From Box Offfice Online - March, 1996


Indie Star Lili Taylor On "I Shot Andy Warhol"

By Lael Loewenstein

Midway into production of "I Shot Andy Warhol," the cast and crew were given an unexpected jolt when real life and art suddenly fused. Rock star Lou Reed, a good friend of the late artist and a vocal opponent of the film, had walked out of his Manhattan apartment to find the production underway across the street. Stopping in his tracks, Reed fixed his gaze on the crew before going on his way.

"It was uncomfortable," recalls Lili Taylor, who plays Warhol's would-be assassin Valerie Solanas. "I admire him, and I know he doesn't care for Valerie and he doesn't care for the fact that we're telling her story. He thinks it's outrageous. He may have been standing there only for a few minutes, but it felt a lot longer to me."

Because Reed and other Warhol associates have protested the film, "I Shot Andy Warhol" has been mired in controversy. Yet Taylor insists the project is only giving Solanas her due.

"I think the reaction of confusion, alarm and controversy is really interesting," Taylor says. "The reason people have reacted this way is that we're telling a story of a woman who shot a few people. I don't condone the shooting, but come on. It just shows the double standard of the whole female-male thing."

"I can't even list the amount of stories about men who kill, who are immoral, and it's just ludicrous to me," she adds. "Let's talk about `The Godfather.' Let's talk about `Taxi Driver.' People are saying we're glorifying her story, but did they say that to Scorsese? Did they say that to Coppola? Valerie's story needed to be told. It's the story of a very complicated woman whose life was barely even mentioned in history."

"Each one of them is inside me
somewhere or else I couldn't
have brought her out."

Solanas shot Warhol and his art dealer Mario Amayo in 1968, but little has been written about her. Solanas, a lesbian extremist and fringe player at Warhol's Factory art center, was best known as the founder of "S.C.U.M." (an acronym for the "Society for Cutting Up Men.") She had doggedly pursued the artist in the belief he would produce one of her plays; when that failed, she shot him. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined to a mental institution, and died in 1988.

While Taylor, 28, had little direct knowledge of Valerie Solanas prior to reading writer-director Mary Harron's treatment for "I Shot Andy Warhol," she had come across a Solanas tract called "S.C.U.M. Manifesto" a few years earlier. "When I saw her picture on the cover, I thought, `Oh my God!' Taylor recalls. She has this `no apology' look, like she could give a shit what people thought. She had such disregard for what people thought of her and there can be a real strength in that."

The manifesto has acquired an infamous reputation since the shootings, but the actress maintains that no one ever thought Solanas would follow through with her ideas. "The manifesto's funny. It's truthful to her feelings, but it's not serious. She seemed harmless. She had political beliefs, but everyone just thought she was odd.

"In the manifesto, she does talk about killing men, but she was asked about it and she said, `I'm serious [about my views] but give me a break -- like we're really gonna do this.' She needed to go that far with the ideas in order to grab the reader's attention and to rip through all the layers of lies."

To prepare for the part, Taylor read the manifesto and Solanas' essays, as well as the volumes of information that Harron had obtained through interviews with Solanas' friends and acquaintances. The research process was "like figuring out an equation, putting the pieces together," says Taylor. "Eventually I began to understand her thought process. But the preparation was tough, because she's so complicated. I've read a lot of psychology reports on her, but it's hard to say exactly what was going on inside her head... I didn't buy that she was a schizophrenic, though that was the diagnosis."

Taylor has played unbalanced women before in independent films like Robert Altman's "Short Cuts" and Abel Ferrara's "he Addiction." "It's not that I'm not open to Hollywood films, but I feel that when you're getting into that kind of money and the stakes are that high then you lose certain things." Her repertoire of offbeat roles has given rise to the misconception that these are the only parts to which she is drawn.

"At a q-and-a session, this guy asked me, `When are you gonna stop playing crazy women?'" Taylor recalls. "But it's either crazy women or one-dimensional women -- that's all [actresses] have to choose from. There're half as many parts out there for women as for men, and within that limited number of parts, very few are interesting. I'd rather play someone who's complicated, and try at least to give the craziness some dignity.

"There is such a limited idea of the range of a woman's potential, so I'm just trying to widen that a bit. And if my pendulum has to swing a little to the crazy side at first, then I'll go there, but I know I can come back and show the other dimensions."

As to becoming "typed" as a result of her choices in roles, Taylor doesn't seen too concerned. "Each one of them is inside me somewhere or else I couldn't have brought her out. Each one is a part of me, and yet I don't even know who I am. It's like a `Sybil' kind of thing."

Here's the original copy of this article.

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