Amanda Seyfried: The girl next door with a dark side

She's seen as one of Hollywood's sweethearts, but Amanda Seyfried hopes her latest role as a porn star will change her image, she tells Emma Jones

It's almost shame to sully Amanda Seyfried by talking about sex. She sits in an oversized designer chair, feet not touching the floor; shrunk to the size of a child by the furniture. There's something pure about Seyfried, heightened by her waterfall of blonde hair, her doe eyes. Who'd have thought she'd make such a good porn star?

The reason sex is on the agenda is that for her latest film, Lovelace, Seyfried has transformed into Linda Lovelace, a 1970s sexual icon for her role in the world's most profitable porn film, Deep Throat. Lovelace's turbulent and often unhappy life came to an early close in 2002, when she died in a car crash at the age of 53. Seyfried, at 27, finally loses some of that grit-your-teeth sweetness audiences saw in musical hits like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables, developing some of Linda's brunette earthiness, fleshing out into porn star curves. Yet what Linda and Amanda really share is the impression of girl-next-door innocence. In Seyfried's case, she's keen to show that's not reality.

Making a film about Lovelace has been on the Hollywood agenda for nearly 20 years; in 2010, Seyfried's Mean Girls co-star Lindsay Lohan was cast, before later getting dropped from the project. Seyfried said yes to it a year later. She was, she says, well aware of the risk to her career.

“I knew it, and people close to me did not stop reminding me either that it was a risk to take the part. But I wanted a challenge, and it was an unique opportunity.”

Not risky in terms of the cast and crew – Peter Sarsgaard gives dimension to Chuck Traynor, Lovelace's abusive ex-husband, and Sharon Stone is unrecognisable as Linda's religious mother Dorothy – but in that Hollywood still doesn't seem to appreciate movies about sex. After all, Ang Lee missed his Oscar for Brokeback Mountain after sweeping the rest of the awards season. Being naked is apparently the one physical transformation that an actor can make without being in danger of getting an Academy Award for it.

“I would love it if Americans could only appreciate sex in film the way everyone in Europe seems to,” Seyfried sighs. “I mean, as far as I'm concerned, it's not that big a deal. I didn't mind the nudity at all in this film, I have no problems taking my clothes off. Not,” she adds quickly, “that I'd ever consider doing anything like a porno at all.

“But here in America, there is such a stigma attached to sex. But isn't it better than violence and making movies about people killing each other? Sex is the biggest part of our culture. So why aren't we talking about it in a movie?”

For someone with a reputation for sweetness, backed up by those parts in Les Mis, Mamma Mia and a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Dear John, this Pennsylvania-born girl really does not have a problem getting naked. She did so two years ago when she played a call girl in erotic thriller Chloe with Julianne Moore. Perhaps starting off in child modelling at the age of 11 gave her a lack of self-consciousness, but Seyfried claims the opposite is true.

“I actually grew up thinking that sex was absolutely terrifying and that it could kill you. It's taken a while to figure myself out in that way and connect with sex in a healthy way. These roles are a way of challenging myself, of confronting me.”

Her frankness is delicious but it must have been excruciating for someone so open about her awkwardness to go through her biggest romantic split in the public eye. Seyfried's most significant relationship to date was with Mamma Mia co-star Dominic Cooper, and confessed she had her heart “well and truly broken” by him. This year, she has recently hinted that there was someone in her life not from the industry, someone she says she pictures “as the father of her children. But it's a fantasy right now.” Until that happens, she says, it's work and her dog, Finn. Her focus, she says, is to prove herself as something more durable than red-carpet fodder.

“Sometimes I wish I could just go to something like the Oscars in just sweatpants,” she jokes, and then sighs again. “But then they'd write bad things and you don't want that. I want to let my work speak for me.

“I now want to take on only roles that challenge me,” Seyfried continues, suddenly animated. “Roles that take me to places where I am afraid. That's the big thing for me. I know there's an image of me as sweet and it would be easy to get stuck into those parts, to be typecast as that female in that kind of film.

“I am privileged that finally there are people out there right now who believe that I can handle the stuff being thrown at me. But I've had to work really hard for that. I really think I'm getting better every year – as an actor that is.”

This thirst to prove herself, to keep trying something different, has sometimes led Seyfried badly astray – the schlocky horror Jennifer's Body with Megan Fox, for example, or even Catherine Hardwicke's supposedly erotic twist on a fairy tale with Red Riding Hood in 2011. However, it also led her to her breakthrough role in 2004 as Karen in Mean Girls. After starting acting when she was 15, taking roles in TV series such as Veronica Mars, Seyfried says she clawed her way into the twisted teen comedy, against the advice of many.

“I really did come into this business from a place of innocence and people did try to exploit me all the time. I had to learn quickly,” she says, soberly. “You've got to know your boundaries and insist on making your own choices in life.

“That's why perhaps I related to Linda Lovelace. But she had none of the freedom I enjoy. Her husband wouldn't let her go to the bathroom without permission.”

There is little that's erotic about the sex in Lovelace. It's partly just the daily grind of the porn industry, but mainly it's because of the abusive marriage that Linda claims she endured to Chuck Traynor. Years after Deep Throat was released, Lovelace claimed Traynor had raped her and abused her, forcing her to take part in the film. “Each time you watch Deep Throat,” she would say, “you are watching me getting raped.”

The absolute truth died with both Lovelace and Traynor more than a decade ago, although both sides of the story are presented by journalists-turned-directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein. Seyfried calls the experience of filming, “the most harrowing of my life”.

“Not the sex, because actually Peter and I managed to make it really matter of fact. I found filming Chloe far more explicit and graphic. No, it was the violence. I think we've made it a hard watch, and it only just skims the surface of what she says she went through. It took me to dark places that I found it difficult to let go of. Put it this way,” she adds, “I went to the set of Les Mis a few weeks later for the light relief. I only managed to let Linda go there.”

Whatever toll it takes, Seyfried says she's “unbelievably proud to have made this film”, that whatever glack is thrown at her, she'll stand by this work. “This is a high-profile role for me. I hope this is the game-changer.” She looks up and smiles. Sweetly.

'Lovelace' is out in the UK on 23 August

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'