O Canada! The Blair Sex Project: Selma, Neve Help Heat Up Toronto

TORONTO-On Monday, Sept. 13, a fleet of limousines pulled up

in front of Remington’s, a male strip club in the heart of the antiseptic

downtown here. Director John Waters disembarked, followed by the actors Selma

Blair and Johnny Knoxville, as well as Bob Shaye, the co-president of New Line.

The group was headed to an “impromptu” after-party for Mr. Waters’ latest

movie, A Dirty Shame, about a sex-addict messiah and his disciples, which had

premiered to an enthusiastic crowd hours earlier.

According to eyewitnesses (which included marketing execs

from Warner Independent, UA/MGM and HBO), Ms. Blair subsequently offered up

quite the photo op: a rising Hollywood starlet receiving a personal lap dance

from one of Remington’s naked, glistening staffers. “I did get asked-really

more than asked-to come up and be the magician’s assistant. That

girl-that-gets-picked-up-to-wave-the-wand-around type of thing,” Ms. Blair said

the next morning in a courtyard restaurant at the Intercontinental hotel,

looking typically winsome in a floral blouse, but in desperate need of a cup of

coffee. “It was very funny to see my agent at this bar. And of course I’m

dressed like something out of an Adam Ant video-like the goody two-shoes thing.

I looked a bit peculiar, but very chic, I think, with a nice big cock waving in

my face.”

If the action at Toronto is any indication, American

independent film is entering a sexed-up phase, joining European fare like

Anatomy of Hell, starring an oft-nude Amira Cesar, and Michael Winterbottom’s

Nine Songs, which shows real sex and little else. Kinsey, about the iconic sex

doctor Alfred Kinsey, was a big hit at the festival here, thanks in part to one

passionate kiss between Liam Neeson (as Kinsey) and Peter Sarsgaard; and in

Oliver Stone’s Alexander (as in: the

Great), Colin Farrell flip-flops so much he puts John Kerry to shame. Let’s not

forget that Mr. Farrell also plays for both teams in A Home at the End of the

World.

“I’ve had three interviews this morning-I think I’ve said

‘vagina’ in every one of them,” said Toronto festival director Noah Cowan with

a hoarse laugh. “I think you’re seeing a greater attention to sex, and to how

we address sex in cinema. And that moves with the times. The times right now

are: ‘Let’s talk about gay stuff. Let’s talk about bisexual stuff. Let’s talk

about sexual stuff.’ And it’s O.K. for stars to participate in those worlds

now.”

It’s a brave new world for actresses and actors alike: Chloë

Sevigny can go down on Vincent Gallo and still have six projects in the works;

Neve Campbell plays a bisexual temptress who masturbates in the shower in James

Toback’s When Will I Be Loved, accepting money for sex from a character played

by Dominic Chianese (Dominic Chianese!). Roget Ebert considers Ms. Campbell an

Oscar front-runner-and before you laugh, remember that he made the same

prediction for Charlize Theron in Monster.

“I think the exploration of bisexuality is something that’s

very popular at the moment,” Ms. Campbell said, sitting in a comfy love seat in

a room at the Intercontinental. “I don’t know if there are many actresses my

age in Hollywood who haven’t done a [bisexual] scene. It is somewhat trendy at

the moment.”

That’s an understatement-and it’s not just women who are

having the fun. Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, about homosexual cowboys and

starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, is scheduled for release in October

2005 by Focus Features. John Cameron Mitchell is in pre-production on Short

Bus, another film featuring explicit nookie of all types.

Mr. Waters ventured that in the acting world, sexuality is

the new mentally handicapped. “The same way that an actress would first vomit

in a movie or play retarded people-that shows they were serious about their

craft, and they’ve all been shot on a toilet-now that’s the next thing,” he

said in an interview, also at the Intercontinental. “The final thing is to have

real sex.”

As with actual encounters, if the audience is not turned on

by an actress’ or actor’s performance, it is forgotten the next morning (see

Elizabeth Berkley and Maria Schneider). As Ms. Sevigny romped through Fashion

Week in New York, it already seemed like her foray into Mr. Gallo’s lascivious

den was slipping into pop-culture amnesia. (A rep for the once-Oscar-nominated

actress was traveling and unavailable for comment.) It can be dangerous to play

against type. Sharon Stone flashing her crotch in Basic Instinct made her a

star, but receiving explicit oral sex in In the Cut did little for America’s

sweetheart, Meg Ryan.

Ms. Campbell, however, had high hopes for how her onscreen

rolls in the hay might help her with future roles. “I’ve wanted to play against

my looks,” she said, “which I have nothing to do with, because I wanted it to

be about talent as opposed to …. ” Then she paused for a moment. “I was a

dancer my entire life-so for me, it was about developing myself into

something.”

In When Will I Be Loved, Ms. Campbell has a Sapphic

encounter with a girlfriend, doggy-style sex with her boyfriend, and accepts

money to sleep with Dominic Chianese (Dominic Chianese!). In the opening scene

of the movie, the actress is shown using the detachable shower head to

masturbate in the shower-no Party of Five necessary. “I like the fact that the scene is in the film,”

insisted Ms. Campbell, who also played bisexual in 1998’s Wild Things. She

trotted out the old girl-power argument: “People like to put women on this

innocent pedestal and like to believe that they’re not explorative in some

ways. And it’s not true.”

She added: “I’ve gotten to a place where I’m not concerning

myself with what the industry thinks or what the audiences think, because

there’s really no controlling that anyway. At the beginning of people’s

careers, we tend to really obsess over what the right next step is. And that

gets really old and frustrating.”

Ms. Blair has a similar take. In A Dirty Shame, due for

release on Sept. 24, she plays a sex-addicted stripper with augmented assets:

two breasts that each could double for the atomic bomb dropped in Dr.

Strangelove.

“Girls have it in them, too, to really goof around,” she

said, looking and sounding much more chipper after getting her coffee. “I

really don’t care if my child sees Tracy Ullman pick up a bottle with her

cooter. I don’t think that will scar them-I just don’t. I think it’s silly.

It’s funny. And maybe inspirational.”

She scoffed at the notion that her career might be affected

negatively by playing an overtly sexual role. “I don’t believe in career-making

or -breaking performances,” Ms. Blair said. “I don’t really care what people

think of me in that process. I care more what people think of me on a more

personal level.”