:Junket Report: Factory Girl

After two years and a shoot that was a challenge, by all accounts, Factory Girl is finally making its way to a theater near you (or me, at least.) The film is a biopic of Andy Warhol hanger-on Edie Sedgwick, who breezed into the artist’s life, hung around his circle for a short time while living on the dime of her rich family, and was then spit out the other side of the ‘factory’ with a drug habit and psychological problems that would leave her dead at 28. The film’s notoriety has been two-fold: it’s something of a public coming-out for star Sienna Miller, who has felled forests with all the tabloid fodder she’s generated with her personal life, but drawn little attention for her acting work until now. The film was also threatened with crippling litigation from Bob Dylan, who felt that a harmonica-chewing, folk-singing hipster-icon character played by Hayden Christensen was an unflattering, autobiographical portrait of him.

Christensen is in Tokyo, doing location shooting for the upcoming science-fiction film, Jumper, and could not attend this week’s junket for Factory Girl. Those on hand included director George Hickenlooper, Sienna Miller, and Guy Pearce, who embodies the iconic Warhol, right down to his blotchy, pock-marked skin and ethereal accent. Here’s a sampling of what went on:

Sienna Miller

Cinematical: Talk about the climactic scene, where your character confronts Andy Warhol in the restaurant. How did you prepare for such an emotional scene, and how did the director guide you through it? “That was a really intimidating scene, because it was actually our second day of shooting on the movie. It just so happens that schedules sometimes work out like that, and I was obviously very nervous. I didn’t know anyone, but in a way that helped with the feeling of vulnerability, and George…..what George has an amazing ability to do for me is to create an environment that’s very safe and very trusting, so that you feel you have the ability to go as far as you want to go, and it’s never too far. He’s very embracing of an actor’s journey. He just sort of made me feel protected and reassured and comforted and encouraged, constantly. And it really helped, to be supported like that, because you feel like you want to do well for that person.”

Non-Cinematical Question: I want to talk about the musician character who we won’t call ‘Bob.’ Can you talk about what you learned in your research about the relationship between him and Edie? “Well, Guy and I and George, we all became great friends with a lot of people who knew Andy, including Edie’s brother and her husband and the funny thing is that everyone has different accounts of what happened. Also, you have to remember that this was a period of time when a lot of people were doing a lot of drugs, so they’re like “I don’t remember. I don’t remember the decade, let alone….” And some people say nothing happened at all and someone very close said it absolutely did happen, and he was the love of her life. You know, I was watching The Queen the other day and no one really knows what happened the week after Princess Diana died. No one knows if Cherie Blair is an anti-royalist, you know. People in movies take creative license and there’s nothing they did in their movie that we didn’t in ours — there’s no difference. It’s a rumor we heard from valuable sources that it was true and from valuable sources that it’s not true.”

Non-Cinematical Question: What did you want to get across to audiences about Edie? “I think ultimately, we’re making a story that a lot of people say to me — actually, someone in this room said — ‘why Edie? Who cares?’ At the end of the day, people see her as a very wealthy girl from a privileged background who took too many drugs and died at 28. But once you understand the psychology behind why she was motivated to a) become a drug addict and b) why she is still impacting my generation today, you understand that there is more to her than just what people assume. So I think it was just a question of trying to make her sympathetic and to understand her, and to work on the relationship between Andy and Edie — it was actually a very loving and very close relationship for a while — in order to understand the sadness at the end, when they kind of fall apart.”

Non-Cinematical Question: If Edie was around today, do you think you’d be friends with her? “That’s a really hard question, because in a way I feel like I am friends with Edie. I’ve sort of been with this project for two years now, when we were developing the script and talking about the script and trying to find the money to make the film. I find her fascinating and having read as much as I’ve read about her, I really empathize with why she turned out the way she did. I think with the right circumstances, she could have been a Marilyn Monroe or something. I’d like to think we’d be friends. I feel like I understand her a little bit. I don’t know, it’s a difficult question.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Did you see this as a love story between Andy and Edie? “The film opens with a quote from Andy that says — I can’t remember exactly what it is, but it’s ‘no one in the sixties affected me more’ — referring to Edie and it’s a very fond, kind of loving quote, but then, we were very lucky, because Bridget Berlin, who was a great friend of Andy’s, used to tape all of their phone conversations and we actually have the phone conversation where Bridget tells Andy that Edie died, and once you listen to that, I think you kind of understand. I think he did care, but he had an ability to emotionally detach. When you hear the phone conversation, he almost cares, and then there’s a big pause and he just says ‘Who gets all the money….what are you doing today?’ I think he just had the ability to detach.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Do you think Edie would have been better off not having been ‘famous’? “Well, ultimately, they wanted to be famous. That’s kind of what they wanted, so I feel that Edie’s problems were far more deep-rooted than just….I don’t think fame really played a part in it. She wasn’t famous like ‘famous’ today. There weren’t paparazzi, and there wasn’t the Internet. It was on a much smaller scale. I think she kind of reveled in the attention. They all did, and admitted it. But there was so much more that was interesting to me than the ‘wanting to be famous.’”

Guy Pearce

Cinematical: Who did you actually talk to, in order to get a handle on this character? And what was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about Warhol? “The most surprising thing is that every second person I came across claimed that they knew him, which kind of tells me something about Andy himself. I spoke to a number of people, and some I spoke to at greater length than others. Sam Green was really helpful for us on the film. Nat Finkelstein came down and shot some photographs. Primarily, there were two people for me — Bridget Berlin and Vincent Fremont. Vincent worked with Andy from ‘68 or ‘69 onwards, and Bridget obviously knew Andy from the early-to-mid sixties. What the pair of them enabled us to have access to were these recorded phone conversations between Bridget and Andy.

It was fascinating meeting all the people we met, because as Sienna said, everyone had a different account and different perspective. Even the people who knew Andy all kind of had different opinions, as we all do about anybody. Someone can tell you ‘you’ve got to meet this person, they’re fantastic’ and then the next person says ‘you don’t want to meet them, they’re horrible.’ So eventually, I find you have to let that stuff go. It doesn’t actually matter to me what everyone’s opinion of Andy actually was; what I was trying to do was work from the inside out. So really, what became valuable to me — and the only thing I could really work from, I suppose — was the tapes, the audio tapes, where you really hear Andy and Bridget, for hours and hours on end, talking about all sorts of stuff. I just got an insight into his emotional direction, and as well as for Sienna, there were other recordings.

They would set one of these [points to microphone] on the table — an old-fashioned version of one of these on a table — if they were at a cafe together, and talk about a film they were about to make. So there are so many recordings, and just hearing the conversations between the two and then hearing the direction it might take and hearing Andy perhaps get a little bit antsy about something and trying to sort of get control again and hearing Edie throwing a new idea and hearing Andy not wanting to do that, and just hearing how they respond to each other, I think was probably the most vital stuff we worked from. That’s the stuff we’re actually doing. So it was a wonderful exploration of their lives through the media and all the various forms of recording they had, and meeting everybody and talking to everybody kind of took it out of the mythical and into reality. To sit there with Bridget on Christmas day and on Thanksgiving day and lunches and dinners, and all this time we’ve spent with her, sort of makes it realistic rather than mystical.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Talk about Andy’s detachment, and how he comes off almost as the villain in the film. “I think he was just somebody who was incredibly sensitive, almost too sensitive. I think you need to look at the film a little more deeply than to just assume that he’s the villain. I think that’s a fairly typical response of a lot of audience members, unfortunately, in this day and age. Obviously there was a lot more to the relationship than I was able to portray for you, but I think for Andy, what he saw in Edie was a number of things. It wasn’t just that he was a manipulator. I think their relationship goes very, very deep, but unfortunately, I think because of the personalities of both of these people, they were really unable to kind of help each other. I think Andy can’t be at all blamed for Edie’s death — I think that’s a strange take on things, when people assume that. But at the same time, Edie was really unable to help herself and Andy was so tortured by his own inability to actually become intimate with people, that his fascination with human psychology — extreme human psychology — kind of meant that he drew people to him that were particularly troubled. Then, on some level, I think they really began to rely on him, but he never really staked a claim as far as being able to be that person to rely on.”

Non-Cinematical Question: George Clooney and Joe Carnahan are doing White Jazz, the follow-up to L.A. Confidential. Have they talked to you about reprising the role of Ed Exley? “It’s been mentioned to me, yeah. I haven’t read the script yet, so I’d kind of have to base it on that. I ultimately don’t really feel hugely compelled to want to revisit any character that I’ve played before necessarily, but having said that, it would purely depend on how it was realized, I guess.”

George Hickenlooper

Cinematical: Talk a bit about Sienna’s immersion in the character and shooting the climactic scene so early in the shoot. “Sienna really immersed herself in the role, it was very emotional. I remember watching the first take and being moved to tears. Pretty much everyone on the set was. And it was such a challenge for you [Sienna] being the second day. The schedule was very tough and very grinding. It was just about taking the time and making sure that we were both comfortable and that Guy was comfortable with what we were doing. I think that’s the best thing a director can do. My background is documentaries — just allowing it to unfold and happen. Both Guy and Sienna were so instrumental not only in rehearsals but also in the process of working on the script, substantially. For me it was sort of ’sit back and watch and sort of try to keep everything in balance.’”

Non-Cinematical Question: At the end of the year, this film went back for re-shoots and a lot of re-editing. “Not re-shoots. Additional shoots. There’s a difference. Re-shoots implies the film has problems. To make a long story short, it was a very difficult film to finance. Holly and I, we were all passionate about having Sienna, but she’s not Meryl Streep, so it’s not easy to get financing. So we were able to get financing with Guy and certainly with Hayden, but still, we were only able to raise so much money. We were supposed to raise $8 million, then they kept cutting the budget and cutting the budget, to under $7 million. So I had to cut pages out and we had to cut out vital scenes. So it was always our intention to go back and come to New York. It was ‘when are we going to do that?’ It depended on who was going to buy the film, it depended on a lot of things. Once Harvey bought the film, we knew we wanted to go back. And all films usually have additional shooting. So we had those ten or fifteen pages we wanted to shoot, and Guy had ideas, Sienna had ideas, I had ideas, Harvey certainly had ideas, and those ten pages turned into thirty-five pages. Guy had to become available, Sienna had other movies, and they weren’t available until October.

This is the truth. I know Page Six and a couple of places were sharpening their knives — ‘troubled Factory Girl’ — which irritated me to no end. I’m in the cutting room and no one has seen it — how are we troubled? There was a time issue — we didn’t wrap until December 12. We had a week to cut.” Did you operate well under that kind of pressure? “It’s always best to sleep a little. I always work well under pressure, but it wasn’t just me, it was Guy and Sienna, all of us, it was very much a collaborative effort, certainly Harvey, it was all in a great spirit of collaboration. There was nothing antagonistic. Harvey has a reputation for being Harvey Scissorhands, but in this case, we really felt he was very passionate about the project. He was very supportive of Guy, very supportive of Sienna, very supportive of me, and we had four editors working around the clock, literally twenty hour days, they didn’t sleep at all for three weeks, but we just ran out of time. The cut we showed the National Board of Review was completely different from the cut we showed the Academy, which we didn’t get to the Academy until three days before voting close. We just ran out of time.” Shouldn’t you have waited? “We could have waited, but the perception would be ‘Oh boy…what’s going on guys? Where’s Factory Girl? When in fact, we were simply filmmakers making a film under an incredible deadline.”

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