Murder She Wrote – Metrosource interview with Guin Turner 2000
GUINEVERE TURNER WAS A 21ST-CENTURY GIRL BACK IN 1992. That’s when she burst onto the scene as the star, producer and screenwriter of the breakout-lesbian hit Go Fish. Since then, Turner has appeared in numerous films, including Cheryl Dunye’s Watermelon Woman and Kevin Smith’s last two movies, Chasing Amy and Dogma. All the while, she continued to work as a screenwriter and journalist. Two of her scripts are currently in development; one is about pinup Bettie Page, (with Turner as Page) and the other is an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s novel Pinball.
First up though, is American Psycho, based on Brett Easton Ellis’ highly controversial novel about a wealthy, white serial killer on Wall Street during the booming ’80s, due out in April. In addition to cowriting the script, Turner plays one of the killer’s sexy female victims. Women’s organizations and antiviolence advocates have been among those voicing opposition to the film, but the protests began to erupt in advance of the initial publication of American Psycho in 1991.
After viewing copies of the manuscript, the National Organization of Women protested vehemently against what it considered a horrifyingly sexist character. The original publisher, Simon and Schuster, backed out after the protests, but another company, Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., stepped in and published the novel anyway.
With such notoriety, the book became an instant hit. Mary Harron, director of I Shot Andy Warhol, was tapped to write and direct the film version. She, in turn, tapped Turner to help write the script and appear in the film as well.
MetroSource caught up with Turner in Los Angeles, where she moved to last year from New York City. Although she says she misses the excitement of Manhattan, “You should see how much space I have,” Turner quickly adds.
Aaron Krach: As the killer, handsome Christian Bale (Velvet Goldmine) murders quite a few women. Which victim are you?
Guin Turner: I play a woman named Elizabeth whom Patrick Bateman knows and brings back to his apartment. Then he drugs her with ecstasy, talks her into having sex with a hooker and then kills her.
AK: So you get to have sex with another woman?
GT: Well, it’s actually the three of us and she’s sneaking away before we can really do it. It’s more like Christian and I are having sex and she is trying to get away because she’s afraid of him.
AK: What would you say first attracted you to American Psycho?
GT: The darkness. I’ve always been a fan of movies that are so scary that they become funny—the kind of movies that scare you so much, you crack up.
AK: Did you actually find the story funny?
GT: Absolutely. While writing the script, we were trying to bring out the humor in the book. We didn’t want to make a movie that was just about some guy killing a bunch of models. But the book depicted such a horrendous phenomenon of ’80s excess. It was obvious to me there was something going on beneath it.
AK: In the past, you’ve gone as far as calling whatever is going on beneath the story “feminist?” Do you still feel that way?
GT: It’s easy to believe that because the character is misogynistic, the story is, too. But it’s not. The way I see it, there are a lot of ways to reach people. Some ways may be more overtly or obviously feminist, but not all are. I think it’s more interesting, and I think it makes a better film when the project has a lot of different levels to it. For example, some people are going to go into the movie thinking it’s a cool, slasher movie and then they will realize there is more to it, that Patrick Bateman is a real loser.
AK: Not only are you a woman, but a fabulous lesbian. What are you doing in a film about a crazy straight killer?
GT: I live for that shit. I wouldn’t want to be spending the rest of my life being a by-the-book feminist just because I’m a lesbian, and people know that. For me, the controversy is the fun part. It sharpens my own skills.
AK: After working on American Psycho, have you been banned from any of your lesbian-feminist friends’ houses?
GT: You mean potluck dinners? No, although there are a couple of websites that young lesbians have made for me, from Scotland and Finland. They’ve written questions to me asking me to explain what I was doing. They say, “We don’t understand why you’re making this movie. It’s so misogynist, etc.” So far, I’ve written them back and tried to explain.
AK: Has American Psycho inspired you to learn any martial arts, so you can defend yourself from the real Patrick Batemans of the world?
GT: That’s funny, but not at all, because Patrick Bateman isn’t real to me. I’m not really scared of him because he’s symbolic. He’s a vessel with which to talk about ’80s materialism.
AK: You have a reputation as the “beautiful lesbian actress.” Do you ever get tired of being the label?
GT: No, I just wish I got more work. I’ve had the experience lately where I was almost cast but then they decided it might be cliché to cast me. But whatever. I guess I do get sick of it sometimes. But I wouldn’t be sick of anything if I was just acting all the time.
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Thanks to Kent for this interview