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  JERRY HALL
STEPHANIE SEYMORE
MARC JACOBS
  ASIA ARGENTO
DENNIS HOPPER
ABEL FERRARA
BRIAN WILSON
WILL OLDHAM
DJ SPOOKY

Guinevere Turner, 1997

WITH ARI GOLD
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TINA BARNEY


In case anyone forgot, there would be no Bound and there would probably not even be an out Ellen without the movie Go Fish breaking new ground in representing lesbians by lesbians in American cinema.  And there would be no Go Fish without it's co-writer, Guinevere Turner, who also managed to win audiences over as "Max," the cute girl lead with the baseball cap.  I remember thinking when I first saw Go Fish,  that Guinevere Turner, will be, or at least should be, a movie star.  Little did I know that a few years later, whether I liked it or not, she was part of the package that came along with dating my boyfriend — like an in-law — since she and he have been partners in crime, so to speak, for over 10 years.  In real life, Guinevere has even more moxie than she did in Go Fish.  She's got that classic movie star beauty from the Golden Age of Film, and an ascerbic wit that Marlene Deitrich would be proud of.

She has recently been seen in Cheryl Dunye's film The Watermelon Woman and has a cameo in the hit Chasing Amy and can next be seen acting in films, Preaching To The Perverted, and Latin Boys Go To Hell.  She's slated to star in Manicure, directed by Sasha Levinson, in which she plays a porn writer who gets involved in a mystery.  She also just completed writing the script for the film adaptation of American Psycho, based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, with Mary Harron, who directed I Shot Andy Warhol.  She is co-writing the script of ‘50s Pin-up Betty Page's life, also with Harron, as well as playing Betty in the film.  We sat and talked, Guin on her Alex P. Keaton desk chair and me on the couch, in her cozy East Village apartment.  I always enjoy talking to Guin because just when you think she's going to dish out another funny one-liner, she surprises you with a very thoughtful and thought provoking response.  I've found that Guin projects that strange mix of self-confidence, self-awareness and self-consciousness happening all at the same time. While always hesitant about giving interviews, Guin admitted to me that many times during the interview, she forgot that our conversation was going to be in print somewhere, which of course means that she was particularly open and candid.



AG:  We could probably sit here and have one of our infamous chat-downs but I'm thinking maybe I should ask you more interview-y type questions like "do you consider yourself more a writer or an actress?"
GT:  Let's do both.  Are you asking me that question? 

AG:  Well, what are your feelings about each identity?
GT:  I would say that I'm trying to be both. Writing to me is something that I would do regardless of whether or not I was getting paid for it.  I've kept journals since I was nine years old.  It's just an automatic extension.  It's therapeutic.  It's  what I do, it's how I think.  I write letters. I express myself better in the written word than I in the spoken word.

AG:  You express yourself pretty well in the spoken word, too.
GT:  Well, I have less Turrets in writing than I do in the spoken word!

AG:  You're nicer in writing.
GT:  I'm nicer.  I mean it more.  I'm kind of a control freak and there's so much control that you have in writing because every word is yours and you can go back and rethink, and think about what you've written. With acting, I feel much less in control,  A) because of editing; B) because of what comes out at any given moment and how the camera is making you look...it can totally affect how someone reacts to you.  I'm new at it. Every time I do it, I feel like I take leaps and bounds of learning.
As it stands now, since Go Fish came out, I've really made a living off of writing.  Besides for the two scripts I wrote with Mary, I've written for The Advocate and Glamour magazines.  I've written pieces for anthologies.  That's my bread and butter.  But you get so much more attention for acting.  I don't know what I feel about that--except I love attention!  People to this day don't know that I wrote Go Fish with Rose [Troche].  I mean, that was the hard part!

AG:  How was the experience of doing Latin Boys Go To Hell? 
GT: I love Ella [Troyano]'s work. She's a great director and she got me to do something that I had never done on film which is to just freak out. The character I play is all about being over the top.  So it was really fun because I would say that if I have a failing as an actress, it's never being over the top.  I'm always seeing myself in film after I do something and being amazed that that's what I did, because it's not what I felt like I did.  I realize that what I thought I was giving is so much less than what I was actually giving.  It's difficult for me because in real life I'm kind of a reserved person.  I'm not shy but I'm reserved emotionally.  And so I don't know what makes me think that once a camera is turned on, that's just going to go away.

AG:  Acting is a very vulnerable-making experience.
GT:  My theory about why famous actors have notoriously have such huge egos is because to be an actor is about humiliating yourself and being rejected over and over.  You just put yourself out there as a visual entity.
I was having a meeting with a casting director recently and I was watching her assistant open up manila envelopes, take out a stack of head shots, look at them for two seconds and throw them in the garbage.  But then she goes — I really shouldn't do this, but would you look at this head shot?  And she's like — what was this girl thinking?  And I'm thinking — who's laughing at my head shot?  Who's got it up on the walls with a mustache drawn on it? (Laughter)

AG: Was Latin Boys your first camp role?
GT:  No.  The movie I did in London, Preaching to the Perverted, was all about camp.  And the character that I play is really a caricature of a dominatrix because you never see her in regular clothes.  You never see her doing anything regular.  She's always stepping out of a limo, whipping a slave, performing on a stage, being annoyed with her slaves in her house.  She's always dressed in a corset and six-inch heels.  There are actual dramatic moments of change, it's not totally a cartoon character, but I had to take a deep breath and be as powerfully dramatic and outrageously sexy and dominating as I possibly could.

AG: I wonder if you could talk about when you were interviewing actors for American Psycho
GT:  There were actors and actresses who refused to be a part of the reading of the script because they thought it was misogynist. There were three or four women who were just like — no way am I touching this!  And maybe a couple of men, but the men who did want to be involved with it did have to have a processing conversations with me and Mary about whether it was woman-hating. And I, of course, said that I think it's profoundly man-hating, which they laughed uncomfortably at. 
But that project is interesting in terms of how Mary and I had been asked to write it together and her to direct it.  It gets a lot of people off the hook because we both come from feminist film backgrounds since Mary made a movie about a killing lesbian and I am a killing lesbian!  [Laughs] But now we're going to be in this weird position of defending what so many feminists believe to be a really misogynist text when it came out. 

AG:  Do you see the film that you're writing as a departure from the book?
GT:  It definitely is just because we took out so much of the violence.  The book gets really grizzly.  We tried to slant it more towards satire and more toward making fun of the men that it's about, in particular, the main character who's a serial killer who predominantly kills women.  He also kills homeless people.  He just preys on the weak.  But I think that there's a whole irony to the book that you can get or not get.

AG:  Which audiences will either get or not get from the film.
GT:  Yes.  There's always a fine line in representing anything, especially something controversial like killing women, between if you're celebrating what you're representing, or if you're showing it to be the horrible thing that it is.  We already did one television interview about the film and immediately people are saying ‑‑ don't you think that this story is hateful toward women?  And I just freaked out and asked ‑‑ when's the last time somebody asked Quentin Tarantino why he has to say nigger every two minutes?  He especially doesn't have to defend anything when it comes to women.  Are we more responsible for women than he is?  I think I'm just going to end up sounding really insane, because I get so mad at even the position of defending "women across the nation".  I end up spending so much time talking about feminist issues rather than talking about how we made this movie.

AG:  That happened with Go Fish, too.
GT:  That's right.  So much time talking about feminist issues, about lesbians in general, "as a people"!  Not the five that we intended to represent in the story--that we made up!  That's what you get for calling yourself a feminist.  Meanwhile, I do get my head sawed off with a chainsaw, in the part that I play in the movie.  And I do play a total bimbo.  So I have to defend acting in this role as well as writing it!

AG:  Speaking about defending, do you have anything you want to say about your role in Chasing Amy both in the movie and behind the scenes? 
GT:  One of the interesting things about Chasing Amy is that it came out at the same time as the movie All Over Me.  To me, the movie All Over Me, while not a flawless movie does capture something so real about being so young and queer and about being outside whatever is around you and trying to understand that and get power from it, and be strong enough to accept it and stand up with it and for it.  And at the same time, Chasing Amy comes out, which is, no matter what you want to say about the movie, one heterosexual man's idea of what lesbian sexuality is.  And it's so ironic, but the world has embraced Chasing Amy as emotional truth.
AG:  Yeah, the reviews are all like "the most truthful romantic comedy of the 90's!"  I'm so glad you're saying this because I'm upset that Chasing Amy, is doing so much better moneywise than "All Over Me."
GT:  Janet Maslin in The New York Times compared them and said that All Over Me was self-indulgent, emotional tripe; and that Chasing Amy really gets somewhere, like how people interact with each other in emotions and relationships.  It's so unfortunate that they came out at the same time.  It's just unfair to compare the movies.  Call me angry and PC, but nobody even brings up the fact that one's a lesbian representing lesbians.  And one's a straight man representing lesbians.
And also, the thing about Chasing Amy that's tricky is that a lot of lesbians like it.  Lesbians whose opinions I respect.  And I actually think that the relationship that does really ring true is the relationship between the two men.  It's very daring in the way that it shows two really good male friends, and one being jealous of the other one having a girlfriend.  That really has gone unrepresented in film.  Actually, I think it would have been a really interesting story if she was just a slut.

AG:  Well the movie often conflates the two.
GT:  Exactly.  Which is a little bit problematic! I mean, I know some lesbian sluts but...

AG:  You probably know many lesbian sluts but their slutiness and their lesbianism are very different things within them!
GT:  I know those guys, and so my name has come up a million times in reviews.

AG:  Yeah, I wanted to know how you felt about being used to legitimize this movie?
GT:  It puts me in a weird situation.  I don't need to love somebody's art to continue to be friends with them.  I don't need to take this movie personally against Kevin and Scott.  And I don't even need to fully blame them the way my name always comes up.  People just know that I know them.  But people have asked me if I had an affair with one of them.  And I'm like ‑‑ I am a slut, but I am actually a lesbian too!  I become the character in the film.

AG:  Who finds it very easy to just give up her sexual identity for a man.
GT:  But my defense for anyone who would say ‑‑ how could you be in that movie ‑‑ is . . . have you ever not had a dime to your name, walk to the set of a movie and have someone say, do you want to get paid to say this monologue?  And what are you going to say? There are ongoing moral/political dilemmas that one faces being an actor and honestly, I've auditioned for way more offensive parts than that tiny part in Chasing Amy.  And I would have done them if I had got them, because I wanted the job and because reading a script in which parts for woman aren't offensive in some way, is the exception rather than the rule.  I've actually gone to auditions thinking ‑‑ what am I going to do if I get this part?  I think ‑‑ how much am I going to get paid to do this part?  It's going to come down to that.  Like, if it's only $15,000 forget it.  But if they're going to give me $50,000 maybe I should put that whole fucking political thing aside and get paid.

AG:  For a change.
GT:  Yeah, for a change.  Part of being who I am is to wonder ‑‑ is my career where it is and not much huger because I'm just a lesbian to so many people.  Or, we only made a lesbian movie and that doesn't necessarily speak to being able to make movies that lots of people will see and will make a lot of money?

AG:  Well, didn't Paper magazine call you the lesbian Parker Posey of the indie film world?
GT:  The question was raised, if I could be the lesbian Parker Posey!   They're not sure.  It might be someone else who's a lesbian Parker Posey. I didn't even get the title officially! 
There's a way in which we're always deciding if a lesser compromise will yield a greater gain.  For me to do a bunch of movies that are slightly offensive, then maybe I'll be a famous actress, instead of a fakely famous actress who's an out lesbian.  That has so much more power than me being my broke little ranting self, who won't do any movies.  Then I can really say something and people will really care because they will know who I am.  The whole Ellen thing kind of weirded me out because it seemed like the longer someone stays in the closet, the more credit and kudos they get when they come out. Nobody ever says‑‑ well, why didn't she come out years ago?  On the other hand, her coming out now means so much more and so many more people start to talk about lesbians and representation.  So I can't really fault her because, even if it was out of accidental cowardice, she did actually do something momentous by virtue of being closeted for so long.

AG:  I remember you telling me  ‑‑ maybe I should go back into the closet so I can have a big, splashy coming-out when I'm more famous!
GT:  The thing is that you can be so lamely half-assedly in the closet for so long.  But once you're out...nobody's going to go back in.

AG:  You think?
GT:  Well, it's true for men more than it is for women.  I suppose, if I really wanted to make a show of it and marry a man, everyone would be happy to believe it.  It's got to be well orchestrated with the publicist. 

AG:  If you start going back into the closet right now, within the next year or so by the time the next batch of films come out, the interview would open with:  “Guinevere Turner and her husband were sipping ice teas in their backyard of their estate in Connecticut; Guin, who first broke into the scene by playing a lesbian, in the controversial film, Go Fish, was rumored to have an affair or two in her day ...”
GT:  Then there was that "Chasing Amy" thing and that really confirmed it!

AG:  I can't believe we're sitting here plotting your career path to go back in the closet!  Do you want to say anything about the Betty Page film you've co-written and will star in?
GT:  Poor Betty Page, who is now 74, 75.  She has had such outrageous trouble with who represents her and people tricking her.  And she's not particularly into getting re-famous.  What she says all the time is ‑‑ I don't understand, what's the big deal?  So the reason our project is stalled is because we've continually dealt with new representatives of hers who have different issues about what they want, how they want her to be represented and how they want to make money off how she's represented.
It's very complicated because there's a lot of things that she's only recently talked about in her life.  Like, she was gang-raped in Times Square.  She was sexually abused by her father.  But we certainly don't want to turn her into a tragic figure.  We totally celebrate her; she's an amazing character.  Her life story is amazing because she was brave enough, even after being gang-raped in Times Square, to still live in New York on her own in the '50s, get married, have boyfriends, be a dominatrix, a pin-up model and feel fine about it and walk down the streets as this gorgeous American beauty while being constantly harassed. That was unheard of. 

AG:  She's heroic.
GT: Definitely heroic.  The horrible thing is that she has never made money off of anything she's done.  And she just becomes a bigger and bigger icon and more and more people know who she is.

AG:  And she is more and more exploited.
GT:  She's endlessly exploited.  She's exploited more now than she was when she was allegedly being exploited by getting photographed naked.

AG:  Do you want to meet her?
GT:  Oh, I'm dying to meet her. I've spent two years of my life researching this woman.

AG:  You can't just go and find her?
GT:  We don't know where she is.  We know she's in California, but she's only been "found" in around the last six years.  I have met and spoken with her brother.  But we have already been so misrepresented to him about what we were doing.

AG:  You probably just sound like everybody else who says they've "got her best interest at heart."  You expressed a lot of concerns about being interviewed.  Why do interviews scare you?
GT:  It's terrifying to give interviews, because however you want to interpret what I say to you in whatever context you want to put it in is out of my control.  And whoever reads it will believe it.

AG:  What was said in a bout of sarcasm could end up sounding totally sincere.
GT:  I just recently did an interview where almost the entire interview is printed with me speaking in quotes, which is just outrageous to me since she didn't tape record our conversation and we talked for an hour and a half.  She put an exclamation point at the end of almost everything that she pretended I said and it was horrible!!![OOPS!]
The funny thing is that the woman who interviewed me was Irish and there's a couple of quotes that she has me in, where she actually attributes really Irish expressions to me.  She had me saying at the end of some story, "so I thought I'd have a go!"  I never say, "I thought I'd have a go!" And she also quoted me saying something negative about someone who I know reads the magazine avidly and who did a huge favor for me.  It was my story of going to the dominatrix at "The Nutcracker Suite," when I was doing research for my role in Preaching to The Perverted. I told this interviewer that at the end of the whole experience at this S/M dungeon, the dominatrix asked me -- so, do you have a boyfriend?  And I said ‑‑ no, I'm gay -- thinking, now that I've whipped your slave's penis that's tied up with a leather string my gayness will be no big deal to you.  And she and her slave seemed generally kind of weirded out by that!  And that's kind of how I told the story.  But the way this writer quoted me made me sound like I thought they were really homophobic.

AG: Because you're just talking about an irony.
GT:  Right.  I wasn't bad-mouthing her.  It's the funny punchline to the story. But that was an interesting case because I realized also that since I had been in this semi-sexual context with these two people, very oddly removed but sexual, that somehow something about me being gay just made them feel tricked a little bit. Like maybe this man doesn't get off on lesbians whipping him; only straight women whipping him.  He doesn't want what he perceives to be real man-hating . . . just play man-hating.

AG: I know that you've said you don't want to talk about the fact that you grew up in a cult in interviews.
GT: When people ask me if I grew up in a cult I lie and say I didn't grow up in a cult.  I started out lying, and then I got bored of lying, so I started telling the truth.  And now I'm back to lying.

AG:  So do you not even want me to mention that you grew up in a cult?
GT:  Okay, you can mention that I grew up in a cult, but you can also mention that I don't like to talk about it.  I stopped talking about it because it's always misrepresented and it's always sensationalized in a way that makes me feel cheap.  You just feel embarrassed.  I think about my Mom.  That was her life, that was my life.  That's not just a cute little fact about me.  That's a whole deep other story.

AG:  One last thing, Miss Turner; weren't you reportedly dating K.D. Lang?
GT:  You're an asshole.  Who's reporting that?

AG:  Me.  Your friends.
GT:  Did you like make a list of all the things that I decided I don't want to talk about?  K.D. Lang, the cult, "Chasing Amy"...

AG:  I want it to be a real explosive interview.  Tell all!
GT:  No, I'm not going to say anything.

AG:  No?
GT:  You can say that I said — no comment.

AG:  Can I say that you said I could say — no comment?
GT:  Yes.

 

Ari Gold is another confused soul balancing writing and performing.  He has published articles in the "Queer Acts" issue of the academic journal Women and Performance, Blueboy (yes, the porn magazine) and Next magazines.  Ari has performed his original tunes at Meow Mix and the Duplex and just returned from Italy where he toured to promote the film Latin Boys Go To Hell.

 

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Guinevere Turner by Tina Barney, 1997

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