe Sevigny: It depends on how far along you are in the process. If you were hired at the last minute and they asked you to play something but you'd been preparing to play something else, I imagine it would be difficult.
Cinematical: Patrick Wilson's performance was surprising in that he's funnier than anyone might expect, and pulls off the feat of being the world's biggest douche bag and being likable at the same time.
Chloe Sevigny: Obviously, he's a dramatic actor. I had no idea how he was going to play the role until I showed up and saw him improvising, walking around pulling these faces. Oh my god, it was too funny. He's more than funny. I was really impressed with him. I guess he's honed that on the stage but I've never seen him on the stage doing comedy before, so I was really surprised and impressed. I said, you'd better get ready to make a lot of money, because a lot of people are going to be calling you to do big comedies.
Cinematical: You've got not one, but two films at SXSW. What was your experience like shooting Mr. Nice, and how much more crazy is your SXSW schedule with two films in the festival?
Chloe Sevigny: Having two films has happened to me a lot in the past over the years at different festivals; it just means more work. Mr. Nice is a biopic about a drug smuggler named Howard Marks. Rhys Ifans stars. It was very improvisational, the shooting, and the director is kind of a wild man; he didn't want to rehearse or block any scenes. Sometimes he wouldn't even let us see the room we were going to do the scene in until we walked in to shoot. It was very challenging, because I was also doing a British accent. I rehearsed on my own over and over again, but then Rhys of course improvised and I would have to try and respond in a British accent, with improvisation! It was very hard for me, I'd never done that before. But I really love Bernard, I think he's a great filmmaker and it was really fun to shoot that way.
Cinematical: You started your career with a unique film, Kids, and since then your career has followed a certain trajectory. Do you feel like the more serious, indie-styled roles came to you because of Kids or have you been more consciously discerning in your choice of projects?
Chloe Sevigny: I think a lot of it actually came to me, but there are a lot of things that I turned down, decisions that I've made throughout my career very consciously. I make films that I want to see. Also, once you do something outside the box, it's something I've been trying to maintain.
Cinematical: Have you consciously avoided taking mainstream roles?
Chloe Sevigny: Not necessarily. People like to project that on me, but it's not necessarily true. If it was right, with the right director and the right material. I usually choose my projects depending on the director and who else is involved, and I've worked for the most part with writer-directors throughout my career.
Cinematical: Which directors out there would you like to work with that you haven't had a chance to?
Chloe Sevigny: Jane Campion, or the Coen brothers.
Cinematical: Do you find that the roles you want come to you now, or do you have to work to get the meaty, interesting parts you want?
Chloe Sevigny: I've never been in any pictures that have made any money. So often you don't get jobs because they need someone with box office draw, it happens every day. That's why sometimes I say I'd like to do more commercial work, just so I'd be able to have more choices. But I'm not really that ambitious, it's not something I'm actively pursuing. I'm reading scripts and I audition for the ones I like, but it's not like I'm out there like this is something I have to do right now. I'm really happy with my career and the way it's gone.
Cinematical: SXSW seems like a good place to premiere a film like Barry Munday.
Chloe Sevigny: Right now I'm laying by the pool at the hotel trying to get some sunshine, which is nice because it's been so miserable and rainy in New York. I've been to Austin before for a friend's band who was on tour, but this is my first time at the festival. It's very easy breezy; it's super mellow! The audience at the Barry Munday screening was amazing, and that's kind of what you hope for the most when you go to a festival -- you hope for an audience that's going to respond well and become vibrant and alive and I feel like the audiences here are very much like that.