Chloe Sevigny Interviewed – ‘Zodaic’

     February 27, 2007

I’ve been trying to stop writing my thoughts on a movie in an interview article but in this case I have to say a few words on Zodiac.

David Fincher has crafted a superb film on the famous Zodiac murders and I don’t think anyone else could’ve done a better job. What I especially thought was brilliant was the way he handled the story through all the years of the case. While most filmmakers might be overwhelmed by trying to tell a captivating story while also giving a history lesson, Zodiac weaves the various characters and places like a fine wine. While the long running time (2hr. 40min) might be a bit of a problem for some, I feel that any less screen time would have hampered the ability to tell the story and it would have resulted in compromising the material.

The other thing that makes the film so brilliant is that it never feels like it’s exploiting the murders or the people involved. While Hollywood sometimes tries to make a buck off subject matter than should be left alone, I thought the film never made any attempt to sensationalize or glamorize the brutal nature of the material. Again all credit needs to be given to Fincher for crafting a brilliant film and one that can be placed next to Seven and Fight Club – films that will be remembered and talked about for years.

Below is the interview (conducted in roundtable form) that I got to do with Chloe Sevigny a few weeks back. If you would rather listen to it click here, otherwise below is the transcript.

I also got to do an interview with Robert Graysmith who is the one who wrote the Zodiac books and was portrayed in the film by Jake Gyllenhaal. I only have the audio of the interview so click here if you would like to listen to it.

Zodiac opens this Friday and I can’t recommend the film enough.

Question: As an actress playing a character who’s not inside of the investigation, but is affected by it, did you find that you had a different relationship to the material than Mark Ruffalo did. He was somebody who became obsessed with the actual workings of the case, and I’m assuming that Jake Gyllenhaal did as well.

Chloe Sevigny: Yes.

Q: Did you find that, since you weren’t involved with that, you were watching these guys get into the strange nitty gritty of this sickness?

CS: Definitely. And, before I started the picture, a girlfriend of mine who was obsessed with Zodiac when she was a teenager, as lots of alternative girls probably were [laughs], gave me a copy of her book. I thought, “Maybe I’ll read it and try to get into where my husband in the movie’s mind was, what he was obsessed with and what he was dealing with, day in and day out,” and I couldn’t. I got almost through half of it and I had to put it down. I was like, “I just don’t want to read about this anymore.” [Laughs] That’s probably how Melanie is. She doesn’t want to hear about it anymore. It’s this morbid subject. Her kids are threatened. I feel like that’s probably how she was. She just wanted it out of her face. She didn’t even want to read the newspaper articles. She’d heard way too much about it already. I feel like that was probably her attitude. That’s what I did, not because I’m lazy or anything. [Laughs] But, I truly was disturbed reading it. I was alternative, but I was never obsessed with Manson or Zodiac, or whatever else kids like that get into.

Q: Do you think some of the retro clothes and the big glasses helped you and made you feel more like you were of the period?

CS: The wardrobe really affects me, and the hair and make-up, and all of that. I felt like they were trying to make me look frumpy to make Jake look less attractive. [Laughs] He has this unattractive girlfriend, therefore you can believe he’s less attractive. I don’t know. That’s my own insecurities. But, I did like that she wasn’t glamorous, in any regard. She was a working mother, and she was very practical. I got to be kind of cute, in the beginning. I liked that she was this practical, sassy, no nonsense lady.

Q: Did you speak to the real woman that you portrayed?

CS: I did. She came to the set with one of her daughters and hung around for half a day. A set’s kind of boring, so she didn’t last that long. But, she was very spunky. They changed so much of the details, within their relationship. When they met, she also worked at The Chronicle, and things like that. I didn’t want to delve too deep. It’s always difficult when you’re playing [a real person]. After ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ I actually vowed I would never play another living person, and then I have twice, already. It’s always a little touchy.

Q: Did Robert Graysmith help you with the role at all?

CS: I didn’t meet him. My scenes were fully realized. I had no trouble realizing where I was in the story or what the intention was of the scene. It was pretty obvious, to me, what was happening. My character was, to a certain degree, there to service what was happening to Jake, who was the main character, and I don’t mind that. I love the film, the overall script, and Fincher and his vision, and I wanted to be a piece of that puzzle that put this movie together.

Q: But, your character isn’t decoration either.

CS: No. I only worked 10 days out of 100, so I always think, “God, it’s such a small part.” But, people like that humanity, or to see that aspect, or to see someone’s home life fall apart. The movie is all about obsessions, and these different people’s obsessions with the Zodiac, and how it ruins their home lives.

Q: The cool that your character had was an interesting touch, as opposed to freaking out.

CS: That’s how it was written. But, I also didn’t want to be this hysterical woman. I think that she respects her husband, and she knows he has this [obsession]. She wants to understand why because she wants to help him, but she’s not going to go crazy and throw things around because she realizes that he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. He’s gotta follow it through, or else he’s never going to come out of it.

Q: Have you ever had a friend or a family member or a relationship where somebody’s obsession is just wrecking it and you had to get out because of their obsession?

CS: Drugs, yeah, but not an obsession with something like a Zodiac.

Q: What’s something about David Fincher that we don’t know?

CS: Something about him that you don’t know? I don’t know. What do you know? [Laughs]

Q: Not a whole lot.

CS: Really?

Q: Speaking of obsessions, he has them.

CS: He does, yeah. He has a lot. And, I liked how obsessive he was, as a filmmaker. I felt like I was in really safe hands. I’m quite obsessive compulsive, myself, and to know that he is aware of every inch of the frame and what’s going on, I felt very safe in his hands. But, he was very friendly and warm, actually, and jokey. His little daughter, Phelix, would come to the set. It was a really nice set. He would get very angry and curse a lot, which I kind of find sexy sometimes. [Laughs] He was just so in control. Sometimes, he would curse at people.

Q: At the actors, or at the crew?

CS: No, at the crew.

Q: What are you obsessed about?

CS: I’ve had obsessions with different rock stars or musicians growing up, throughout my life. But, right now, I don’t have any real obsessions. I don’t have time to obsess over things because I’m working on the second season of ‘Big Love’ and we work five days a week, 10-16 hour days, every day. So, I don’t really have time right now. I’m in a relationship and I did obsess over him, to a degree that we had to [take a break]. It was a little too much, so we had to back off. Now, it’s good. [Laughs] I’m kind of a smotherer, which is slightly obsessive.

Q: How was working with Jake, and how did you guys create those two people together?

CS: We had some rehearsals, where we went through all of our scenes and talked through the scenes and the dialogue, and he was very active in rewriting or adjusting his dialogue. I’m not a writer. I’m happy with the lines you give me, to a certain extent. But, he was very active in that and he would come with ideas for me, for my lines. [Laughs] He was very boyish and very funny. He kept the whole crew in stitches. They were all very charmed by him. He’s very creative. He has so much energy. He’s always bouncing off the walls. After 80 takes, I think he would get bored a little bit, especially when it was my coverage, so he’d be switching up the lines. His mind is always very active.

Q: What would you do if you lived in a house like that, with everything piled to the ceiling?

CS: Oh, my God, I could not take it. Clutter drives me bonkers. I think I would just hide it all in the closet.

Q: What was it like being the only female in the film? Did you feel kind of alone?

CS: No. There were lots of wardrobe and make-up girls. I’m not one to go sit behind the monitor with the producers and chat. I always go off in a corner and read my newspaper. I’m not so ambitious that I’m trying to work everybody. I know I’m only there for 10 days, so I’m going to do my work and do it the best I can. That’s it for me. I’m not trying to make any friends. I’ve got enough. [Laughs] Was that horrible to say?

Q: No, it’s honest.

CS: I like my friends.

Q: What can you say about the next season of ‘Big Love’?

CS: What can I say about it? I think people will be really pleased. It moves at a much faster pace. Last season, I think it was a little slow, especially in the beginning. It kind of picked up towards the end. We’d have these problems that went over seven episodes, and now there’s a problem and a resolve, almost per episode.

Q: Was that a decision higher up, of the producers and the show-runners?

CS: I don’t know. It took so long for us to come back because the show-runners wrote the next season 6-9 months after where the last season stopped and HBO didn’t like that, so they had to go back and rewrite everything, starting the day after. So, we basically pick up where the show left off. A lot of unanswered questions are answered, and Nicki, my character, gets into some trouble again, and it’s quite funny. But, I don’t know if I can give you any specifics. I might get in trouble. Oh, but they have a brilliant idea. They’re going to do these teasers that come out around Mother’s Day ‘cause the show starts airing in June. So, you’re going to have all these promos that are backstory, showing when we first met, or when Barb is sick and I’m there and we’re talking about me marrying Bill — different insights into how we all got to where we are, which I think are great teasers. It’s more clever than a regular commercial.

Q: What’s it like working on a show that is more fast-paced, like ‘Big Love,’ compared to a film like this, where there are 80 takes?

CS: As tedious as the 80 takes was, I liked it because you just got to try so many more things. You got to just experiment with it. The 80 takes wasn’t just because of performance, obviously. He’s so technical that a lot of it had to do with camera moves and lighting or background. With the children, it was obviously very difficult, so any of the scenes with the kids, there’s always lots of [takes]. The pace of the show is just insane. What they make us do is unfair. It really is. [Laughs] There’s all this chaos and then they’re like, “Okay, we’re shooting, now act!” It’s very hard.

Q: Can you feed off that, though?

CS: No, I just get frustrated. I just get angry.

Q: Does that mean you regret being in the show because of that?

CS: No, I like the show. And, I think we might get more days next season. If it does well, they’ll give you a couple more. They like to spend money, though.

Q: Do you contribute ideas to your character, or do you just want to act and have nothing to do with that?

CS: A little bit. If there’s something I really feel that she wouldn’t do, I’ll voice my opinion, but I can’t write like they can. I think they’re pretty brilliant, and I’m pretty pleased with the character, overall.

Q: If it is going that fast, do you feel you have more freedom to interpret the character the way you want to, as opposed to something like ‘Zodiac’ where you’re doing 80 takes and you’re not going to get as much of a choice as what the director wants?

CS: No. The creators and the writers are always on the set of ‘Big Love,’ and they’re always watching and they’re always analyzing everything. It’s kind of annoying. [Laughs]

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Q: The 60’s music was a big part of the film. Did you ever listen to that music?

CS: I like girl groups, like the Shangri-Las.

Q: What are you into listening to now?

CS: I don’t know. I still listen to a lot of stuff that I listened to when I was younger. Actually, this box set just came out on Rhino called ‘Rockin’ Bones’ that’s all 1950’s punk and rockabilly. It’s a great box set. I listen to a lot of Johnny Thunders. It goes from Morrissey to The Misfits.

Q: Did Fincher play music to get you into the mood on the set, or no?

CS: No. I think that would be distracting. But, he watched back every single take. He had two plasma screen monitors and he would watch back every take. And, Jake would watch them too. I’d be in a corner, [covering my face]. I don’t like to hear my voice.

Q: You don’t like watching yourself at all?

CS: No because then I become really too self-conscious, the next time I do it.

Q: Can you watch your movies later?

CS: Later, yeah. I didn’t watch the TV show. I thought the lighting was terrible. [Laughs] I watched one episode — the episode they made us do commentary on — but that was it.

Q: What was it like to look at it and then talk about the show?

CS: Luckily, I was with the other girls, so we were just gossiping and girly. We just goofed and praised everybody else, or each other.

Q: Are you already thinking about what you’re going to do after ‘Big Love’?

CS: I’m looking around, reading things and trying to find the right project. Last hiatus, I did three pictures. I did ‘Zodiac,’ ‘Lying’ — that went to Cannes — and a remake of De Palma’s ‘Sisters.’ It’s going to be at South by Southwest in a couple weeks. It was too much. I was so drained by the end. So, I’d like to find one great thing, but who knows if it will come. I mean, come on, how many great movies are out there, and how many am I going to get a part in? [Laughs]

Q: Is there a project that you would like to see made into a film?

CS: I was talking to these guys, years ago, about playing Alla Nazimova. She was a Russian actress that came to America, and she played ‘Salome’ when she was 50, or something. She was the first woman to write, direct and produce a movie in Hollywood. That was back in the 20’s. She did silent films. You know where Sunset 5 is? She had a house there and all these little bungalows, and it was called the Garden of Alla. She had a pool shaped like the Black Sea and all these panthers in the garden. She was very eccentric. I love stories of immigrants. Or, maybe I’d do something turn-of-the-century in New York City, like playing Hester Street — playing a Polish immigrant. I love the stories of people coming to America because I still love this country and I believe it’s great, and I think it’s great to show the positive aspects of it. Certain things aren’t so great.

Q: What’s the remake of ‘Sisters’ called?

CS: It’s called ‘Sisters,’ and Ed Pressman, the original producer, produced it. And, we have the same soundtrack, but it’s kind of revamped a little bit.

Q: Are you going to South by Southwest?

CS: We’re still shooting ‘Big Love,’ so I can’t go to that.

Q: What designer are you wearing?

CS: Chloe. The designer Chloe.

Q: Who is your favorite designer of clothing?

CS: I don’t buy anything new. I only buy vintage.

Q: You’ve done so many independent films. Is that something that you like, compared to the bigger movies?

CS: I haven’t had enough experiences on bigger movies and I felt like, with Fincher, it was almost like an independent because he had so much control of it, or at least it seemed like he did. [Laughs] I think he did. I’ll do both, I’m sure. We made ‘Lying’ for about $100,000 and I have to say, I don’t ever want to make a movie for that little money again. It’s just too taxing. We would have one holding room for all the girls. There was no catering. There was no money for anything and no time to do anything. That’s ridiculous. [Laughs] So, I don’t know if I have the patience for that low a budget again. Maybe $10 million or under. I don’t know if I want to do any more $1 million films, like ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ or ‘Kids.’

Q: You said you were too disturbed to finish the book, but you liked the ‘Zodiac’ script. What was the draw? Why did you sign up?

CS: Fincher. For me, throughout my career, I’ve worked with Lars von Trier, Woody Allen, Jim Jarmusch — we made a short film together. I haven’t necessarily always liked the parts. It’s been more about the opportunity to work with them and be in one of their pictures. So, I like David Fincher. Like in ‘American Psycho,’ my character shows more of the human side, and I felt like Melanie brought a bit of that to ‘Zodiac’ too and I liked that.

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