“A lot of the people in the industry, unfortunately, see me doing one thing. And it’s partly my fault.”
If I said “Amanda Seyfried” to you, you would most likely conjure up an image of the stupid Karen from Mean Girls, or the innocent and wide-eyed Cossette from Les Misérables. What you would most likely not think of would be a frizzy haircut on the head of one of the most controversial figures of popular culture in the 1970’s; Linda Lovelace.
Lovelace tells the story of Linda Boreman, the young girl who rose to fame as Linda Lovelace in Deep Throat, the most successful porn movie of all time, a film about a girl whose clitoris is located at the back of her throat. Lovelace follows Linda falling in love with and marrying Chuck Traynor and eventually filming Deep Throat. Going into Lovelace I had reservations. “It’s just going to be a film about how great porn is” I thought. But halfway through it all seems positive, Linda is enjoying her fame. This culminates in a scene with a photographer where she describes her character in the film as “opening like a flower”. We see Deep Throat and Lovelace alike being about the female enjoyment of sex. For the first half it all seems quite liberating.
Then the film takes a darker turn, looking again at her rise to fame as the public did when her book ‘Ordeal’ was published detailing the abuse she suffered from her husband, and how she was forced into the industry against her will.
This was an era of porno chic. The film played in neighbourhood cinemas and famous people queued up to see it (Sammy Davis Jr. and Hugh Hefner amongst them, both of whom are portrayed in the film). The film seeped into popular culture so much that the Watergate informant was nicknamed Deep Throat by Woodward and Bernstein and Bob Hope made jokes about the film on prime time TV.
The point the film is trying to make is that what you are shown on screen in porn is far from reality. What the world was projecting onto Linda Lovelace was a sexually liberated girl enjoying her fame, when in reality she was forced into the industry, was beaten and raped. Whilst the two points being made by each half of the film are true – different areas of pornography are both liberating and repressing for women – they are in danger of contradicting each other.
I attended an Amanda Seyfried press conference where she spoke about taking on the role and the challenges that came with her first biopic.
Q: Was the role a challenge for you?
A: “I feel like there aren’t a lot of opportunities for someone my age. I think I can still consider myself a young actress… to play somebody really fascinating. There aren’t a lot of biopics for someone my age, so this opportunity.. I was a bit hesitant but man, I mean, if I could disappear into any role this was the one to do.
“And I would like for people to not say ‘boy, this is such a departure for you,’ I would like for people to get used to me playing lots of different things in lots of different genres because that’s acting.
Q: Can you, as an actress, now see things and know about things and go for them?
A: “Absolutely. If you’re in the know, my agent tells me everything that’s going on. Everything percolates, sometimes over years, and she’s always got her eye and ear on the ball, in terms of those really great roles. And then when it comes time to casting, even if a director has a list of favourites, I’ll still be able to get in and meet the person, or read for the person. I audition still, a lot. I auditioned for Les Mis six times.”
Q: What knowledge did you have of Linda before this?
A: “I knew Linda represented a movement. I knew Linda was a 70s porn star. She was a household name for whatever reason. I had heard of her, and I was born in 1985. Why had I heard of her? I don’t know. But somewhere along the way, in my youth, I’d heard about this woman and I think I knew just as much as most people knew about her. Or know about her before they see this movie.
“I don’t think a lot of people read her book, especially these days when people don’t seem to really care. But that’s why we make these movies, to say ‘look at what’s happening during this time,’. Look at this woman and how much she represented the so-called sexual revolution, and how much she represented sexual freedom for women. And really she didn’t reflect who she was at all.
Q: What did her kids think?
A: “They saw it before Sundance, the directors screened it for them, and they said they could show it to their partners and ‘they can finally understand what our mother was like,’. I was like ‘wow, really?’. That’s all I needed then. They had a good relationship with her, they really loved their mother. She did something right, she definitely caught a break in having two wonderful kids.
Q: Is it true you chose not to watch Deep Throat beforehand?
A: “I think it was just I wasn’t ever going to watch it, that wasn’t my intention, because I didn’t think it was important. I had actually seen all the scenes… I think we re-enacted two or three scenes from Deep Throat, and I watched those scenes, that didn’t show anything graphic. Just so I could imitate her. I actually just turned on the movie, and watched it for about 10 or 15 minutes. It’s just really boring.
“A lot of people ask me if I did any research and watched porn and got to know porn stars, but that was not really what the story’s about. The directors did, because they were interested in going up to [visit] a production company which makes porn for women and is made by women. That’s interesting, but certainly not the research that I needed to do. There was a lot of other stuff that I needed to tackle first.
Q: Is there a different approach to portraying a person who actually existed?
A: “Yeah, I mean you have so much to work with. Normally I’m just given a script, if I’m playing a role, I’ll be like ‘these lines are great, I know what my relationship is to all the other characters, and I know what my motive is,’. That’s the only preparation I do.
“With this I actually get to read and dive into it, and feel for her and empathise. And watch her and then imitate her. It’s such a different… it almost feels like a completely different thing, like a different medium. It’s so fun, but it is so hard at times, because you’re like ‘am I even doing this right?’. That’s why everybody’s flocking to these biopics.
Did you have a preconception of who and what Linda was going into the film, and did that change through the making of it?
“Oh yeah. I saw her in the beginning as someone who was super naive, and came from a tough place and wasn’t able to stand up for herself. She was that kind of person, but so was I at a point in my life. I love this woman now, it’s weird. I love her. I wish that she were here to have a conversation about it.
“I’m objectified – people probably judge me all the time because I put myself out there, but they don’t know who I am. They don’t know how I really feel, and it’s funny because I feel this need to prove to people that I’m a real person all the time, and I forget to be private, so I will say a little too much”
And Amanda’s journey with Linda Lovelace is similar to that of ours with her. Amanda Seyfried was once the the rom-com girl, but appearances can be deceptive. A film like this comes along and our preconceptions about her change and we see something different. The world saw Linda Lovelace as a poster girl for the sexual revolution when in fact she was a victim of it. The world once saw Amanda Seyfried as Sophie in Mamma Mia! but Lovelace proves there’s more to her than those blandly sweet roles suggest.
This opportunity for Amanda is one Linda Boreman was never allowed to explore.
Lovelace is in cinemas now.