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.”