In the name of
With the traumas of Kurt Cobain's suicide and her own heroin abuse behind her, COURTNEY LOVE has reinvented herself as a Hollywood actress. But that didn't stop her having to undergo weekly drug tests on the set of The People vs Larry Flynt.
Words: Fiona Shepherd Main photograph: Ellen Von Unwerth
THE LADY WAS a tramp. Now. it seems. she's a vamp. Courtney Love. grunge‘s punkier—than- thou scream queen and volatile celebrity rock widow. has moved on. Here she is on her best behaviour. greeting The List in her swanky suite in an exclusive hotel in South Kensington. ‘This is the nice side of Kensington. isn’t it‘." she asks interview babysitter Liz. present to make sure us rapacious journalists play by the rules.
Ytip. we're in the nice part of town. asking nice questions about Love's role in the hugely entertaining The People vs Larry Flt/II. There are to be no questions about her late husband. Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain — he isn‘t so much as alluded to in her publicity biography. There are to be no questions about drugs — even though Love plays Althea Leasure. the junkie wife of American porn emperor Flynt. in the film. Yet even with these parameters. Love is guarded. The woman infamous for her post- Cobain stream-of—consciousness rantings over the Internet is almost demure.
But not so fast. Assessments of Love's public image makeover have been too black and white for such a notoriously unpredictable woman. Sure. she‘s been hanging with the Hollywood set — Drew Barrymore has been a close friend for a few years. Sharon Stone invited her over for a chinwag — but she'll just as happily discuss her band llole's forthcoming tour as hint at future film projects.
With her compelling and credible portrayal of
Althea. which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. Love has become one of the select few individuals who can comfortably straddle the film and music worlds. ‘.»\dolescenee/adulthood.‘ is her ‘com- parison' of the two media. which she illustrates by stretching her arms out to indicate two extreme points. ‘Some of the same decadences are around those two communities. but you
know what'.’ — it‘s so different. The spirit of
rock is adolescent rebellion and it's not nearly as bad for the soul — how could it be‘.’ In music. it‘s your words. it‘s your heart. so you‘re much more vulnerable to attacks on yourself. In
6 THE usr ramp, 1997
acting you have to go much deeper in yourself to get yourself out. and the character plays on top of that.
‘llere‘s a good example.‘ she continues. ‘I saw this paparazzi picture of me shaking hands with Lauren Bacall at the Golden Globes. I‘m in this gown and there‘s all these people around us and there's this one woman who looks really pissed off. You follow her eyeline and she's staring at my tattoo! So acting is safer and more refined. and music is more dangerous.‘
The contrast is there in Courtney. The ‘kinderwhore' baby doll dresses may have been replaced by a figure-hugging black ensemble. but the tattoed ankle is in full view. She may sip her tea from a china cup. but she‘s chainsmoking all the while. During the making of Larry I’lynr she was still considered enough of a high risk choice to justify weekly drugs tests and a separate insurance policy funded partly by director .\lilos l’orman. who had to fight to get her cast in the first place.
The gamble paid off. In a film full of rock- steady performances — not leas’ Woody llarrelson as the smut-peddling. shit-stirring Flynt and lidward Norton as his beleaguered attorney Alan lsaacman — Love is the one who most commands attention.
The plot follows lilan as he estabiishes and builds his porn empire with the ultra-sleazy hardcore [lust/er magazine at the heart of the success story. Along the way there are many censorship battles and court appearances. most of which l’lynt treats with a total lack of reverence. resulting in some of cinema's funniest court scenes. and culminating in the Supreme ('ourt clash with Reverand Jerry Falwell o\ er the interpretation of the right to free speech. There’s a temporary conversion to Christianity via a friendship with then- President Carter‘s evangelist sister. There's an assassination attempt which leaves him paralysed (lilynt‘s real-life gold wheelchair was used as a prop). 'l'here‘s even a cameo by lilynt. playing a (‘incinatti judge in a scene where he gets to sentence himself to 25 years‘