The Factory Girl interviews

The Factory Girl interviews
by David Ashley
My review of the film

George Hickenlooper, who promised that this would be his last biopic (“You can’t please anybody”), directs the story of Edie Sedgwick (Sienna Miller). Sedgwick basically falls in love with Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) and the two enter into a platonic romance of bright lights and cold shoulders.  When Sedgwick’s loyalty is tested by a Dylan look-alike (Hayden Christensen), Warhol distances himself from Sedgwick and her loneliness and insecurity become her painful undoing.

Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce conducted extensive research into their characters, fortuitously drawing upon the extraordinarily large collection of film and audio archives that exist regarding Sedgwick and Warhol, and even being granted exclusive access to previously unviewed materials in the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

213: Are you a fan of the art that Warhol was producing in The Factory?
SM: Yeah, certain parts of it.  Other parts…I think I like what it represents.  Having really thought about it, I think he’s an absolute genius.  He was so ahead of his time, all of them were.  I just think the way he made his movies – you know, put the microphone in, make it real, he just had real people having real conversations.  Flash forward to us now, in our culture, our generation is obsessed with reality TV.  But he was doing it in 1965.  The man was just so forward-thinking.  And the mockery of America, with the Campbell’s Soup cans, throwing it back in its face…I think it was really interesting stuff.  I mean, I prefer other artists, personally, but I really appreciate what he was doing.  I wouldn’t mind having a “Marilyn” in my house.

One of the most impressive resources available for Pearce came from Warhol’s friend Bridget, who tape-recorded virtually every conversation they had on the phone – and they had plenty;  particularly, the tape labeled  “I Tell Andy Edie Died.”

213: What was Andy’s reaction on the tape?
GP: He had a number of reactions.  Phone conversation goes on for five minutes and…he’s clearly shocked and stunned by what’s happened.  His very first reaction is to go, “Who?  What?  Wh- how??  Why?  Who?”  He does an incredible job of evading the actual information.  They end up talking about her husband, Michael Post, for a while, and then there’s this huge long pause…then Andy says, “Does he get all the money?”  And then they get back into it, and Bridget’s clearly not happy with that response.  There’s another big pause, they talk about some other stuff.  Then Andy says, and you can tell he’s about to cry, “I just thought she was gonna pull through and get well…”  So he’s – in typical Warhol fashion – I think he didn’t want to attach to the emotional response.

213: Was it painful for you to play Edie?
SM: I wouldn’t say it was painful…it was emotionally draining at times, certainly.  In the scene where I confront Warhol in the restaurant, that really emotional scene, was my second day of shooting – so that was, a little bit.  Sometimes stuff like that happens and you just have to make a decision – sink or swim – and just have to go for it.  So it was emotionally challenging, and also completely rewarding, from an acting point of view.  You feel a tremendous sense of achievement when you get to a base emotion.  But I really loved it, I’d be happy playing Edie for the rest of my life, it’s so interesting.

Hickenlooper comes off as deeply passionate about his project, and unfortunately a little defensive, as the film has been attacked every step of his way.  Lou Reed has denounced the script, and Bob Dylan has sought legal council for a “misrepresentation of his likeness,” or some such nonsense.  Have a sense of humor!  [Platitudes!] History can be rewritten, after all.  But then such are the foibles of those in the public eye – Sedgwick not excluded.

Hickenlooper explains the low budget the film was shot on and how close the cast & crew were during the production, bedding in the same airport hotel and spending every day as a cohesive unit – a wonderful film fairy-tale, rarely achieved.

Even Hickenlooper himself refers to the characters as “superficial and emotionally needy” and their exploits as “high school melodrama.”

213: Based on that, do you think this story is a tragdy?
GH: Yeah, of course.

213: Despite being “high school melodrama?”
GH: Yeah…she dies.  She has a drug overdose.  Tragedy that Andy ultimately lets her go, abandons her; she’s abandoned.  It’s a universal, terrible tragedy.

I’ll be the first to agree (with the high school melodrama comment), but upon meeting the Factory’s primaries, my opinion of the film only improved as I learned how deeply personal the work was for each member.

213: Is there an impression of Edie that you want the audience to leave with?
GH: I want the audience to just…love her, and feel loss.  Tonally, one of my favorite films of all-time is Midnight Cowboy, that film just resonates with me in a timeless way because it’s about loss and abandonment.

213: Why do you want to make a movie about loss?
GH: Because life is all about loss.  We all die, we all lose people, life is inherently a tragedy for all of us and we just make the best out of what we can, and try to be happy.  That’s what happiness is about, trying to compensate for the loss, and I think all great stories, from Shakespeare to Ancient Greeks are about loss.

conducted and transcribed by David Ashley

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