Was Linda Lovelace violently coerced into making an infamous movie? Tony Earnshaw asks the star of a new biopic, Amanda Seyfried.
If you were an adult in the early Seventies is was almost impossible to avoid hearing about Linda Lovelave and Deep Throat.
And even if you never saw the film – and a great many did – the association of Lovelace with it, and her elevation to Queen of Porn, was world news.
Now a biopic of Lovelace, during the notorious period when she starred in Deep Throat, hits screens. Amanda Seyfried plays the 22-year-old policeman’s daughter once described as Miss Holy Moly by schoolfriends.
Deep Throat was the micro-budget phenomenon that acquired a weird kind of quasi respectability on its release in 1972. Often screened in mainstream theatres and attended by courting couples it made millions and turned Lovelace – as the pleasure-seeking “heroine” into a megastar. In her post-porn years Lovelace turned her back on the sex industry and Chuck Traynor, the man she claimed had forced her into Deep Throat at gunpoint, who beat and raped her, and who exploited her brutally.
There was an autobiography, Ordeal, and a tour of the chat show circuit in which she spoke openly of the abuse she had suffered during her reluctant reign as a porn queen. In less than 10 years, she switched from the star of Deep Throat to a vociferous anti-porn activist.
Then, in 2002, she died following a car crash in which she was so severely injured she was on life support for three days until family members agreed to switch it off. She was 53.
Amanda Seyfried bagged the role of Linda Lovelace after Lindsay Lohan dropped out of a rival project. Seyfried, whose roles have included the sweet, doe-eyed bride-to-be in Mamma Mia! and the sinister temptress in Chloe, said part of the appeal of playing her was to “do her some justice”.
“I had heard about her long before this movie came into existence,” says the 27-year-old Pennsylvania native.
“I think a lot of women can relate to her in that she is kind of stuck in her life. She made some bad choices and was escaping one bad situation [with her domineering mother] and entering into another bad situation [with Traynor, played in the film by Peter Sarsgaard]. How could she foresee that or what happened to her after she became famous?
“Her circumstances are pretty awful throughout the whole thing, which is why I wanted to play her. She tried so hard to be heard, and here we are trying to tell her story again – [to] make her a real person.”
Opinions were split on Lovelace when she went public with her allegations in 1980 on the publication of Ordeal. Some found it difficult to accept her protestations despite Lovelace’s 20-year campaign to raise awareness of violent exploitation in the porn industry. Was Seyfried one of them?
“I’m a pretty cynical person,” she admits. “So I knew right off the bat, when I entered into this project, that I was going to have to leave that [issue] at the door.
“My job was to validate Linda Lovelace. I wanted to justify her and reiterate what she was trying to get across. Playing a real person in general is really hard. I’d never done it before. It would have been even harder if she were alive, for sure. That was the biggest challenge.”
The proximity of Lovelace’s children Dominic and Lindsay meant added pressure for Seyfried and directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein. In fact, both children were on set during one key sequence and, says Friedman, “they really felt they were hearing their mother’s voice”.
Seyfried has performed nude scenes on film in the past but nothing like what she has to do in Lovelace. It is a dark and violent piece, at odds with the freewheeling and sometimes cheery atmosphere of the film that made Lovelace’s name.
And by virtue of the subject matter, Lovelace was never going to be a fun trip. Most films about the adult film industry accentuate the seediness of the milieu.
Was Seyfried concerned about the film?
Says Seyfried: “Honestly, I didn’t have many doubts. Apparently a lot of people did, which is why I was lucky it to came to me. Of course, there has to be some thought about how you’re going to be perceived afterwards, with a role like this. But after I met Rob and Jeff, there was barely any hesitation.
“It just seemed like the perfect challenge for me. I needed an emotional outlet and to lose myself in something. And I really believed in this woman. There’s such a stigma about it among actresses, I know, but I just don’t feel like it’s that scary. It really wasn’t that hard a decision to take this part.”
Lovelace (18) is on nationwide release.
*Co-director of Lovelace Rob Epstein makes the point that Lovelace’s entire career in pornography lasted just 17 days and “then she spent the rest of her life feeling like she had to overcome that”. The same can be said of Amanda Seyfried. Three weeks after completing Lovelace she went into Les Misérables playing Cosette, an 18-year-old virgin. “It really couldn’t have been any more different,” she says. “But it was hard to shake this off, really hard. I still haven’t shaken it off entirely, in fact. I’m struggling every day. I realise that I actually lost myself in the role, for the first time. I feel like a real actor.”