Guinwords – Guinevere Turner in her own words


I was born on May 23, 1968 in Boston, Massachusetts to an unwed 19 year old who didn’t go to the hospital until she was in labor. It’s true. She had recently become a part of the Lyman Family, a cult/commune of sorts, in which I was raised until I was twelve. The Family was about 130 people, a hearty 40 or 50 of them kids, who lived in six different homesteads across the U.S. They were in Boston, Martha’s Vineyard, Kansas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York . I grew up in all of these places, mostly Kansas, Los Angeles and Martha’s Vineyard. We were schooled at home, and watched virtually no television, and never listened to popular music.

My Mom left when I was twelve and they made me go with her. I really didn’t want to at all – I barely knew her, but they made me, and so in 1979 I entered public school for the first time – the 7th grade – with velour bell bottoms, hair down to my butt, talking about how I could play the banjo and how I loved Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. My peers were wearing Sergio Valentes and listening to Queen. I was a mess. They immediate settled into calling me Guinaqueer and Rentaqueer and I became an avid student of pop culture – how to fit in, what to wear, how to never say where you came from because it just won’t fly.

By the time I started high school I was pretty much passing as a normal kid. The banjo was gathering dust in it’s case under my bed, my hair was appropriately feathered, and my favorite thing to say, no matter what was said to me, was “Spare me the details.” I got excellent grades, was never allowed to go to parties or wear makeup or really talk on the phone, so for various reasons I left home at 16 and moved in with my boyfriend and his father.

Glorious days of chugging vodka in the bathroom and passing out at the Honor Society Dance ensued. I was voted “Most Sophisticated” of my Senior Class, but I think it just meant that everybody knew I wasn’t a virgin because I lived with my boyfriend. I was Editor of the Newspaper, star of the school play, blah blah blah.

Then it was off to Sarah Lawrence College, where I truly became the proud mess I am today. Year One entailed four different roommates, one boyfriend, several different drugs, and finally, a girlfriend. Only for a few weeks – I got nervous because she wanted to hold hands in public. Year Two I got serious about academics, Year Three about Academics and politics, and by Year Four I was a fully pretentious bitter worldly lesbian who’d spent a lot of time with very rich and some very smart kids in an environment full of privilege and maybe a little too much freedom.

After graduation, almost everyone I knew was moving to Manhattan, which is only a hop skip and a jump from Sarah Lawrence. I decided I couldn’t deal with bumping into everyone that I just spent four years looking at, so I decided to move to Chicago, where I met Rose Troche, started dating her and then we made a movie together, Go Fish, which changed our lives forever. (We broke up in the middle of making it – what a nightmare).

We both ended up moving to New York, as did many of the people involved with the film. The following summer I acted in a film called “The Watermelon Woman,” directed by and starring Cheryl Dunye. That did the festival thing but I don’t think has a distributor. I was in a music video directed by Maria Maggenti (of Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love fame), which was actually a Melissa Etheridge cover of a Joan Armitrading song. It was all very lesbian, and showed on MTV about four times as part of a larger program. Last summer I adapted the book “American Psycho” for the screen with director Mary Harron (she directed “I Shot Andy Warhol”), and that one’s sure to cause a lot of drama .

Mary and I are just about to finish the script for “The Ballad of Betty Page,” which is the story of the legendary pin-up girl Betty Page. Generally speaking, people have either never heard of her, or are completely obsessed with her. We’re hoping to shoot that in April (she’s directing, I’m starring). HBO is behind the whole thing, so it should be fabulous.

This fall I played the lead in a film called “Preaching to the Perverted” in London. I play a dominatrix. It’s a kind of sex comedy high camp thing. It comes out in the UK in the Spring, and it remains to be seen what will happen with it in the U.S. In addition to all of that I’ve written several things for the Advocate, and had a few short pieces of fiction published here and there.