Amanda Seyfried: 'More films should discuss sex'
- 13 August 2013
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
She was an iconic figure of the 1970s - yet her fame came from appearing in a pornographic film. Now the legacy of Deep Throat star Linda Lovelace is re-examined in a Hollywood biopic, starring Amanda Seyfried, Sharon Stone and Peter Sarsgaard.
Linda Lovelace, born Linda Boreman in New York in 1949, was a divisive figure. Not only because she made her name in a pornographic film, but because she later accused her ex-husband Chuck Traynor, the producer of Deep Throat, of forcing her to take the role.
According to Lovelace, he was a violent and sexually abusive partner, and she lived in fear for her life.
Later, she would join feminist and anti-pornography movements, describing porn films as "legalised rape".
Many, however, refused to believe her story and no charges were ever brought against Traynor who died in 2002, just months after Lovelace was killed in a car crash.
Hollywood's attempt to dramatise the actress's life, titled Lovelace, has also been controversial.
Kate Hudson, the actress originally cast in the lead role, left the production in 2010 with Amanda Seyfried replacing her a few months later.
The pressure, according to Seyfried, "lies within the fact that she's a real person, even if she's no longer with us".
"But I wanted a challenge to risk myself and there's nothing riskier than taking responsibility for a real person's voice. Especially for Linda Lovelace, she has one kind of image and it is all connected with her doing Deep Throat," she says.
Deep Throat was made in six days in 1972 for a budget of just £25,000 - significantly less than the £6.5m spent on Lovelace.
The title - a reference to fellatio - pretty much summarises the paper-thin plot, in which Lovelace seeks help with a sexually sensitive area at the back of her throat.
It drew middle class audiences to the cinema and became a forerunner of today's hardcore adult entertainment industry. But it caused such outrage that its male star, Harry Reems, was subsequently convicted of obscenity.
Linda Lovelace's appeal, it was claimed at the time, came from her naivete, making her seem more like a girl-next-door than an adult film star.
It's been estimated Deep Throat made anything between $100m and $600m (£382m), making it the most profitable pornographic film of all time, although Lovelace later said she made no money from it.
Lovelace directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, who are former journalists, tell both sides of her story in their film and include graphic and harrowing scenes of the abuse she claimed to have suffered.
"We did this so the audience can make up their mind," says Friedman. "No one knows for sure what the truth is. Both Chuck Traynor and Linda died in the same year and he never admitted guilt or denied it outright."
Seyfried says her own role was easier, "because I only had one point of view as far as I was concerned, and that was to believe Linda. She believed she suffered abuse and so I did as well".
"People ask 'why did she do Deep Throat if it was against her will, why did she stay with Chuck Traynor for so long before leaving?' I think the answer to that is she was deeply controlled and in fear for her life, as so many victims of domestic abuse are.
"Hopefully, 40 years on, there is far less stigma surrounding such things, but many victims still feel shame. I am sure she did too," she says.
The nudity that came with the part "was easy" she says. "At least it was easy compared to showing the violence. I went into a very, very hard place because of those scenes. We just skim the surface in what we show and that was dark enough."
As a result, she says, "Linda has stayed with me more than any other part I have ever played. She affected me so deeply and it was weeks into filming my next part, Cosette in Les Miserables, before I could actually let her go".
But according to author Eric Danville, who wrote Lovelace's authorised biography, The Complete Linda Lovelace, the film "only tells half the story".
"It ends with Linda joining the feminist movement - and she did, of course - but it doesn't show how later she became disillusioned with that movement as well and even went back to pornography before the end of her life.
"Hollywood needs to give audiences a happy ending, I know, but this film is a drama, not a documentary - it's not the last word on her," he says.
Lovelace follows Michael Fassbender's portrayal of a sex addict in Shame; and precedes Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut Don Jon's Addiction, which explores one man's dependency upon pornography.
Seyfried notes that the topic of sex, which is often unpopular with movie executives, "is definitely in the spotlight".
"I think a greater discussion about sexual issues is essential in filmmaking," she says. "It isn't something we should shy away from.
"But this is not a porn movie in any way, as far as I am concerned. It is not erotic. It's a film about a young woman in a terrible, abusive marriage."
While Lovelace went on to marry for a second time and have two children, she died at the age of 53. The star lost control of her car on 3 April 2002 and hit a concrete post. Three weeks later, with her parents at her bedside, her life support was turned off.
The actress's life, according to Friedman, was "all too brief and unhappy in many ways".
"She is a tragic figure. However, she is an icon. She did a great deal for sexual liberation in the 1970s with Deep Throat.
"She actually helped end a great deal of silence and repression surrounding sex because the film was so popular and, whether it's a porn film or not, because of that she deserves her place in popular culture."
Lovelace is released in the UK on 23 August.