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Dominique Swain: Lolita Has a Tattoo
By Brandon Judell
Dominique Swain from Alpha Dog. She is in the photo with Justin Timberlake, Charity Shea and Christopher Marquette.
At the sweet age of 15, when other girls were getting their braces tightened or dressing up as Spice Girls, Dominique Swain was "sitting" on Jeremy Iron's lap, portraying Nabokov's infamous nymphet in HBO's "Lolita." For her efforts, she was nominated for the Most Promising Actress award by the Chicago Film Critics Association, and both she and Jeremy garnered an MTV "Best Kiss" nomination. There's nothing like a little intergenerational hoopla to get folks going.
Right around then Dominique also starred as John Travolta's daughter in the megahit "Face/Off." That is until he gets his mug replaced and she becomes Nicolas Cage's kid. You have to see it to understand.
Nine years and over 20 films later, Swain, who is one of those deliciously madcap, I-don't fit-in-in-Hollywood personalities, is still going strong. Dialogue-wise, she's sort of a West Coast version of Katharine Hepburn in "Bringing Up Baby," seldom stopping for a breath.
She did take one though to promote two of her upcoming 2007 releases, the highly anticipated romancer "The Pacific and Eddy" (http://www.thepacificandeddy.com/) which screens at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 27 plus the Sundance selection "Alpha Dog" which opened earlier this month.
BJ: So you have a broken foot. How did that happen?
DS: Here's the deal. What I've been told to say is that I had a snowboarding accident because I basically regularly take part in triple-X sports. Like I'm not scared to do anything, but the real story is in Sundance, I was staying at my agent's condo in this really lovely bedroom where the ceilings were basically two stories high. And they had this loft over on the right-hand side of the bed. And I was, "Oh, it looks great. It would be lovely to sleep up there." And my friend and I were musing about it. So she goes to bathroom, and I was like "I gotta climb up there." So I stood on top this canopy bed, and I reached over, and I still couldn't reach it. So I jumped, and she came back right in time to see me slam through the closet, and my foot just shattered. At the time, I was like "Forget it. Forget it. I stubbed my toe. Let's go to bed." Well, I woke up, and it was the size of a grapefruit, and I got rushed to the emergency room, and it was a complete and utter disaster. It's sort of the stupidest way to break your foot.
BJ: This probably doesn't mean much to you, but "Stuff Magazine" selected you as one of the 102 sexiest women in the world just three years ago.
DS: Oh, yeah.
BJ: You were no. 79. That's pretty good. When you see that some men are having fantasies about you, how do you react?
DS: I think I should get a bigger dog.
BJ: Do these type of lists have any value?
DS: Um, I'm on the fence about that. They picked some really hideous monsters to stick on that list if you've noticed. It's basically who has the best press at the time, and I've never had much investment in publicity or wearing the right things. And I've probably should have paid more attention because there are a lot of people who actually have an investment in this type of hype. I think that definitely getting your face on the magazines makes a difference. But for certain people, they haven't done anything at all, and they're all over the place. You're just like, "Okay, that'll be good for about 6 months until everybody gets bored with you." . . . But there are certain roles where sex is a huge factor, and if people think that other people are excited by you sexually then they're going to cast you for things like that.
BJ: Now I've just seen some outtakes from "The Pacific and Eddy," meandering through its web site (<http://www.thepacificandeddy.com/>). You play an artist in it.
DS: Yes, I do.
BJ: One would assume you have an artistic nature, and consequently you can draw. Am I wrong?
DS: No, I can. I have a painting on my wall right now of this "Duke" in Lebanon. But I've only finished about two feet of it, and it's on a six-foot-canvas, so it's right now half-pencil sketched, and it's already hanging on my wall because I just want to irritate myself into actually finishing it.
BJ: It's a what in Lebanon?
DS: It's a "Suke." It's a marketplace.
BJ: How do you spell that?
BJ: It's not part of my regular vocabulary.
DS: It wasn't either in mine until I went there for New Year's last year.
BJ: So what attracted you to "The Pacific and Eddy"?
DS: Actually, someone that I had worked with on "White Air," [an X-treme snowboarding flick] had brought up the fact that she was working on my film to the director, and he was like, "Oh, Dominique's my first choice for this project." So they sort of like figured out a way to invite themselves to my birthday party. The girl who had worked on "White Air" was already invited. And she was like I can bring this director. We've talking about you. And I go, "Of course. Of course."
So she brought him there, and we talked about the project. The director, Matt Nourse, had such a sense of calm confidence. He knew what he wanted so exactly that at that point as an actor, it's a real treat. The way that he communicated with you was intense in a way. It was really like to the core of who the character was, instead of do this; try this. I knew that he would be making an amazing film. And it's such a character study also. That's one of things I look for.
BJ: Nick Cassavetes' "Alpha Dog" also looks like it will be worth a glance or two. So did playing opposite Justin in this film make you want to get a lot of tattoos?
DS: Oh, God, no! They're horrid. I think they're the ugliest things ever. I have a tattoo actually. I got it when I was 15 and fancied myself as rebel.
My friend made a tattoo gun out of a Walkman motor, and came over to my house. I was letting him stay in my other room for a little while, and he was like, "Oh, as payment, I want to give you some art." I'm like, "Art? Okay. Cool!" He's like no, "Like a tat." "Okay." So I was thinking about all the things that I wanted to design on my body as a teenager, and I was going to get a bar code, and I didn't know that this was actually a pretty common tattoo. Then I was going to get a Sunkist sticker like right my by navel. "Ha! Ha! Ha!"
And then I was just basically completely chickening out. And I was reading in this tattoo book about how the hands and feet naturally exfoliate. So I was like, "Hmm. I want a star on my hand." He was like, "How big?" I'm like, "As tiny as you can make it." So right now it actually looks like have a "K" on my palm or like someone jabbed me with a pencil. That's my tattoo. I think that they just pollute the body. I think they're hideous.
Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006
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