Some girls can go their whole lives without much happening to them. Not much that's really extraordinary, anyway. They're born and go to...
Some girls can go their whole lives without much happening to them. Not much that’s really extraordinary, anyway.
They’re born and go to school and get a job and maybe a husband. They have kids and friends and the occasional Florida vacation. Their obituaries are short and always include the word “devoted.”
What they probably don’t realize is that the extraordinary things that never happen to them are all happening, instead, to Chloe Sevigny.
She lingers by a Manhattan newsstand as a teenager and is asked to appear in a television broadcast. The broadcast’s reporter happens to be a magazine editor who hires Sevigny to work as an intern and model. A couple of years later, when she moves to the city and starts clubbing, a guy named Jay McInerney takes notice and writes a story in the New Yorker anointing her the Coolest Kid in the World. She skips college, becomes a skateboard groupie and finds herself in the same circle as Harmony Korine. He writes a parental heart attack of a flick called “Kids” and helps cast Sevigny as the movie’s HIV-infected heroine. Over the next decade, she becomes a thrift-store fashion muse and a reluctant hipster deity.
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Do the gods just like her more?
“But I feel like I’ve also sought that out — like it hasn’t all just sort of fallen in my lap,” Sevigny says from the Los Angeles set of “Big Love.” She has 15 minutes to spare in service of the new movie “Zodiac,” while the “Big Love” costume folks make a tube top out of a pair of nylons, so it will look as if she’s naked when she crawls back into bed with her polygamist husband (played by Bill Paxton) on the HBO drama.
“Like when I met certain people, not that I was using them or anything, but I knew that something was happening around them,” she says. “I don’t think I just hung out with a bunch of pot-smoking losers. I was definitely seeking out people that were doing stuff or wanted to do stuff in their lives.”
Based on the Sevigny model of success, the “who you know” cliché should be changed to “who you get to know.”
Fame was by no means a foregone conclusion for the middle-class daughter of Darien, Conn. She didn’t have any über-connected showbiz parents, and hers isn’t a face to launch a thousand ships. But when she fled suburbia at age 18, she did so with two qualities almost as rare and equally appealing: talent and an innate, unflagging sense of self.
The rest is a series of bullet points and bold-faced names: McInerney and Korine, “Kids” director Larry Clark, “The Brown Bunny” director/co-star/former boyfriend Vincent Gallo and Hilary Swank and a breakout role in 1999’s “Boys Don’t Cry” that garnered Sevigny Golden Globe and Oscar nominations.
In “Zodiac,” the bold-faced names she liked were those of director David Fincher and co-star Jake Gyllenhaal. But ask what she liked about her part in the drama about a California serial killer, and Sevigny will need a minute to come up with an answer.
When she does, she’ll at least be honest: “Um … I wasn’t really excited by the role,” she says of the chance to play the dour wife to Gyllenhaal’s cartoonist-cum-amateur investigator. “It’s a little one-note.”
Sevigny has been saying for a while now that she’s over it, this thing about her just being an indie-film princess. She dreams of doing a period drama and regrets passing up roles in (gasp) romantic comedies with actresses like (gasp) Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon.
“It would have been fun to be able to do more comedic stuff earlier on, because now it’s harder for me to get that,” she explains. “I think I’ll always work in independent film. It’s very difficult, though; it’s very taxing. … There are just certain perks you need to be comfortable. I’m not, like, saying I’m a big star, but certain things like hot water.”
So “Zodiac” was a set with hot water and a chance to work with Fincher, of “Panic Room” and “Fight Club” distinction. And who knows what better role he might be in a position to offer her. It’s the 32-year-old actress’ first film produced by a major studio, which means, naturally, exposure to a wider audience.
“Big Love” has helped in that department. The people who come up to Sevigny on the street, wanting to talk about the show and her role as the snarling shopaholic second wife, are most often middle-aged women.
Hipsters may hate to hear it, but moving toward that middle could be the only way Sevigny imagines enduring.
“I think, when you’re in your 30s, people are not as forgiving as when you’re young: ‘Oh, she’s young, she’s experimental,’ ” she says. “When you’re older, when you’re in your 30s, it’s a high-pressure time.”
Speaking of pressure, they need her in that tube top and back in bed.