Smash the patriarchy: Chloë Sevigny’s most controversial moments
Actress & model Chloë Sevigny sat down with The Daily Beast to talk candidly about sexism in Hollywood, the #MeToo movement, and her recent film projects Lean on Pete & Lizzie.
While both movies independent features, they regardless mark a slight resurgence for Sevigny’s career and exposure, especially considering her disappointing supporting role in last year’s mess of a film, The Snowman. Lean on Pete is being distributed by A24 – an independent studio that broke into the mainstream recently with films such as Lady Bird and last year’s Best Picture, Moonlight.Divulging some info about the film, which is based on Willy Vlautin’s novel of the same name, Sevigny explained that while the book is actually “a lot more brutal,” the film version still made her “cry continuously” each of the three times she’s seen it.
When asked about 2017’s wave of sexual assault allegations that fractured the careers of several Hollywood bigwigs, she added “not a single one” surprised her and stated she hopes the movement continues. “Smash the patriarchy . . . anything that gives more power to the people.”
Never known as an actress who particularly gives a damn, Sevigny is frequently on the verge of controversy. To celebrate her vivacious attitude, we’ve collected a series of controversial moments she probably couldn’t care less about.
The New Yorker
When Sevigny first burst onto the scene in the late 90s, she was almost instantly recognized as an “It Girl” – a label she largely rejects. Moving away from a troubled teenage life of marijuana & hallucinogens, she set up camp in a small apartment in Brooklyn and began work as a seamstress. Spotted by novelist Jay McInerney, Sevigny was dubbed “one of the coolest girls in the world” in a seven-page piece in The New Yorker.
Boys Don’t Cry
After a small breakthrough as an independent actress and occasional model, Sevigny starred in the 1999 drama Boys Don’t Cry – a biographical movie detailing the real-life murder of trans man Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank). Sevigny portrayed Teena’s girlfriend – Linda Tisdel – who infamously despised the film. Claiming several factual inaccuracies, Linda and her sister Leslie called it “a lie of a film”, criticizing its depiction of her as “lazy, white trash, and a skanky snake.”
In her earlier years as a so-called It Girl, Sevigny was frequently in and out of the tabloids with a different celebrity partner on her arm, the highest profile of which was Jarvis Cocker – lead singer of the Brit pop band Pulp. After being constantly flocked by fans wherever they went, she decided “this is horrible” and became disillusioned to the celeb experience.
Lars von Trier
Before more mainstream roles like Zodiac & The Killing Room, Sevigny was best known for garnering the attention of the more controversial auteurs in the independent movie scene. One such eccentric genius was Lars von Trier, who cast her alongside Nicole Kidman in the experimental film Dogville.
In an interview with The Guardian about her experience working with Trier (among other directors), Sevigny admitted, “What I would say is that the most damaging thing about working with so-called auteurs is that I now have a total disdain for directors.”
In 2016, Sevigny starred alongside Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship – an adaptation of an unfinished Jane Austen novel, Lady Susan. Reuniting with The Last Days of Disco director Whit Stillman – a filmmaker she usually adores working with – this time there was actually some friction on set.
After working on a British accent for an extensive period of time, Stillman instead opted for her natural American dialect. Forgetting weeks of training in an instant must’ve been a nightmare.
The Brown Bunny
Sevigny doesn’t regret this for a second, but audiences at The Brown Bunny’s first screening at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival definitely got a bit of a shock. Directed & starred by a rumored former lover, Vincent Gallo, one sequence depicts Sevigny giving him unsimulated fellatio. At the time, Roger Ebert called the film “the worst to have ever been screened at Cannes.” (The critic softened his outlook when later presented with the final theatrical edit.)
Although it’s not necessarily a specific moment of controversy, her interview with Playboy is essential reading for any fans of Sevigny. Featured with an in-depth article & photoshoot in January 2011, Sevigny goes into detail about her past before she became a volatile, indie actress. Dishing the dirt on her experience with drugs and her dating history, it’s a shockingly truthful piece with nothing to hide.
Also known for taking artistic- and fashion-conscious modelling jobs, Sevigny was the focus of one of the most bizarre photoshoots you’ll ever see. Joining forces with Richardson – an eccentric fashion photographer who has recently been accused of sexually assaulting models – Sevigny dons his signature moustache & glasses and is pictured embracing and kissing her doppelganger. Egocentric, much?
As with many high-profile performers, Sevigny made the transition from film to TV. Signing on to HBO’s 2007 drama Big Love, she played the Mormon wife of the polygamist politician, Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). Though it received a fair amount of critical acclaim, Sevigny got some flak for describing one season as “awful”. The show also garnered a decent amount of backlash from annoyed Mormons.
As one of the most controversial films ever made, Kids was the second wave from infamous director Harmony Korine, famous for his maverick style and questionable subject matter. He already provoked a ripple of disapproval for his debut – Gummo – but Kids was even more reviled for its depiction of the sex- and drug-filled lives of underage teenagers during the height of the 90s AIDS epidemic.
While it was mired in controversy, the film cemented Sevigny as an actress to watch, as it was her first-ever feature role.