Guinevere: No Lady – Boston Phoenix Newspaper July 2001

‘Guinevere: No Lady’ from Boston Phoenix Newspaper July 2001. Interviewed by Tony Bennis

GUINEVERE TURNER SPLASHED onto the independent-film scene in 1994 with Go Fish, the critically acclaimed story of lesbian life and love, which she co-produced, co-wrote, and starred in. Since then, she’s made a name in the indie world as a writer and actor, appearing in Chasing Amy, Dogma, cult favorite Preaching to the Perverted, and American Psycho (for which she also co-wrote the screenplay with director Mary Harron). She just finished writing the screenplay for The Ballad of Bettie Page, in which she will also star as the darkly sexual pin-up icon of the 1950s. Turner, who was born in Boston, came back recently for the Boston International Festival for Women’s Cinema at the Brattle Theatre, where Stray Dogs, in which she stars, was screened.

TB: Does being an indie-film star – as opposed to mainstream – allow you to keep more control over your daily life?

GT: I think the real question you’re asking is, is it a relief not to be famous? (Laughs)

TB: I was going for not being hugely famous.

GT: Well, yes, Julia Roberts has a little harder time walking down the street than I do. But I’m really ready for that moment in my life where I realize that huge fame and lots of money really isn’t gonna bring me happiness. (Laughs)

TB: How deliberate are you in plotting your career path?

GT: Completely random. I don’t really feel like you have a choice. Well, you do have a choice. I’ve said no to things, so I guess I do have a choice. In indie film in particular, if you commit to doing something, you’re going to work really hard, you’re not gonna get paid a lot of money, and everybody’s gonna cry at some point. So it better be good.

TB: You’ve played lesbians, a dominatrix and you’re about to star as Bettie Page. What’s with this non-mainstream sexualized-character pattern?

GT: I don’t know. I think it’s just karmic. (Laughs) It’s not like something that I necessarily seek out, but then it also builds on itself. I think who I was for Go Fish, combined with the fact that I was going to do Bettie Page, made Stuart Urban want to cast me as Tanya Cheex (dominatrix in Preaching to the Perverted). Either that or it was the letter I wrote that made him give me the part.

TB: So you sought the role?

GT: Well, Stuart offered it to me after he saw my audition tape. But I’ve always said I think the reason he offered it to me was because I wrote, “I wish I could come to London and spank someone in person for you.” I think he always thought, Hmm, maybe she really is a dominatrix, and was always excited by that.

TB: How do you think The Ballad of Bettie Page will do?

GT: Hopefully it crosses over to mainstream. A lot of people don’t know who she is and so I wonder what would motivate somebody who’s never heard of Bettie Page to see this movie. I’ll tell you obviously what would – sexy advertising. But you can only get so much money with casting me, as opposed to, say, Ashley Judd or Liv Tyler.

TB: Could you ever see yourself on a television series?

GT: I’d love to. I’d love to be like a Scully, X-Files FBI agent, or the defense lawyer. No, you know who I want to be? Do you remember Hill Street Blues? Joyce Davenport (actress Veronica Hamel). I just loved that character when I was a kid. I so wanted to grow up and be on TV and be that tough, sexy defender.

TB: You’re a writer, actor, sometime producer, and aspiring director … difficult to juggle?

GT: I feel lucky that I can be a writer and actor because I’m kinda schizophrenic anyway. I find writing very lonely and I find acting very exhausting. Going back and forth between them really saves me. I don’t want to produce again. I’m very proud of Go Fish because of what it did for so many young lesbians in making people feel that it’s okay to be gay and there’s a community out there for them.

TB: I’ve heard you say you respect people who focus on what they want and then really go for it.

GT: I just think it’s brave. It’s about taking a big risk, first of all because you reveal a lot about yourself when you say, “What I really want is blah-blah-blah.” And it’s about not compromising. Compromise to me is one of the great evils.

Thanks to Sarah for this article