Chloe Sevigny on ’90s movies, ‘Kids’ and ‘The Last Days of Disco’

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90s Week: Chloë Sevigny reflects on defining the American movie scene of the decade, what she loved about it and why she was in no rush to let it go.

When Chloë Sevigny found herself on the Oscars red carpet nominated for her work in “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1999, it was surprising to say the least. Her brand of indie film anarchy, which she shared with her former boyfriend Harmony Korine, wasn’t exactly Oscar material. “I remember the year before Harmony and I looked and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we could atomize the Oscars and erase all the status quo?'” she said. told IndieWire during a recent interview.

Sevigny’s 1990s in film began with her breakout role in Larry Clark’s always-controversial “Kids” in 1995 and ended with her at the Oscars, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, playing the girlfriend of Brandon Teena. It was a journey from the sensational fringes of the cutting edge to the biggest platform imaginable. “I told my publicist that as soon as I got into People magazine, I was going to quit acting,” she said. “And then, of course, with the Oscar nomination and all the celebration of fashion, the whole thing really, you know, was amazing how it can turn out.”

In many ways, Sevigny is the ultimate ’90s icon, roaming the streets of New York in the pages of Jane Pratt’s Sassy and then gliding into Hollywood’s biggest luminaries. By her side, much of the way, was Korine, who wrote “Kids” and then cast her in “Gummo.” She took him along as her Oscar date – two cool inner-city kids rising through the ranks of the popular crowd.

“I had a crush on Russell Crowe and he was there and he told me I looked fucking hot that night – Quotation“, she laughs. “We were super tickled by it. We were like, how funny it was to sit next to Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise and how strange. Like, what the hell? what are we doing here?

However, its category was “keep it going” for independent film. She was nominated alongside Toni Collette, Samantha Morton and Catherine Keener, and knew Angelina Jolie was going to win for “Girl, Interrupted.” “She was like the most subversive of us all because she was doing it in the mainstream,” Sevigny said.

Chloë Sevigny in Kids

“Kids”

The history of the production of Sévigny has entered into legend. Discovered at age 17 by a Sassy editor, her “it girl” status was confirmed in a 1994 New Yorker profile written by “Bright Lights, Big City” author Jay McInerney. She was cast in “Kids” as a last-minute replacement for another actress and took on the role of Jenny, a relatively innocent among the group of skaters, who discovers that the only time she had sex the caused him to contract HIV.

Before appearing in the film, she admitted that she “didn’t have such a good relationship with movies”. She wanted to be an actress, but her fascinations lay more in the worlds of music and fashion. It wasn’t until after “Kids,” when she moved in with Korine, that she said her filmmaking education began. “We would go to Kim’s Video every weekday,” she said. She would sit all day at the Museum of Modern Art watching an Alan Clarke retrospective or something along those lines.

Sevigny still grapples with the fervor surrounding “children” and questions of what constitutes exploitation versus exposure. Between the Miramax publicity stunt and the myth-making Clark and Korine were doing in the film’s name, “Kids” earned a reputation for being an outrageous documentation of how real teenagers lived – all the sex, drugs and HIV included. But that was overkill, Sevigny said. The only element that sounded true to Sevigny was the work of the late Justin Pierce as Casper, the foul-mouthed skater.

“I think a lot of ‘Kids’ kids still feel confused about it because everyone thought it was real life,” she said. Young actors were kept out of the promotional cycle because the marketing machine wanted audiences to think they were still high street. That said, they weren’t left to their own devices. Sevigny got his agent and manager through “Kids” producer Cary Woods. “There was a real follow-up,” she says. “A lot of us were really taken care of.”

Chloë Sevigny in The Last Days of Disco

“The Last Days of Disco”

Even before “Kids,” Sevigny was a symbol of New York style — the kind of celebrity that can only be modeled in East Village thrift stores. And she never gave up on her city, even after finding success on screen. But, for her, the community changed after 9/11. “I feel like independent cinema in New York really changed after 9/11 because all the cast members left,” she said. “A lot of production offices have closed. The whole movie industry that was in New York is gone, but before that it was very thriving, which I think made the 90s so much more interesting, because there were a lot of creative people coming out of New York .

She worked with these creatives at the time, appearing in Steve Buscemi’s debut film ‘Trees Lounge’ and Whit Stillman’s ‘The Last Days of Disco’ as Alice, the more shy of the two editing assistants. who frequent the city’s dwindling discos at night. . For her “Last Days” audition, she emphasized the fact that she was originally from Connecticut and grew up in a wealthy community, even though her family itself was not wealthy.

Working with Stillman was a challenge. “He really is a maniac of words and pronunciation,” Sevigny said. “And so there was a lot of line reading and repeating and I hadn’t really experienced that before.” She was also having “the time of her life”, working with people like an older makeup artist that Tracey Ullman had based a character on.

But Sévigny is also careful not to idealize the 90s. She had a revelation during a party with her best friend Natasha Lyonne a few years ago. They were talking to a set of producers they might have been indebted to in the 90s. “Now I feel how the tables are turning and people like us are so celebrated and desired and now in a way that we didn’t feel in the 90s and how awesome it is,” she said. “That power that men had over us now is gone, and how liberating. And how we no longer need their acceptance or admiration. We no longer need them.

This article was published as part of IndieWire’s 90s Week Spectacular. Visit our 90s week page for more.

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