To many Amanda Seyfried is “the Mamma Mia! Girl”, blonde, sweet, big eyed angel with no background in more psychologically complex, challenging roles. Those who see her like that forget she did Chloe, a film that actually made the directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein think she might be their Linda Lovelace. Seyfried in person is nothing like a Hollywood star – sincere, down-to-earth, charming and surprisingly modest — she’s a girl you’d like to grab lunch with and chat. When asked the most Vogue-like question in the world (meaning: “What are you wearing”) by a fellow journalist her answer was “It’s…Oh, I don’t really know.” An extra 5 points for that!
We met this February in Berlin, after Lovelace European premiere. Seyfried was very open about her difficulties with creating the character and her impressions on the real Linda Lovelace. We also talked self-esteem, image, nudity and painting. Here’s the outcome of this conversation.
In Lovelace you play a real-life character. What is the relationship between creating and re-creating in such case?
When you play a protagonist, you want to bring humanity to this person no matter what. You want to bring something relatable, you want to color them in, maybe in a way they weren’t really colored. I didn’t know Linda, but I knew certain things about her that I held onto. She was a survivor, she tried her best to share, present her story to the world… she wanted children, she was a good mother – I know that cause I was in contact with her children and I still am. I knew that she was very innocent and that her parents didn’t treat her very well… I don’t know how much she enjoyed certain things, I don’t know necessarily how she related to certain people… but I do know what she “told” me and I just ran with that. I wanted to make her human and make the audience empathize with her. And yes, reenacting is fun: I got to literally use her voice.
Did playing Linda require a lot of research and preparation?
Having being born 1985 I didn’t know anything until I saw “Inside Deep Throat”. Then the movie came along and Rob and Jeffrey presented me with this huge collection of photos, footage and DVD’s. I bought her book, original copies, the first editions of her books… I had to feel all the information.
Rob and Jeffrey saw you in Chloe …
Yes. Thank God for that movie, thank God! Because no-one would ever see me that way. Peter saw it and was like: “OK, she can do this, I’m in”.
Linda was perceived as a seductress, but also had a sense of innocence and vulnerability to her. How did you try to balance those contrasting sides of her personality?
It was all written, in a lot of scenes she’s just so wide-eyed… All she wanted was to be accepted and loved. I didn’t want to portray the complete naivety because that’s boring. She didn’t really play the girlie thing, she was like a tomboy. Also very honest about the fact she wasn’t OK with drugs, unprotected sex… she took care of herself in a way. You have to feel for somebody, you have to see where they begin in order to appreciate where they end and everything in between. I think it was important to show that she did stand for something.
Linda was objectified, victimized, abused… What gave you the power not to become victimized?
In terms of this movie, being on set, I never felt like I was gonna be exploited. But I do feel exploited sometimes, I think we all do, especially people in the public eye. Being somebody who plays to the younger, innocent, more naive side of myself because I am afraid of speaking up sometimes and that’s got me in trouble. I was exploited because of that because I want to make people happy and provide for them. But I’m realizing now that if it’s taking away from myself then it is not healthy and I have to watch out for myself. And that I’m not doing a disservice to the others, I just have to protect myself. I think these values are less from my parents and more from realizing that I don’t get anywhere, especially in this business, if I’m always a “yes-man”. Nobody does. I’m still getting there. I’m still learning how to.
What kind of trouble would your need to provide for others get you into?
I’d do a photo shoot to help people and then suddenly they’d want me to take more clothes off … And I’m OK with that, but they’re not doing it for a good reason. In this movie I’d take my clothes of for anybody, because it’s a project – yes, this woman was a porn star, we’re gonna see some nudity – but it’s not about that! And maybe it’ll put people in seats, but that’s not why we did what we did. Sex sells. And people will use you and abuse you any way they can.
You’re blonde again – but hair and costume was probably not only two things that helped you get into the zone when playing Linda. How helpful was the whole styling and set design, the whole entourage?
To disappear physically in a role is almost as good as… that is preparation enough I think. When you look in the mirror and see somebody different, you feel different. You walk differently when you have a different shoe – or a camel-toe, if you know what I’m talking about… These costumes were absurd in some ways, but also so fun! I don’t think I’d dance the same way if I hadn’t been wearing that dress, specifically designed for this one moment. It’s amazing, it’s maybe the biggest tool for an actor, the hair and the clothes.
You also had to teach your body how to be Linda.
It was hard. She has such a different body that me. So absolutely different – she had different shoulders and very specific breasts that I don’t have – wish i had her breasts! – and she’s very tall, physically different. There was a way she was carrying herself that I tried to emulate with what I could, having a hunchback… In my opinion a have a very bad posture and she didn’t. That was hard!
Is there anything you two have in common?
I relate to the fact that the world saw her as one thing… and everybody have three dimensions [not one], everybody’s got a story. People can easily judge me for certain roles that I take, or certain people that I date because they see it… They see this one dimension. How is everyone meant to know who you are? So I’m always fighting an image. Not as much as some other peers, but still.
I think you just can’t take yourself too seriously. I wear what I wanna wear, do what I wanna do and go where I wanna go. I don’t try to fit into any mould. And I say what I wanna say. I don’t edit myself as much as I should, but that makes me feel better in the end of the day. I’m not being fraudulent or withholding… I know it’s good, it’s a protective thing, but for some reason I just can’t stop talking! I should, cause I’m not very eloquent. I think what you do to fight an image is not let anybody put you in a box.
Actors sometimes take roles that they are afraid of. Was this the case with you and “Lovelace”?
Yes, same thing. I was looking for this challenge. It came at a good time.
Do you think that as an actress to many people you might be the same type of fantasy as Linda was to many men?
I think it’s the same thing in the end of the day. There’s no negative connotation that comes with being an actor. Whereas a porn star – women don’t want to be her friend because she’s a subject of every men’s fantasy… I can’t say that women don’t wanna be my friend… but I also can’t say that they do. I’m not trying to win people over, I’m trying to create a character they can relate to. That’s what I want. When I go to movies, I want to relate to the characters and throw my life away for two hours. I like being that to people.
Peter Sarsgaard’s passion is running. Do you have anything that helps you just leave everything behind, be free?
Yes. I paint. For hours. Recently i started again. It’s abstract, I’m working with watercolor, I’m obsessed with it. It’s like petals or leaves, very small… and in a big space you see something different from afar. I have this amazing craft room in LA that overlooks the city. I sit in my room, my dog is under the desk. Sometimes I have the window open, it’s usually sunny… and I just paint. It’s heaven on earth, the best feeling in the world. And especially when you’re listening to very good music. I also like to play piano, I studied it. I can do it for hours as well.
Do you paint for others or for yourself?
I made my dad a little something and my friends… But it’s mostly a therapy.