New Queen of the Indies-Shattered Glass, The Brown Bunny, Dogville-wants to be … Nicole Kidman
Pardon the phrase, but Chloë Sevigny was blowing my mind. Ms. Sevigny, star of Shattered Glass and The Brown Bunny, was calling from an undisclosed airport lounge where she was talking about fear. “I think I just have to not be afraid to challenge myself and to take on roles that I might be afraid of.”
It was an odd admission coming from someone whose allure-and yes, her power-as an actor and fashionista favorite flows from her fearlessness. Whether she was playing the HIV-infected 16-year-old Jennie in Larry Clark’s Kids, or Lana Tisdel, the teenage girl who unknowingly falls for a man who is actually a woman in Boys Don’t Cry, or Daisy Lemon, the woman who gives Vincent Gallo’s character an extended-and reportedly real-blowjob in The Brown Bunny, 29-year-old Ms. Sevigny has risen to the top of the independent-film heap, in large part due to her knack for choosing and shining in high-risk parts. That, and her eyes: heavy-lidded hazel-blue orbs that sit on top of her thick nose like the umlaut in Chloë and broadcast a kind of coquettish wisdom. No wonder Vogue magazine declared her “the new, post-modern grunge Audrey Hepburn” in 2000.
“When I first started acting-this was ’95-I made a list of all my favorite directors,” Ms. Sevigny told The Observer as she awaited a flight to Japan. “And now I’ve worked with several of those.” The list included such independent-film stalwarts as Lars von Trier, Jim Jarmusch and Woody Allen. And in the last two years, she has starred in films for each of those directors: Mr. von Trier’s Dogville, Mr. Jarmusch’s Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet and with Will Ferrell in Mr. Allen’s latest untitled feature.
In 2000, Ms. Sevigny expanded her influence to the fashion realm when, with her friends Tara Subkoff and Matt Damhave, she became involved as “creative director” with Imitation of Christ, a fashion label that cheekily slapped its own labels and hefty price tags on vintage clothing and-thanks in no small part to Ms. Sevigny’s celebrity-still managed to gain acceptance from the fashion police. “The press blew [my involvement] out of proportion,” Ms. Sevigny said. “But I didn’t mind. It helped to kind of jump-start it.”
Though Ms. Sevigny continues to be seen as a tastemaker among the fashion elite, she said she has scaled back her fashion endeavors and stepped up her efforts to land some more commercial roles. “I think I’m in some sort of indie niche right now, which is bad,” she said. “I don’t want to be in a niche. In the past, I shied away from doing more commercial work, and I think that’s something that now I’m grappling with,” continued Ms. Sevigny, who is currently in between roles and biding her time in lengthy gym sessions. “If I had done more of the commercial work earlier on, I probably would have been further on in my career.”
And who or what was the catalyst for Ms. Sevigny’s change in perspective? “Nicole Kidman,” she said. “I think that she takes the most risks and has the most diverse career. And I really just admire her choices.” Not surprisingly, she said she’d like to work with directors Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, whose latest movies-Cold Mountain and The Interpreter (slated for 2005 release), respectively-both star Ms. Kidman.
Interestingly, Ms. Kidman has taken more chances later in her career-remember Far and Away and Batman Forever?-while Ms. Sevigny has taken them all along. But the former commuting skateboard punk from Darien, Conn., sounds like she’s fashioning a map to more mainstream roles.
“I’m trying to get next to stars, because I need a little catapult,” Ms. Sevigny said. As an illustration, she mentioned Jennifer Connelly. “She had been working in films since she was a kid, in Labyrinth and whatnot,” Ms. Sevigny said. “What was that bad drug movie she did? Requiem for a Dream? She was totally out there, and then she got A Beautiful Mind and now she’s made in the shade.”
Peter Sarsgaard, who co-starred with Ms. Sevigny in Shattered Glass and Boy’s Don’t Cry and praised her ability to “be sweet and sensitive and mysterious at the same time” onscreen, said he had no doubt that the actress could succeed in Hollywood, but he chalked up her anxiety to growing pains. “We always want the opposite thing than what we just did,” he said. “I think that if she got into a Anthony Minghella movie and into a Sydney Pollack movie, in six years she would be saying she wants to be in a movie with whatever new person there was that’s on the edge.”
But Ms. Sevigny sounded like someone who’d come to the realization of what longevity in the movie business has to do with: “I’m lucky that I have worked in independent movies so far, made these great films. But I think in order to really last, you have to bring in the bucks a little bit.”