Wed, Feb 20, 2008 - Page 14 News List

Chloe will be Chloe

Whether choosing film roles or designing fashion, Chloe Sevigny has always followed her own quirky sense of style. But now she's ready for the big time

By Ryan Gilbey  /  THE GUARDIAN , NEW YORK

"Larry called me," remembers Christine Vachon, who has produced four of Sevigny's films, including Kids and Boys Don't Cry, "and said, 'You know what? It should've been Chloe all along." Sevigny played Jennie, whose roster of traumas includes becoming infected with HIV after having sex for the first time, and being raped while catatonic. (She shrugged off that scene, the movie's grim climax, at the time: "I just let my body go limp. The actor did all the work.") Her on-screen achievements were clear: Sevigny provided the warm, reflective center in this feral film. But behind the scenes she was doing her bit, too, encouraging Korine to work harder at writing interesting female characters.

"Kids was an exciting time," she says. "I wasn't thinking about Hollywood. I didn't care about the long haul, the big picture. It was so freeing." The roles came slowly after that, but they were all peaches. One of the juiciest was the gauche wannabe who gets the clap in Whit Stillman's crisp comedy The Last Days of Disco. "Chloe is a natural phenomenon," Stillman has said. "You're not directing, she's not performing - it's just real."

It was a performance that convinced Kimberly Peirce to cast her in Boys Don't Cry, the true story of Teena Brandon, a Nebraska lass who renamed herself Brandon Teena and romanced the karaoke-singing factory worker Lana Tisdel, before being exposed, raped and murdered. Sevigny wanted the lead. Peirce couldn't see her as a man, and Sevigny stubbornly refused to audition. But Pierce boned up on her back catalogue, just to be sure. "There's a moment in The Last Days of Disco when Chloe does this little dance move and flirts with the camera," she says. "She has this mix of attractiveness, flirtation and sophistication that she gives you, but then takes away very quickly so that you want more: you want to reach into the screen and grab her. When I saw that, and her confidence and wit, I thought: if she could flirt with Brandon and the audience in that way, that's exactly what we need for Lana. I said to her, 'Will you please audition to play Lana?' She said, 'No.' And I said, 'OK, you can have the role.'"

As Brandon, Hilary Swank had the limelight (and got the Oscar), but the film would fall apart without Sevigny's Lana, who drifts through the dismal bars, parking lots and clapboard houses of small-town Nebraska like an extraterrestrial who's given up waiting for the mother ship to come back to claim her. No other director has displayed such sensitivity toward her physical oddness - Peirce lets her vast face and slow-motion eyes swamp the screen, not least in a celebrated sex scene that focuses entirely on Lana's face as Brandon brings her to orgasm.

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