Chloë Sevigny
Photo by Austin Hargrave

Chloë Sevigny: “I am leaning towards mysticism”

Short Profile

Name: Chloë Stevens Sevigny
DOB: 18 November 1974
Place of birth: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Occupation: Actor, model, director

Ms. Sevigny, do you consider yourself a cinephile?

I was more of a cinephile when I had a video store at my disposal, like Kim’s Video & Music, it was easier for me to browse in that way: just being in the store and having the sales people help me. I watched a lot of movies when I was younger and I feel like in recent years I don’t know… I don’t have enough time and I feel like I am really having to step up and go to the movies more and and not fall prey to all these TV series.

I think a lot of people feel that way these days…

They are so easy to keep watching! Recently, I was like, “I am not going to download a series the next time I am traveling, I am going to download a few films and watch films instead!” I really want to keep up on it and see all these new films.

Have you seen anything good recently, or have you fallen back in the TV series trap?

Well, I saw Nadine Labaki’s film Capernaum and then I met her recently. Thank God I saw the film because I then had this opportunity to talk with her about the film’s subject matter, about what’s happening in Lebanon, and about what she has done to help the young Syrian refugee boy who stars in the film. I came up in the movie Kids so I feel like exploitation versus opportunity is very important to me.

“If I am recognized for one film it’s probably Kids, but for me Boys Don’t Cry is still so relevant and I think it’s the most important.”

What do you mean?

We love films with an unknown — but then what’s the responsibility to those children, from the filmmakers and from the producers, from the community? How do we then help these children? So, the boy in Capernaum, or… I mean, there are a million and one movies or examples we can discuss. But it was interesting to hear that Nadine Labaki had actually gotten a fund from the government and now he and his family are in Norway. He is in school! So I am trying see more of this.

Film is really essential in bringing these kinds of social issues to light.

You know, if I am recognized for one film it’s probably Kids, but for me Boys Don’t Cry is still so relevant and I think it’s the most important. And people are always crying and emotional at the Q&As. Everyone, especially from the LGBTQ community, has a very emotional attachment and response to it and I am really proud of it. It’s the most important film I’ve made, I think.

How was your experience as a young actor? Did you feel supported by those around you?

For me on Kids, I was lucky! I had Cary Woods, the producer, and he set me up with a manager and an agency. They coddled me and helped me along. And I am still friendly with Cary. Harmony Korine and I, we had a love affair and a close friendship and a working relationship and that continues. He had a really great influence on me and he exposed me to a lot. Luckily I also came from a really supportive strong family. I was heavily influenced by my father; he was really bright. When I was in high school he saw that James Baldwin was on my curriculum so he was giving me his books. Or he realized that I was taking acid so he gave me the Tibetan Book of the Dead, like what father does that?

You also had a strict Catholic upbringing — that is not how I would have imagined it.

Well, my father was the one that converted. My mother was the Polish Catholic. He was Episcopalian and his grandmother would have rolled over in her grave knowing that he was marrying a Catholic girl. (Laughs) I also had an older brother who was into really diverse music so I just gravitated towards that. I wanted to experience things that were out of my realm.

Zachary Quinto also grew up Catholic and he said that it was important for him to have an awareness of religion as a kid because it allowed him to feel a sense of foundation in his life. How has your religious upbringing influenced you?

I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism…

Personally I am just a strong non-believer in anything supernatural.

Are you? Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.

“Some people are very insular and it works for them, so who knows? I don’t know if creativity is innate or not but for me, exposure helps.”

It seems like as a well-known actress, it shouldn’t be as difficult to find a production company that you can trust and work well with.

I think what’s difficult is finding the material, so these days I am trying to come up with my own idea and then sit down and write it. Each of my short films, I just sat down and wrote it in a couple of days. The first one was of course based on a short story so that was different; but I am reading a lot of scripts that come into the agency and reading books and watching a lot and talking to different producers. I’m just trying to find the right thing, talking about things that interest me, from coming of age to vampires to making movies to smashing them altogether into one, to magical realism — like, I would love to make something along the lines of Labyrinth, a crossover between adults and children. It’s like something that really appeals to me.

Does that kind of creative exposure also enhance your own creativity?

Well, some people are very insular and it works for them, so who knows? I don’t know if creativity is innate or not but for me, exposure helps. That’s why I am trying to read and watch and going to see this new music scene and bands and go to exhibitions and I think the more stuff you see, the more grounded you become.