Interview: Amanda Seyfried on portraying pornstar Linda Lovelace
The Deep Throat star is to be played by Seyfried in a new film by Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein
Years ago, the filmmaker John Singleton told me that the great hypocrisy of mainstream American cinema is that you can show someone’s head being blown off with a gun, but you can’t show a blow job. How, then, do the makers of Lovelace navigate the story of Linda Lovelace (real name: Linda Boreman), whose sudden global fame rested on her eye-watering oral abilities in the watershed 1972 skin flick, Deep Throat? The answer: tastefully.
‘I knew that this was not going to be a movie about a porn star,’ says Amanda Seyfried, who gives a career re-defining performance as Linda, speaking after the European premiere of Lovelace at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. ‘It was going to be a movie about a woman and her relationship with her husband, Chuck Traynor, first and foremost.’
Porn made Linda Lovelace. She appeared to enjoy doing it and the notoriety it gave her. However, the publication in 1980 of her book Ordeal, co-written with the journalist Mike McGrady, told a different story. According to this version, Traynor used a gun to coerce Linda into performing in Deep Throat; he raped her, beat her, forced her into prostitution, and withheld her earnings. Lovelace offers both stories and leaves us to decide what’s true.
The book’s publisher made Linda take a polygraph examination to protect them against lawsuits. She passed, but not everyone believed her volte face.
‘I think she was looking for money,’ her Deep Throat co-star Harry Reems, who died in March, told me. ‘She got paid $1200 [for Deep Throat] and she was a cause celebre, but she could never get any other work. So I think she decided, or a publisher came to her and said, “Let’s do this book, and let’s pretend that you were forced at gunpoint on the set to do the movies.” I can tell you, there were no guns on any of the movie sets that I was on with her. But as soon as that book paid her off, and for the next few years that she didn’t make any money, she went right back to nude work.’
Whether everything Linda claimed was true or not, the point for Seyfried was that Lovelace would portray her as more than just a human sex toy. And it was this multi-dimensional approach to the woman and her story that appealed to the Mamma Mia! star.
‘That’s how I was able to relate to Linda,’ she says, ‘because I’m sure people have ideas of who I am … People could very easily judge me for certain roles that I take on, or certain people that I date, because they see it. But they only see one dimension.’ Does this mean Seyfried feels misunderstood? ‘I don’t necessarily need people to understand my different dimensions, but it can be tough for people, especially when there’s a negative perspective on you.’
This is one of the reasons Seyfried needed to be confident from the start that, having accepted that there would be some nudity involved, the film would not be prurient or exploitative. After meeting the writer-directors, Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, who were coming off the back of the Allen Ginsberg film Howl, ‘I knew we weren’t going to go anywhere it didn’t need to go,’ Seyfried says. ‘We weren’t going to shoot stuff that was just to get people in the theatres. I think if you have the wrong intentions that could ruin your career – take your career in a different direction – and we didn’t.’
She is speaking as an American actress appearing in an American film. As demonstrated by this year’s Palme d’Or winner, Blue is the Warmest Colour starring Lea Seydoux, attitudes to on-screen sex and nudity are very different in Europe. ‘Being an American, nudity’s always an issue,’ Seyfried sighs. ‘You think about it and go, “How will I be portrayed?”’
As for sex, ‘it shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is. Everybody is so prudish. Who doesn’t do it? Why are we shying away from it so much? I mean I’m not, like, flashing everything for gratuitous reasons. I’m just exploring that on camera.’
Lovelace may be too tasteful and coy for some. But its exposure of the gap between Linda’s public image and private life is cleverly done, while Seyfried’s gutsy performance takes the tragic star beyond simple male fantasy.
‘You don’t get to be the voice of somebody and try to validate their existence very often,’ she says proudly. ‘I just wanted to make her human and to make the audience empathise with her.’
In that she has succeeded.
Lovelace is on general release from Fri 23 Aug.