Chloë Sevigny Talks Sexual Harassment in Hollywood, Knocks ‘The Huntsman’

Chloe Sevigny Cannes
Michael Buckner/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Three major directors “crossed the line” with Chloë Sevigny in auditions for film roles, the actress said at Variety’s Cannes Film Festival panel on Wednesday.

“I’ve had the ‘what are you doing after this?’ conversation,” Sevigny said. “I’ve also had the ‘do you want to go shopping and try on some clothes and, like, I can buy you something in the dressing room’ [conversation],” she added. “Just like crossing the line weirdness.”

At another point, the actress remembered, a director told her, “‘You should show your body off more. You shouldn’t wait until you’re as old as this certain actress who had just been naked in a film, you should be naked on screen now.'”

Sevigny, whose credits include such sexually explicit films as “Kids” and “The Brown Bunny,” had a quick retort.

“If you know my career, I’ve been naked in every movie,” she said with a laugh.

Perhaps it was her refusal to succumb to their advances, but Sevigny never got the roles. The same might not be true for other up-and-coming actresses, she admitted.

“If you’re young and impressionable and really want the part, it might be a tempting avenue, but I hope not,” she said.

But Sevigny stopped short of labeling the behavior sexual harassment.

“I would consider it Hollywood,” she said. “Was it sexual harassment? It’s such a fine line.”

The actress, who is in Cannes promoting a short film she just directed, entitled “Kitty,” said that female filmmakers are held to different standards than men.

“When women on set become a little emotional, or impassioned even, they’re labeled as hysterical or crazy and have a hard time getting hired again,” said Sevigny. “The double standard of the man being the wild, crazy, mad director is so embraced.”

“We have to allow women to act out… and just be ourselves,” she added.

Sevigny was joined at the talk by Amy Emmerich, chief content officer at digital media company Refinery 29, which will show “Kitty.” She argued that women need to be taught at an early age to stand up for themselves, instead of telling them that it’s more important to be liked.

If they are, Emmerich said, “It won’t be so odd to be tough at that negotiating table.”

Sevigny has spent the bulk of her career in indies, earning an Oscar nomination for “Boys Don’t Cry,” and delivering impressive turns in the likes of “Dogville” and the new Whit Stillman comedy, “Love & Friendship.” On the studio side of the business, she implied, that women are saddled with inferior material. She noted that the recent flop, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” had three starring roles for Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron, but suffered in its execution.

“It has those three great actresses and then the male lead [Chris Hemsworth], but I was just like they should have had better material for those ladies,” said Sevigny. “Now that movie probably, I don’t think is performing well, and then will they make another movie with three great powerful women after that?”

Even films that are successful vehicles for actresses, such as “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which boasts a female heroine in Rey, a jedi warrior, have gender issues. When it came to merchandising, the number of Rey-related items trailed those featuring male characters from the film, despite the fact that Rey has the most screen time. The backlash inspired a hashtag, #WheresRey.

“They made the figurines and there was no Rey figurines, that was extremely troubling,” said Sevigny.

In 2003, Sevigny caused a stir at Cannes with her work in Vincent Gallo’s “The Brown Bunny.” The film includes a scene in which Sevigny performs unsimulated oral sex on Gallo. The actress stood by the project.

“I’d probably still do it today,” she said, adding, “I believe in Vincent as an artist and I stand by the film.”

She said that Gallo was good at pushing people’s buttons and noted that Cannes thrives on controversy. But she acknowledged that the film was intended to push the envelope.

“It was a subversive act,” said Sevigny. “It was a risk. And I think it was a way of me staying outside the business in a weird way, but also doing what I want to do in the business.”

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  1. Vasquez1992 says:

    Chloë Sevigny continues to be irrelevant.

  2. Mya says:

    Not sure why people are so quick to judge.
    Chloe is a great actress and should be respected for her roles she’s taken on.
    With brown bunny, she was just an actress doing her job. The role required certain things which included oral sex and she chose to do it because she is obviously a dedicated actress. I saw the film myself and thought it was an excellent movie. What people are saying is a pornographic scene and judging her for, I think is anything but. Instead the scene was able to portray two passionate people with excellent chemistry that were lovers. It was extremely convincing, which I could only
    Imagine is a challenge is an intense scene like this one. People get so hung up on sex and this was an act that happens everyday between couples. Why judge them so harshly for it?
    A very difficult scene that many actors would not be able to pull off and they were able to do it very well. I commend her especially for being brave enough to do it. Shows a lot of strength and courage. As well as she doesn’t let what others think bother her. So she should instead gain respect for being such a strong character and putting herself in an empowering position as a strong woman. If people can’t see that, then that’s their loss. I give the movie and that scene two thumbs up for being so raw, artistic and real. Well done. Other actors and actresses should look up to her for this boldness.

  3. Nudity is not pornography; everyone is born with a birthday suit. Sex is not pornography; it’s how we all got here. The question is one of “art” (museum filled with nude statuary and portraits) and privacy. Today’s “modern” zeitgeist will not undo nor undermine centuries of fine art.

    As for the cultural arts…sex and nudity on public display is a choice on the part of artists, both young and old, this despite generational meme. The “family-friendly” label is fine for some fare but adults who desire diversity in entertainment wish not to have some else moralize what is gratuitous and what is wholesome.

    Finally, Chloe Sevigny’s oral copulation in “The Brown Bunny” is pornographic. Earlier she had been chagrin but now outre. Before she would never do that again but now it’s an option. Obviously, she has made peace with it and found acceptance.

    Pornography, by the way, is an 18th Century artform in England and extends much further in history with other cultures. Religiosity virtual outlawed the show of sex as the norm. Of course, a sex-tape is not show-art but porn is with us with sexting and on the Internet.

    Because it is outwardly frowned upon by the popular culture (but udoubtedly indulged) those in the spotlight get attention and notice when associated with public sex, nudity and pornography.

  4. Tomas Agusto Mivergara says:

    I’ve seen it happen since I started in the industry in the mid 90s. Food for thought, why are all successful Latin Actresses HOT???? Salma, JLO, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Eva Mendes, Eva Longoria, Penelope Cruz, Sofia Vergara, etc. Obviously there is a BIG BIAS towards which women make it based on physical attributes, although they may have talent but that was only the second criteria. To prove it, name me the same amount of Latin Men to be A-Listers???? Ultra conservative macho dominated, power hungry, lusty men dominate hollywood, plain and simple!!!!!

  5. B. says:

    Most guys in Hollywood are actually extremely decent and good. As a young girl who gets asked out a lot (outside of work!) and was a model for a while, I’ve been treated with nothing but respect & kindness since working out here. That said, I’ve been told because I work in the development side of things & graduated from a top school I just get more respect… But I just can’t see any of the guys I’ve worked/interned exploiting a woman! They’re sooo kind & respectful to everyone. Obviously, there are some horrible men here. Just like there are some horrible women. But people like that exist in every industry and don’t reflect 99% of the good, moral, family-oriented, hard working people out here. That’s just not the Hollywood I’ve seen. And I think that maybe it’s because she auditions/gravitates towards the kind of weird projects that she does (e.g. films that society’s 99% of normal people have no interest in watching/producing/directing), that she encounters these sorts of creeps. Just saying.

    • J says:

      My experience/observations first hand is that these men who are nice to you may not treat others the same way. I’ve been surprised by how some nice/decent know men behave, maybe sometimes it’s the person but I’ve seen many times it’s their perception that determines their attitude to someone else or when it’s closer to home they will behave different. This is anyone not just guys. People sometimes have different guises for others. Just the other day found out the most nice decent guy having someone on the side, and the wife was vilified as a burden, not sure how that justifies it when in truth she hasn’t actually done anything wrong except have emotions. Double standards again.

  6. Aaron says:

    These quotes provide the best justification for why people should never turn to actors for insight about issues of inequality. Her vague, uninformed statements, undercut the fight for gender equality. Jumping from something close to but not “sexual harassment” to how the Huntsman “probably isn’t performing well.” According to boxofficemojo.com, the budget was $115 million and it’s theatrical gross to date is $154,807,350. That’s a profit. Rather than recording every banal statement actors make, it would be refreshing if journalists did some homework and challenged their subjects to support their statements.

    • bmg says:

      It’s important to realize that theaters keep roughly half of every movie’s gross revenue, meaning Universal actually only earned about $80 million for the Huntsman. Plus, there are tens (sometimes hundreds) of millions of dollars spent in advertising and other expenses on top of the production budget. Universal was in the hole for well over $200 million on The Huntsman and saw much less than half of that back. Absolutely no profit to be had at all.

  7. Chris says:

    “What are you doing after this” poor thing.

  8. Jane says:

    I can not see any of them hitting on her.

  9. GKN says:

    Problem is, Hollywood’s idea of “diversity” is too often just putting girls in boys’ roles. The female Mad Max or the female Ghostbusters. It’s corny. You just can’t pry them out of fan boy mode, apparently, to do something realistic about strong women being strong women. God knows when we’ll see another Thelma and Louise. Ever?

  10. Dave J. says:

    It’d be much more interesting if she named the movies that she had a questionable experienced on, but I guess that’s film business!

    • Jennifer says:

      If Chloe were to name names, or drop film titles studios would blacklist her. Even her talking about it publicly will hurt her in some way. Not unlike Patricia Arquette – who after she spoke out about womans right in Hollywood received a massive backlash from studios. They want their actresses young, pretty, and quiet.

      • Marie says:

        A male director talked negatively about an actress just recently and he’s getting backlash. Enough with the “woe is me” when it comes to women.

  11. Dude speaks the truth says:

    If you’ve seen that Brown Bunny oral scene, it’s obviously fake. It was a dildo, folks. Not only is Gallo holding it from the base the entire time, but it’s perfectly straight, even AFTER he supposedly orgasms, which is biologically impossible.

    Why Sevigny continues to perpetuate the story, after over a decade, is a complete mystery to me. I can understand how it helped the film at the time by giving it a controversial edge, but there’s nothing to lose now to just admit that it was a marketing gimmick.

  12. Don says:

    Strong, valid points by someone always unafraid to be heard. Liked her show “Those Who Kill”, too bad it was cancelled.

  13. Ivan says:

    As I’ve said many times, she’s one of the most interesting actors working. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

  14. W. A. Cimino says:

    MS Sevigny is terrific.

  15. BillUSA says:

    So Chloe stops short of calling it sexual harassment, but that doesn’t stop activist publication Variety using the two-worded term in the headline. You just irretrievably lost some respect points.

    As for the subject of nudity, as much as I find the image of an unclothed attractive woman most beautiful, I readily admit that when a known actress drops her drawers in a film, they instantly lose my respect for them as people and in their profession.

    See, the reason why – to this day – I still adore the actresses of the Golden Age is because they weren’t profane or naked, and still performed magnificently. I’m no artist and frankly I find the notion of art to be an overused term, but I fail to see the necessity of say Meryl Streep baring her right breast in “Silkwood” or Kate Winslet in the buff for her posing scene in “Titanic” when a behind-the-back shot would have sufficed in both cases. But hey, it’s Hollywood were talking here. Why let some decency and craft get in the way of gratuitous nudity?

    • squawk says:

      Why lose respect for an actress doing nudity in a film? She’s just doing a job, and not every actress in comfortable with doing nude scenes,anyway. We as Americans have had it ingrained in our heads for so long these puritanical hangups about our bodies,it’s crazy. You should get mad at the double standard in Hollywood where actresses are basically told they’re got to do nude scenes to get ahead, get some attention and sell the movie. And,yeah, nudity in European and foreign films in general is definitely treated differently, and in a much, more mature way and fashion—instead of this immature adolescent attitude we have toward it.here in America. And,yeah, there’s way too much of it in films,too. I’ve like to see men showing more flesh for a change.

    • Lol says:

      Love how Americans always complain about nudity as though it such a burden. And yet ask someone from a different (like France) and they will never complain. It’s the human body. It’s not the end of world grandpa.

    • B. says:

      Agree w/ you Bill. It’s unnecessary. Also, since the last few years, it’s been so overdone that it’s not even shocking anymore. All that’s really left to do in normal TV/movies I guess is actual full on porn… And all I have to say about that is please don’t you guys. Morals matter. And we’ve already gone to far w/ the explicitness. If the writers you’re working with can’t write a good/compelling script, then start scouting for new writers. There’s plenty of talent out there you just need to find it!

    • KWK says:

      I’m of a certain age as they say. I love Myrna Loy, Jean Arthur, Irene Dunne, Rita Hayworth and all the other grande dames of Golden Age-era Hollywood probably as much as you do, BillUSA…but come on: that scene w/ Leo sketching Kate in the salon in TITANIC was both tender and erotic, and beautifully lit. Nothing to complain about there.

      • Phil says:

        The sad part is today they’d have then spent the next 5 minutes having explicit sex. It’s not necessary. I’ve seen Brown Bunny too and showing the explicitness was totally unnecessary to telling the story. I’ve seen lots of actors and actresses justify doing certain things on camera, but I can’t always tell if they’re trying to convince themselves or not (I mean, Chloe will be haunted by that scene for the rest of her life so she might as well rationalize it, right). The fact that’s the only scene people remember of that movie means it shouldn’t have been in the movie because any other artistic statement Gallo was intending is lost forever. He might as well have not made the movie. And it also sabotages actresses who later try to make important statements about issues such as those discussed here by Chloe because you will have people calling her hypocritical. If more actresses said “No, write better” and fewer of these scenes were made that just give adult video sites free content, I think Hollywood (TV and film) would be stronger.

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