Amanda Seyfried: the good girl?

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In her latest film, Amanda Seyfried depicts the porn world's most notorious star. But in reality, how risqué is she?

Words: Danielle Nussbaum, Photos: Rex Features

===[[[ Click here to watch Amanda Seyfried discuss her riskiest role yet in our video interview]]]===

Imagine being synonymous with the words ‘deep throat’. A hardcore porn movie based on the farcical tale of a woman who discovered her clitoris was in her throat. By the same token, imagine what it would be like if people; everybody – most of whom weren’t alive when you filmed the movie – knew your name and made assumptions about you based on a titillating legacy intertwined with the seedier side of the movie industry. This was Linda Lovelace’s reality.

Now dead for over a decade (she died in 2002, aged 53, from injuries sustained in an earlier car accident), Lovelace – born Linda Boreman – remains famous for a self-declared 17 days in the American porn industry that saw her feature in a handful of skin-flicks amounting to roughly five hours of pornographic film in total. Prior to the infamous Deep Throat (1972) and its sequel, it has since emerged that she starred in the eyebrow-raising bestiality picture Dogarama (1971) and various short silent peep show films, but these don't tell the full story. That story, a tale of how she was being beaten, raped and forced into prostitution and porn by her bullying husband Chuck Traynor, was only fully revealed in her 1980 autobiography Ordeal. And it’s Lovelace’s version of events that has been immortalised by directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman and actress Amanda Seyfried in new biopic Lovelace – a two-sided account of how an underground pornography actress found Hollywood status overnight, and the terrifying abuse she was subjected to in the process.

The poster for Lovelace

Playing Lovelace and embodying all her naive, obedient and strangely unambitious glory, is Seyfried as you have never seen her before – an actress no-one would have put money on portraying one of the world’s most renowned adult stars. Featuring rape at strangulation point, fellatio and a scene that cuts away from forced prostitution with a group of menacing onlookers, the production is as far from Mamma Mia! as you can get. That’s not suggesting Seyfried has no breadth – her role as an escort in Chloe has already proved she’s fearless. But still, the 27 year old does not scream “DEEP THROAT”. She screams “GOOD GIRL”. In the right outfit, she could pass for a teenager; she has big Bambi eyes; we have seen her bounding around the isles of Greece singing Abba; donning bonnets in the throes of the French Revolution (Les Misérables). But as Lovelace she nails it; and with grazed cheeks, exposed breasts, docile naivety and aching vulnerability, Seyfried gives a raw and highly emotive performance.

Today, as we sit outside a coffee shop on North Bronson Avenue in Los Angeles, the Red Riding Hood actress is LA-casual in a loose grey Helmut Lang sweatshirt, Frame jeans, and flats. A simple gold bracelet with a ceramic charm rests on her left hand, which she drapes casually over the chair. She has a pale lip left over from a morning jaunt to Las Vegas, “to see the high rollers”. Not one to gesticulate wildly, her enthusiasm comes from the questioning timbre of her voice and the look in her big blue eyes. It’s obvious her portrayal of Lovelace was well researched, and Seyfried is clearly protective of Lovelace’s legacy.

“Her name represents sexual revolution, porn in the Seventies” she says. “The funny thing is, I was born in ’85. Why would I have heard her name? That’s what’s so unfortunate because people think they know who they’re talking about, associating her with porn and that’s why this movie’s important, because none of what you think you know about her is reality.

“People are always bringing up the fact that she contradicted herself but she was a young adult when she walked into this life and it’s really complicated. I can’t imagine how someone could go through what she did and still be of a clear mind. That’s why I was so shocked that she was able to talk about it later and actually fight against the type of people who made it so terrible for her.”

Amanda with co-star Peter Sarsgaard in Lovelace

According to Seyfried, immersing herself in Lovelace’s world made her feel like an actor for the first time. But in reality, the Allentown, Pennsylvania native – raised by parents Jack, a pharmacist and Ann, an occupational therapist – has been acting since the age of 15. She truly broke out with her film debut as the clueless Karen in Mean Girls (2004) and her first musical role in Mamma Mia! (2008) hinted at her training in classical opera. Studying with a Broadway voice coach for almost five years also helped her secure the role of Cosette in the Academy Award nominated Les Misérables, but the actress refuses to see accolades as a benchmark for success. “You ask about those movies and I’ll say, ‘Urgh, I was awful’,” she groans as her dog Finn, an Australian shepherd, flops beside her. “But if people say ‘You were great in Lovelace!’ I’ll be like ‘Thank you’, because I feel I did a good job.” Who can argue with that, except to say that, possibly, the best is still to come. Sipping on an iced coffee as she tells me about the film, Seyfried’s loyalty towards a woman she never met is as infectious as it is admirable.

Were you surprised by what Linda Lovelace endured when you read the script?

It’s unbelievable. It’s unfathomable. Then you read her autobiographies and it’s hard at first because it’s written by somebody that’s trying so hard to tell her story and it feels almost too terrible to be true. Her story is disturbing.

Why do you think no-one helped her at the time?

It’s like they didn’t care. What was she worth? She was having sex and doing it for entertainment so she didn’t matter as much as a [normal] movie star in those days. She wasn’t a good actress but people had no respect for her because she was taking her clothes off performing fellatio. It’s easy to judge people who are willing to do that. Some people choose to do that – some people are made to, and she was made to. She made a bad decision; she married Chuck. She fell in love with a guy who was bad news.

Did you have a stance on porn before you signed up to the film?

I’m not interested in it. It’s just kind of silly. I know a lot of men who like it and are not afraid to admit it because it’s not taboo anymore. People are so much more sexually liberated these days, even Americans.

Do you know any women who are interested in it?

Not really. I have a lot of friends who are open about their sexuality and girlfriends who will talk about masturbation openly, and I feel like I’m sexually liberated – but I can’t talk about that. Isn’t that weird? I, of all people, cannot talk about that. I make jokes about it with guys but there’s something about the way I was raised… I realise I’m not as comfortable with it as I thought. Isn’t that funny? I’m contradicting myself everyday because I’m being asked so many questions about stuff that relates to the movie and porn yet I can’t figure out what it is that I feel about certain aspects of my own life.

With Lovelace co-star Sharon Stone, who plays her mother in the movie

It’s interesting in relation to some of your other work. In Chloe you had an intense sex scene with Julianne Moore. Was that unnerving?

[I was] terrified. I would count the days before that scene. Partly because I’m not used to being with women. I know we’re just acting but we’re still being intimate. But with Peter [Sarsgaard, who plays Chuck in Lovelace] it was a non-issue. I’ve done nudity in Big Love and Chloe. I was more concerned with the violence.

What goes through your head during a sex scene?

It’s like choreography, a dance scene. You need to make sure that you’re hitting the right points. I remember in Dear John, there were no lines but we were supposed to be making love. You’re so aware of the camera that you’re thinking, ‘Are we blocking each other? Is the light coming at us from the wrong angle? Are we doing things at the right time?’ They direct you through it and it’s not sexy. That’s my reality. Some days I go to work and pretend to make love to somebody.

Do you ever worry about your parents’ reaction?

I sat next to my dad at a screening of Lovelace. I was ready to shield him and then my boobs were on the screen and I thought, ‘Well if I’m doing a good enough job, even my dad’s not going to recognise me.’ There was a scene where it’s just me with a shawl here [she points to her lower half]. I did cover his eyes but felt silly doing that because he’s an adult. He’s my number supporter. I wanted him to see this movie and be proud of me.

Did you read Fifty Shades Of Grey when it came out?

I didn’t read it, I listened to all three books because they were starting to meet actresses [for the film]. It was pretty good but none of it turned me on – I like the love story. Women are not afraid to read it and admit to reading it. Is there another sexual revolution happening because of it? Probably. Women are realising there’s nothing wrong with needing attention in that way and being adventurous. It’s a beautiful thing. If you need to watch porn to get off then whatever. That’s great for you. Like I said, a lot of men I know have no issue being honest about their taste for porn.

What does embarrass you?

When my mum brags about me. And when I’m with some friends who are being sarcastic to someone who doesn’t know it. I get embarrassed when people confront each other. It’s the most uncomfortable thing.

Can you confront people?

No, unless I’m protecting somebody. But, for example, if someone were to confront a waitress, I would just let it go. I mean, you don’t want hair on your food but I would just eat it. I hate it when people complain about things. I have a hard time insulting, hurting or creating any kind of tension because I'm a people pleaser and I’m desperate for people to like me. But I’m definitely not afraid to say what I think.

Are you OK speaking up when you’re dating someone?

Yeah. I tell people what I need.

Physically, too?

I think I’m vanilla. I’m old-fashioned.

But you project such confidence…

I feel like I’m promoting an image of myself being sexually liberated, I’m outspoken sexually and I guess I want to promote women being comfortable with their sexuality because it’s f****** and we’re humans and we shouldn’t be made to feel like it’s wrong to have sexual feelings. It’s what America is struggling with. I had this conversation with my ex the other day, Jesse. I was like, “It sucks that people are so f****** reserved because of where we’re from – you’re made to feel guilty about sex in parts of this country”. But as I’m promoting this movie, I realise I’m contradicting myself. People see me as very sexual and I’m actually pretty reserved. I wish I could be that person I project.

In last year's critically acclaimed film version of Les Misérables

Which moves me on to your tattoo...

Sharon Stone [who plays Dorothy Boreman in Lovelace] was like, “What’s that on your foot? What does it say?” I was like, “Minge.” She was like, “What does that mean?” I was like, “It’s not what it means literally, but what it means to me.”

Can you tell me the story behind it?

On Mamma Mia! Rachel [McDowall] ran into the refrigerator and said, “Oh, my minge,” and I was like, “What?” And she was like, “My Minnie. My front bottom. My fanny.” I was like, “How do you have so many words for vagina?” And then I asked Colin Firth about it. It’s like slang. We adopted that as a funny moment, and when Carly, the assistant director, would knock on our door, we’d be like, “Minge!” instead of “Come in” and she would come in and we’d be like, “Ha! Did you hear what we said?” This movie took five and a half months [to film], and now we all have it on our feet, and we call each other minge.

Do you regret it?

No, but I pretend I do when other people seem like they’re judging it. I’m like, “I know. What was I thinking?” But the truth is, I don’t regret it. If people are telling me an opinion, I’m like, “me too” because I never want to bump heads with people.

You seem to not like that about yourself from the face you’re making.

Yeah, because it’s silly. What’s wrong with me having an opinion? Why am I so afraid of myself sometimes? I just want to be easy. I don’t want to be a pain in the ass to anybody.

In hit 2008 musical Mamma Mia!

Which actresses do you think project sexual confidence?

Sharon Stone. She’s shameless. She’s feminine and sexy and owns what she is, who she is and what she believes in. It’s good.

I feel like once Lovelace comes out, you may retire from speaking about sex in interviews. You’re going to have to talk about turtles or something.

Turtles make a really weird noise when they’re having sex, by the way. YouTube it. There’s a bunch of videos. It’s something you should get into.

That’s insane. All right, let’s talk about something other than porn.

It’s Barack Obama’s birthday.

How do you know it’s his birthday?

I have Twitter. Absolutely everybody follows Obama. I follow Hillary Clinton. Is she at two million yet? [Checks] No. She just joined. 667,000.

Why does your dog Finn have a Twitter account?

My friend Matt said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a pet that gave positive tweets out to the world and shared some pictures?” So, I send him pictures every week and he’ll tweet something. It’s silly. I don’t know if you noticed but Finn’s wearing a bow tie today – I got it from Etsy.

In her first film outing, in 2004's Mean Girls

So handsome! Do you follow anyone on Twitter because they are funny?

I follow Michael Ian Black and Seth MacFarlane because he retweets a lot of funny people. Alec Sulkin and Mae Whitman – she’s great.

Besides turtle porn, what else do you watch over and over?

When Julianne Moore played Sarah Palin – it’s on TV a lot. And Wet Hot American Summer. I loved the era when it was made. And I loved The State. It was pretty dark. I watch a lot of documentaries on Netflix.

What music are you listening to right now?

The Head and The Heart [a folk pop band from Seattle] and James Vincent McMorrow’s Early In The Morning. I listen to it when I run. I was driving with my friend Brian and he put on music from The Voice and it was amazing. I hate being the one to make a playlist, I get so embarrassed.

Do you have any regrets?

Quitting singing when I was 17.

But you sang in two big movies!

But I would’ve been better, and I would’ve felt better about it.

Lovelace is in cinemas from 23 August

===[[[ Click here to watch Amanda Seyfried discuss her riskiest role yet in our video interview]]]===