'Lovelace': A Sex Superstar's Struggle To Show Herself
JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
This is WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.
Coming up, we have a remembrance of actress Karen Black, who made a name for herself in Hollywood during the 1960s and '70s. First, though, we turn to the silver screen for a look at another actress of the 1970s, Linda Lovelace.
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LYDEN: A new film explores the story behind her role in "Deep Throat." And for all of you NPR political junkies, we're not talking about the source for the Watergate scandal. The 1972 film turned Linda Lovelace into a porn star and a household name.
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LYDEN: But when the cameras were off, Lovelace endured a complicated private life of abuse and coercion at the hands of her husband. Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein direct "Lovelace," a new biopic about the actress which opened on Friday in some theaters and also on demand. Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, welcome to the program.
JEFFREY FRIEDMAN: Thank you.
ROB EPSTEIN: Thank you. Pleasure to be here.
LYDEN: Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, you've - two have worked together for a long time. I'd like to hear a little bit about your partnership, how it started.
EPSTEIN: Well, we started working together in 1987. We both had other careers prior to working together. And then Jeffrey was my editor on a show that I was doing - an episode I was doing for PBS. We really clicked; our styles really clicked, and the way of telling stories really clicked. And we decided we would make a documentary together. And the first one was "Common Threads," about the AIDS quilt, which won an Oscar in '89, and that kind of cemented the partnership.
LYDEN: From the film about the AIDS quilt to "Howl," which starred James Franco as Allen Ginsberg; you did the film about Harvey Milk. This seems like a bit of a departure from these other films. Tell me a little bit, Jeffrey Friedman, whose idea was it to take on the story of Linda Lovelace.
FRIEDMAN: Well, the idea preceded our involvement with it. The producers had been developing a script when we came on.
EPSTEIN: Yeah. And in terms of it seeming like an unusual subject for us given our track record, we don't really see it that way. And I think we tend to be interested in subjects that are seemingly on the margins of the culture, but making their way into the mainstream of the culture: domestic violence, which is part of Linda Lovelace's story; pornography, which is now ubiquitous and free on the Internet. She was perceived as the poster girl for a lot of that early on, and then spent much of the rest of her life trying to explain herself to a skeptical public, that there was more to her story.
FRIEDMAN: And really, we never saw it as a story about pornography. We saw it as a story of a woman's struggle to come into her own, find her voice and claim her identity.
LYDEN: Mm-hmm. Let's talk about - a little bit about the real Linda Lovelace before we get to this film.
EPSTEIN: Right. Well, first of all, Linda Lovelace was a fictitious character. The person, Linda Boreman, came from a very strict, Catholic family. She grew up in New York, and then they moved to Florida. And she got pregnant at 17, and had to give up her child for adoption. She thought she was signing circumcision papers, which her mother presented to her, and she was actually signing adoption papers. That was the kind of atmosphere and upbringing she came from and rebelled against, at a very young age. She was 22 when she left home and met Chuck Traynor, who became her husband and very quickly, got her involved in pornography.
LYDEN: There is a pretty heartbreaking scene in this film, where this man that she's so drawn to - and initially, so in love with - is becoming very abusive. And she goes to her mother's house, and her mother turns her away.
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AMANDA SEYFRIED: (As Linda Boreman) (Crying) Can't I just stay like, a few days, Ma? Please?
SHARON STONE: (As Dorothy Boreman) And then what? You're going to get a divorce? What do you think we are, Protestant?
SEYFRIED: (As Linda Boreman) Ma, you just don't understand.
STONE: (As Dorothy Boreman) Go home to Chuck. Be a good wife. Listen to him, and obey him.
FRIEDMAN: Yeah, it's a heartbreaking scene. Incredible performances by both Amanda Seyfried and Sharon Stone, who plays her mother.
LYDEN: Yeah. I had to almost look twice because I, you know, thought, is that Sharon Stone? So you've done something really interesting here with her story in that we see her being seduced into the pornographic film industry, and then you tell the story again and again. So we see her making "Deep Throat" one way; and then we see, when she's - when - maybe kind of excited, and then another way. This is a really interesting technique.
EPSTEIN: Well, the first part is really the transformation of Linda Boreman, the 22-year-old girl, into the character Linda Lovelace. And then the second part, when we pull back the curtain, you see the circumstances under which she was doing "Deep Throat."
FRIEDMAN: And we also felt it mirrored her psychology. It was our idea to tell the story in the way that Linda told it to the world, the different moments in her life.
LYDEN: You know, I also wanted to ask, Rob, about the retro look to this movie, which is pretty fantastic. It's not just this - the designers really ought to be credited here - the bell bottom jeans and the wild perms and those horseshoe mustaches. Oh, my goodness. The film even had that over-saturated, kind of yellowy look from the era. And I thought, yeah, that's how films used to look. How did you get that?
EPSTEIN: We wanted to shoot in 16 mm precisely to get that kind of grainy look, and to reference the '70s. So that's part of it. And we had an incredible design team.
FRIEDMAN: And we worked a lot - given our documentary background, our starting point is always from documentary materials. So we collected - we would have binders of period reference photographs for all the departments to work from just so we could have that as a starting point for our conversations.
LYDEN: Rob, you didn't actually shoot in 16 mm?
EPSTEIN: We did shoot in 16 mm.
LYDEN: Wow - you did. Wow.
EPSTEIN: We did. Yeah.
LYDEN: You know, you had so many documentary elements to work with. You have such history yourselves, as documentary makers. Why make a feature when you had all that documentary background?
EPSTEIN: In this film, we always saw it as something that needed to be written and performed, and to create a world. We really wanted to create that particular world because artistically, that was a challenge for us, and exciting to us.
LYDEN: Why is there still such a fascination with "Deep Throat," do you think? It's been 41 years. I really had to stop and count them - has it really? Forty-one years since this film came out and here we are, still fascinated by Linda Lovelace.
FRIEDMAN: It was the spark that set off the porn explosion. It was before the Internet; before, even, VHS video. Linda was the personality through which porn entered the mainstream. It became kind of a date movie in the '70s.
EPSTEIN: And certainly, Linda herself has a lot to do with it - not only her particular talent, which is featured in "Deep Throat," but the fact that she was such a likeable girl next door. She was not your typical porn star of that era, which was the buxom blonde. She was very guileless, and just had a kind of innate charm and ease and naturalness about her. And that was captured.
LYDEN: And she went on to have another life. Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman are the directors of "Lovelace." It came out on Friday. Thank you both so much for joining us.
EPSTEIN: Thanks for having us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.