Saturday, April 30, 2011

Pretend 'Factory Girl' Never Happened: Alternative Casting for Edie Sedgwick

I wrote an article for the Washington Square News back in 2006 for this travesty of a film directed by now kaput director George Hickenlooper and starring Sienna Miller in the role of Edie Sedgwick, Guy Peace as Andy Warhol (which was actually pretty impressive) and (gulp) Hayden Christensen as the ambiguous Bob Dylan composite character billed only as 'the folk singer' the reason for this being Bob Dylan was so shocked by the inaccuracy and blatant disrespect for the history that he threatened to sue if they decided to bring his name into it. He is among many who decided not to be associated with this film and publicly denounced it, among them David Bowie, Richie Berlin, superstars Viva and Ultra, as well as Warhol's second in command Gerard Malanga. So you're warned before you even turn it on just out of sheer curiosity that this is going to bite the big one. And it does. The biggest problem I have among the many, is the casting of British sex kitten Sienna Miller as the incomparable and tragic Edie Sedgwick. Her amazing story is ripe for dramatic interpretation, and it killed me that the first try was so cosmetic, superficial, and cliche. Miller barely scratches the surface of the mystery that is the 22 year old heartbreakingly beautiful heiress who was exhaled and subsequently destroyed by her association with Warhol and died terribly at 28, leaving an unforgettable imprint on not only underground film but pop-culture and perhaps most importantly, Warhol himself. Back in my writing days, I immediately tried to adapt it, just for fun, started writing some character sketches and scenes right after I first saw her in Beauty No. 2. It's a Warhol sound film in which she and superstar Gino Piserchio lie half naked on a bed, discussing art, philosophy, and sex while getting increasingly drunk. Edie's friend from Cambridge Chuck Wein assaults her off camera with increasingly personal and hostile questions. After which, I have seen almost all of the films she made with Warhol at the Warhol retrospective at BAM cinematek. And realized after screening Factory Girl that none of that material came close to being relayed in a bio-pic narrative, and were greatly misunderstood by both Sienna and Hickenlooper. So here is my hypothetical list of who I think both in aesthetic and spirit would have much better chops for adapting Edie correctly to a contemporary audience that is probably not aware of her at all. Every time a writer sits down to create a narrative, the first thing he should consider is telling the story to a person who hypothetically has never heard it or of the people and situations in it before. And epic fail on everyone's part. Hopefully someone like Julian Schnabel, Todd Haynes, or Van Sant decides to adapt it again with one of the following actresses.

Anna Torv (top) from Fringe fame. This stunning and statuesque Aussie actress proves she can play both strong and yet vulnerable, both requisites of Edie. The pic below is from a photo shoot Edie did for Vogue in the early 60's in which she was also named America's new 'It Girl' 
Ellen Page (above). This smart and versatile actress has the essence of Edie in that she is universally beautiful and appealing. She is charming and devastating. The pic below is of Edie towards the end of her time with Warhol, probably passed out because of a heroin trip, at her lowest point. The bandage on her hand is from when she was so doped that she didn't realize her apartment had caught fire. She crawled to the door and upon touching the brass door knob severely burned her hand. She was rescued, but her reputation never recovered. 
Natalie Portman (above). Natalie i think resembles Edie better than anyone. She's very elegant, petite, and poised. Aside from the obvious physical similarities, this is perhaps my favorite hypothetical. She's proven she has immense range as an actress from pixie rom-coms to her oscar-winning shocking and unique performance in The Black Swan. And her ballet training must come in handy considering Edie was a prolific dancer doing ballet, jazz, and modern, in fact her 'look' of the black tights and a shirt or leotard over them was because she was so busy with her dance classes that she just wore her uniform around all the time. Below is a still from footage shot of Edie for the 4-years-in-the-making opus she starred in as herself called Ciao Manhattan completed after she had long left New York and Warhol. 
Rose Byrne (above). This could be a stretch because Byrne is already well into her 30's, but something about her seems right. She is a very interesting performer and has a completely unique way of emoting. I think this would be a real challenge for her. One of those unorthodox casting choices which delights the audience when we see them actually pull it off rather well. Also, the British thing is a problem for me. It just is. Edie is such an American institution to where I feel it should be an American actress, but hey this is all hypothetical. The picture below is of Edie at a happening at the Ansonia hotel (the most beautiful in New York on Broadway and 72nd.) It was a pool party that turned into a completely insane amphetamine-fueled sex romp. The staff later stated that when they drained the pool they found dozens of cyringes at the bottom. 
Rooney Mara (above). This stunning actress you may remember as the love interest of Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, soon to collaborate with director David Fincher again in the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Go ahead and hate, but I for one am excited to see what Fincher brings to it. She has really unique features and probably resembles Edie the least comparatively to the previous actresses chosen, but she has a powerful disposition and is a total original. She is able to captivate just like Edie did. In Network, she has maybe 12 lines, but completely steals the show when she's on. A very important quality to have when reinterpreting Edie. Below is Edie's first screen test that Warhol shot. Amy Taubin, a factory girl and film critic said of this screen test, that no one looked more beautiful than when Warhol shot them. 'Tis true. 
Here is my article from WSN on Factory Girl back in 2007.

And here's a real treat. This is lost footage from Ciao Manhattan, Edie's last film in which she plays herself essentially. This film took 4 years to shoot and portrays Edie after breast implants and extensive shock therapy and heroin addiction, thereby is rather wobbly, and not all together lucid or coherent. She looks back on her 'heyday' in New York for which footage was shot while she was still with Warhol. It's rather cryptic that the directors (David Weisman and John Palmer) foresaw the inevitability of Edie and her tragic end enough to start shooting in advance. This clip comes with awesome directors' commentary considering the directors themselves were at times just as doped as Edie and her fellow superstars. Where else are you going to get commentary like 'this was during my samurai phase'? Please check it out. 

1 comment:

Annette said...

I was watching Bridesmaids and saw Rose Byrne. I was thinking in my head she looked just like Edie! I looked to see if somebody thought the same as me. This page came up. I really really really hope they make another Warhol based film, and cast her as Edie. I just really want to see her made up as Miss.Sedgwick. I want to get into film, and I'm a big Warhol fan. They really made a mistake not casting her as Edie. I would of bought it better than Sienna! I could see Natalie Portman as Audrey Hepburn, not Edie. Ellen page, it not pretty enough. Ellen is more cute than pretty. Rose SHOULD of been Edie. Or someday they may will see it. If they do another Warhol based film. I'd really want to see rose dressed up as Edie