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Interview

Interview: Daphne Guinness

published on 12 June 2011

Daphne Guinness speaks to Alexander Fury about making a film based on the life and death of Jean Seberg with experimental filmmaker Joseph Lally.

Daphne Guinness speaks to Alexander Fury about making a film based on the life and death of Jean Seberg with experimental filmmaker Joseph Lally.

Alexander Fury: Where did the idea originally come from to create this film?

Daphne Guinness: Steven Klein, is a very dear and old friend of mine: we were shooting a couture supplement for Vogue Italia in Los Angeles when I first met Joe. Joe always thought I looked like Jean Seberg, and Joe wrote the film.

AF: So it came from the fashion shoot, originally?

DG: We were in the most incredible house, because it was falling down and no one knew why. And Joe and I were upstairs, we had one shot left. I said 'Nothing is going to work in this room' and then I went in there and I… I couldn't breathe! I said 'Someone was murdered here' and Steven [Klein] said ' No! I went outside and I sat with Joe, and he said 'I feel it too!' So we scarpered back to the other villa. Nothing worked - and the next day, the people who lived there came to the house, and Steven said you've got to tell Daphne what you just told me... because he had asked them why no one lived in the house and they said because someone was murdered in the upstairs room. 'I told you!'

I just channel Jean Seberg. I get dressed, do my hair and make-up and then just sort of do nothing apart from just channel whatever I think.

AF: Can you talk a little about the role, about playing Jean Seberg?

DG: I just channel her. I get dressed, do my hair and make-up and then just sort of do nothing apart from just channel whatever I think. And Joe cuts it and puts it together. I have read quite a number of books about Seberg. In the same way that Vanessa Redgrave was deeply political, Seberg was. She was part of the Black Panthers, black-listed from Hollywood – and she was seventeen years old, from the middle of nowhere when she was made to be Joan Of Arc by Otto Preminger. Totally cut off from her family. Then she did Breathless, and became more and more isolated. There's such pathos in her story. Have you ever seen Lilith?

AF: No?

DG: It's so great! There's a scene where they inject a spider with schizophrenia and instead of it making a web that is symmetrical, it goes crazy! It's brilliant. But also she's in Paint Your Wagon for Christ's sakes, with Clint Eastwood! She was in all sorts of things, but she had this problem because of the Black Panthers. There is a theory, and I have read quite a number of books – I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't something where if she wasn't directly killed...

AF: She was lead on the path?

DG: Exactly. That's the dream that Joe had about her. So the film is not based in fact. We may well do another one, because what we did for the Vogue Italia shoot was based on Birds in Peru (1968), which was written by her then-husband Romain Gary. Seberg plays this kind of nymphomaniac – but not one copy exists of that film. Strange. You can get stills but you can't get a copy of the film, she didn't like doing it. That was how I was cast.

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