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chloe sevigny
Edie Yvonne and Chloë Sevigny on the set of Kitty

Chloë Sevigny on that Brown Bunny controversy

The actor, director, writer and cultural icon spoke at Provincetown International Film Festival about the controversial film and other topics

Chloë Sevigny’s CV is pretty impressive. After her first role in Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s Kids in 1992, she’s worked with Lars Von Trier, Whit Stillman, David Fincher, and a truckload of other cult directors. She’s written books, modelled, designed clothes, and is enough of an indie cultural icon to have a parody web-series based on her. Despite all of those achievements over the last two decades, one thing we always tend to come back to is the controversy surrounding 2003’s Brown Bunny, in which Sevigny performed “unsimulated fellatio” on costar Vincent Gallo.

At the time the controversy appeared to threaten her career, and she was terminated from her agency. This weekend Sevigny appeared at Provincetown International Film Festival to promote her first directorial effort Kitty, a short film about a girl who transforms into a cat. In conversation with Indiewire at the event about her latest achievement, the Brown Bunny controversy was dragged up again.

Speaking with Eugene Hernandez, Sevigny said, “I thought it would just kind of play to an arthouse audience, I don’t know why I thought it would just go under the radar. Vincent’s a real character. I love Buffalo 66. I put my faith in him, believed in him. He’s also very seductive, as you can imagine… I think it was a way of kind of reclaiming myself, which sounds odd, but after the celebrity and stuff, being like: ‘No, that’s not who I am, I’m this other thing, and this is what I stand for.’ Or wanting to push the envelope. Like John, who’s here.” Waters, ever the lover of provocative filmmaking, called out, “Sevigny gestured to Waters, who called out from the audience: “I loved Brown Bunny! The insects on the windshield…”

Later in the talk Sevigny discussed Brown Bunny again, or more specifically, its impact on her life and relationships. Despite her agency dropping her at the time, she said: “I got my first studio film after that. I’d never been offered a studio film. It was Zodiac. I don’t think it really hurt me, necessarily. I mean, it hurt me, in a lot of ways… some relationships have had trouble with it. Of course, my mom and I don’t talk about it.”

Obviously, Sevigny’s work hasn’t suffered as a result of either this or any of the other controversies throughout her career. But the fact that we keep asking and talking about something that occurred very briefly 14 years ago when Chloë is now a 42-year-old highly accomplished woman trying to promote her directorial debut is kind of as insulting as persisting to call an adult an ‘it girl’.

It’s not even necessarily the fault of Indiewire, just another symptom of the way we treat and discuss actresses who have a whole lot more going on than one ill-advised blowjob one time. A piece of advice for male interviewers now and forever: when you are next sent to speak to a woman, try just asking her about her work, and avoid questions about her body or controversies or sex life or partners. Just see how it goes! You might even still get a story out of it.