Bravo’s Must-See TV Makeover: Lauren Zalaznick

She may not be a household name herself, but it is thanks to Lauren Zalaznick that American audiences have come to know and love—and loathe—such outsize personalities as Rachel Zoe, Tabatha Coffey (of Tabatha’s Salon Takeover), Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger, the five Queer Eye guys and far too many Real Housewives and project Runway contestants to rattle off here. As President of NBC Universal Women and Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, Zalaznick has reshaped the way this country zones out.

Even though she hasn’t singlehandedly massacred the traditional sitcom, her hands certainly have traces of blood on them. “at Bravo, we saw, through these extreme personalities—whether it was Jonathan antin of Blow out, or the five guys of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—that people seemed to derive their comedy and drama needs from non-fiction and reality television instead of classic sitcoms and one-hour dramas,” she says. “everyday people are our stars. you don’t have to write characters if they exist in real life.” Welcome to the world of the “Bravo-lebrity.”

Under her guidance, the once-marginal network has become an integral part of the pop-culture conversation. “yet another series of water cooler moments,” she says, summing up the recent success of The Real Housewives of new Jersey. a quaint reference, perhaps, but she notes: “They’re coming back—literally this month—because we’re such a green company that this is the end of bottled water.”

Zalaznick, clad today in a bolero jacket by The Fashion Show castoff Merlin, wasn’t always the queen of campy, highly addictive TV. she got her start producing art house hits such as Todd Haynes’ work of genius, Safe (she remains best friends with his production partner Christine Vachon), and larry clark’s Kids, before she was brought on to re-brand VH1 in the ’90s, and ascended to the reigning ranks of reality TV at the Trio network. Part of the allure of reality programming for Zalaznick is that “everything is a surprise. The beauty of our shows is that we don’t control anything. We certainly didn’t plan on the table flip.” she is, of course, referring to the season finale of The Real Housewives of new Jersey, one of the most iconic TV moments of the year. Zalaznick can’t wait to watch what happens when the next incarnation of the Real Housewives franchise invades the nation’s capital. “We’ve got to nail the right ladies,” she says, “women who have been in an environment, for at least the past eight years, that has radically changed with the energy of the White House. it should be interesting to see what they do everyday in relation to that changing energy.”

There’s that word again: “everyday.” if everyday people are her stars, it’s the everyday viewer with whom she hopes to connect. “Bravo’s intention is to never take itself too seriously,” says Zalaznick. “still, in the moment, viewers care deeply about whether or not Rachel Zoe is going to find the perfect pair of shoes for some event. For that episode, it carries the weight of ‘can we end world hunger?’ i’m not sure about world hunger. But in the meantime, we can find the perfect pair of shoes.”

Lauren’s Favorite Japanese Restaurant: Ippudo

Photography by Michael Scott Slosar

Editor’s Letter: Power Up

Sure, she was still a child in the ’80s. But given her string of command performances, we knew that Claire Danes was perfect for our fashion story on the revival of powerhouse dressing inspired by the greed decade. After all, her strength on-screen — and off — made Zac Efron quake in his boots at the mere thought of working with her in Richard Linklater’s upcoming film, Me and Orson Welles.

As it turns out, she was refreshingly down-to-earth on that set — and on ours, where, in the penthouse of Manhattan’s Cooper Square Hotel, she gamely stepped into this season’s outré fashions with ease (and the occasional half-roll of the eyes). At one point, Danes, who is set to wed actor Hugh Dancy this month, found herself flat on her back, legs in mid-air, with two stylists yanking boots down on each foot: “I’ve never felt so infantilized in my life.” Clad in unwieldy high-heel boots, she laughed about the irony of the situation. “I was playing a character that was seemingly undefeatable and powerful,” said Danes, “yet I couldn’t move. I was actually pretty feeble. But who cares? It’s the land of make-believe.”

Sometimes creating the illusion of strength is half the battle. Take it from Kylie Minogue. The diminutive disco queen has survived many things—cancer, the ’80s, soap stardom, the ’90s, not to mention the worldwide public’s fickle tastes. Through it all, she has remained a style icon. “It takes a total rethink when it involves a scarf and when you’re not at your best. But I wasn’t prepared to let it all go, no way,” said Minogue, who is finally set to conquer America with her first-ever U.S. tour. “Pain is fleeting, but fashion is forever,” she told writer Vivien Goldman.

For others, making a style statement on stage can be as simple as donning the right pair of shoes. “My black leather boots help me snap into it, for sure,” said Pete Yorn, whom Senior Editor Nick Haramis interviewed, along with Yorn’s unexpected collaborator, Scarlett Johansson. Their new album of duets is big on style and substance.

Fashion is a family affair for Mika, the pied piper of British pop, whose mother designs his polka-dot shirts and the silver-glitter dunce caps that sit atop his bandmates’ heads. As for his playful stage attire, Mika said, “It’s all about connecting with people, taking them to a different place and, in doing so, going there as well. I realized early on that if this was going to be my life, I wanted to have fun with it. It’s about creating, in our daily lives, a magic world for ourselves.”

Lauren Zalaznick echoed that very sentiment when we met up with the mighty force behind Bravo: “I always want to get people to look at everyday stuff in a slightly different way than they already have,” she said about the vast array of programming she’s ushered into the pop culture conversation over the past decade. “My fascination with the everyday is about getting people to react instead of moving through their media lives untouched — that would be the worst thing to me.” We couldn’t agree more.

Whether you’re just back from the beach or resigned to the reality of work a er a summer break, put on a brave face—and a bold outfit—and head full-throttle into fall. Check out the BlackBook application on your iPhone for all the new hotspots that have popped up in your town while you were off sunning yourself for the season.

Claire Danes: Danger, High Voltage!

She came of age as the quietly brooding Angela Chase in TV’s cult series My So-Called Life. Now, after years spent turning Juliet on her head, romancing Steve Martin, dodging tabloid scandals and finding true love in the fine form of fiancé Hugh Dancy, Claire Danes has finally come into her own. (Check out a pair of exclusive bonus photos for this photo shoot.) On the eve of her bachelorette blow-out, the stage beauty, acting powerhouse and diehard New Yorker gets down to business—and her skivvies—while inviting Ray Rogers into the private world of America’s most grounded leading lady.

“Wow, I’ve never flashed an entire city before,” says Claire Danes, amused to find herself towering 21 floors above New York’s Bowery in eight-inch heels, a curve-hugging black bodysuit, a glimmering Gucci jacket and fishnets that show off her taut dancer’s thighs and formidable backside.

Cast today in the role of Power Bitch, modeling the current ’80s revival in high fashion, Danes pulls it off with ease, the transition from natural beauty to slick, badass ball-buster complete in no time. “It’s great, as a woman, to feel entitled to express strength and power, to not be in some kind of flowery frock running through fields—though that has its place,” says Danes over a cup of mint tea at the Cooper Square Hotel, reflecting on the day’s looks. As we speak, she’s clad in her own comfy-chic wardrobe (black cashmere Juicy Couture sweater—“a freebie”—Mayle print top, Club Monaco jeans, Sigerson Morrison flats), but still emboldened by the dynamic outfits she’s just modeled. “Each individual piece was really striking and then layered in a style that was outrageous but beautiful in a curious way,” she says. “It was really fun to play full-on dress-up and not qualify it in any way, to be indulgent and imaginative like that.”

That she would step so comfortably into these clothes came as no surprise, given the number, and wide range, of command performances she’s packed into her 30 years. From the very first moment, she captured the nation’s attention as world-weary teen Angela Chase on My So-Called Life in 1994. In the ensuing years, she’s sexed up Shakespeare against Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, held her own with Meryl Streep in Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, unearthed injustice in the Philippines in Brokedown Palace, channeled her inner Salinger alongside Kieran Culkin in Igby Goes Down and escaped the wrath of TX in Terminator Salvation: Rise of the Machines.

While she’s been the subject of cultural fascination for years—not every former teen heroine gets four songs written for her—Danes came of age just before the dawn of the blogosphere and the advent of gossip weeklies. But it caught up to her in adulthood. Anyone versed in tabloid culture knows the strength of will she had to summon to endure the scrutiny she came under when Billy Crudup left a seven-months pregnant Mary-Louise Parker for Danes. The pair began dating after they met on the set of 2004’s Stage Beauty. “That was a choice I made to fall in love. It’s unpleasant to be cast in such an unflattering role, but I just had to remain steadfast,” she recalls, her body language going into self-protection mode with an arm cradling her hunched-over frame and crossed legs. “I was living with the same kind of integrity that I had always lived with. As a public person you’re serving a certain function, and you’re a canvas for people to project their own hopes and fears onto, so you do have to perform a kind of mental trick and distance yourself from it. But there are times of weakness in which you wonder if what they wrote is relevant to you or representative of you.”

How much of that has stayed with her? “Not very much. I never really took too much of it on. It’s nice not to be ridiculed—nobody wants that—but it’s also unavoidable. Everyone gets the stick.” But all the rumors now seem a distant memory for Danes, who is set to wed British actor Hugh Dancy, whom she met on the set of Evening in 2006. The pair will exchange their vows in mid-September in a ceremony to be held in France.

image Bodysuit by American Apparel. Leather Corset Belt by H & M. Jacket and Shoes by Gucci. Stockings by Wolford Gloves by Topshop.

While she’s had several serious relationships in the past—she dated Australian indie-pop star Ben Lee for six years and was with Crudup for two, just prior to Dancy—marriage, she says, was never something for which she yearned. “I’ve always wanted to be in a partnership, I’ve always wanted to have that kind of intimacy and collaborate with someone in such a deep way. But I think that can be achieved in a lot of ways. I was talking to my friend recently about monogamy—is it feasible, is it realistic? I resolved that there isn’t really a better model. We just can’t shake monogamy. It definitely demands a kind of rigor and discipline and selflessness. But it’s also fun.”

Particularly when you’ve got a former Burberry model in your bed. “He’s such a cutie patootie,” she says about her fiancé, a twinkle in her bright green eyes. “Sometimes I forget just how good-looking he is.” Given her brush with the tabloids, her reluctance to divulge much about their relationship—or the details of their impending nuptials—is expected. When asked how she knew Dancy was the one, Danes hesitates. “I’m going into dangerous territory,” she says, and then relents, proceeding with caution. “While relationships are work, this just didn’t feel like it. It’s the kind of work that feels energizing rather than enervating.

“There’s that pledge, and people talk about it being claustrophobic but I find it the opposite. I find it very freeing to know that, okay, it takes constant nurturing and attention, but I can also stop looking for the one—that’s established. I can apply myself in other ways now. I have more time and energy to get shit done.”

Next on her agenda after this month’s nuptials, Danes will launch two movies, Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, in which she costars with Zac Efron, and HBO’s biopic of the autistic author Temple Grandin. In Linklater’s theater period piece, set in the 1930s, Danes play Sonja Jones, the older woman to Efron’s young thespian.

“It’s really appropriate that we were doing the power ’80s theme today, because she was the equivalent in another era. She’s unapologetically hungry and ambitious, and I love that about her,” says Danes of her ladder-climbing character. “She broke his heart, but she was very honest with him throughout. I also thought it was tender that she had such strong ideals and ambitions but was basically just a PA—she was escaping into a kind of fiction.”

High School Musical star Efron had to steel himself for the role. “I was intimidated,” he says, about the prospect of working with Danes. “Even just the name Claire Danes carries such weight with it. I needed to be a worthy love interest in the film and I didn’t know that I had any of the qualities necessary to woo a girl like her.” He had plenty of time to try his luck, since the bulk of filming took place on the remote Isle of Man in the U.K. “Claire and I were trapped on an island together with nowhere to go for four weeks, like a reality show.” It turns out, however, that Vanessa Hudgens—or Hugh Dancy for that matter—had nothing to worry about. “My character was supposed to fall in love, but she was also supposed to be out of his league. After meeting Claire, that was definitely the way it was supposed to be.”

image Dress by Emilio Pucci. Stockings by Calvin Klein. Necklaces by Lanvin and Alexis Bittar. Ring by Cartier.

Danes first auditioned for Linklater when she was 13 years old. “She was too young for the part,” says the director, who was casting his indie classic Dazed and Confused at the time. “But I told her, You’re one of the best actresses I met in this whole audition process. You’re so natural and real. Claire Danes, I’ll never forget that name. And—boom—a year later, she’s on My So-Called Life. I love the way her talent rises to the top.”

Directing her as an adult, Linklater was struck by how intently she worked. “She was so mature to begin with. She was like that at 13, very serious about what she’s doing. She doesn’t take it lightly. She has a very interesting process. She’s not easily satisfied, let’s put it like that. She pushes herself in an internal way—some people beat walls down, but it’s an internal thing with her, something pushing her forward, which is pretty fascinating.”

Hey! Look at that naked guy in the window. Is he showering?” asks Danes, nodding to the building directly ahead of us. “No, wait, that’s a woman. She’s putting on deodorant or something. Ah, New York.” A local through and through, she laughs a knowing laugh. And like many denizens of the city overrun with over-achievers, particularly those who grew up here, she’s always been focused—announcing, at the age of 5, her intention to be an actor. She’d been dancing since she was 4, and began taking acting lessons at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute by age 10. The only child of Rhode Island School of Design graduates, Danes grew up in a fertile, artist-friendly home in an era of child-rearing when parents were encouraged to take their kids more seriously—“as if they were on the same plane as you,” she says, laughing at how self-serious she was as a kid. She took a two-year acting hiatus in 1998 to study psychology at Yale, an experience that allowed her to catch up with her peers. “It was strange to realize that the things I was doing weren’t so terribly consequential; the studio didn’t care if I wrote a good essay or not. It was nice to be able to exhale in that way and experiment,” she says, twirling her mini-pocketknife-and crystal charm necklace, a gift from Michael Cunningham that she often sneaks through airport security.

This past April, Danes entered a new chapter in her life. “It was a shock when I got on the treadmill and had to punch in my information,” she says. “I had to write 30 when the machine asked me my age. I’m quite relieved, because I started acting when I was very young. And I think, growing up in New York, that my maturity was disproportionate to my actual age. So it’s nice to kind of catch up with myself. I don’t feel so freaky now.”

image Dress by Herve Leger by Max Azria. Stocking by Calvin Klein. Earrings by Alexis Bittar.

A child of the ’80s, Danes came of age in SoHo while the punk movement was in full-throttle, infusing her personal aesthetic with a wild streak back then. “We lived quite close to Canal Jeans, which was amazing. I remember the graffiti on the walls of neon tigers, and they had those amazing checkered buttons that you could get for free.” A precocious Danes worked hot pink and electric blue tights, paired with short denim skirts and a dog collar she convinced her parents to buy for her, which she used to belt her sleeveless Garfield T-shirts. Rubber bracelets, a mainstay for Suddenly Seeking Susan-era Madonna and her followers, went from her wrists up to her shoulders. (“There must still be stray rubber bracelets in between my sofa cushions,” she says, laughing.) Velcro Kangaroo sneakers topped off the look. “I remember spending hours and hours and hours getting it just right and then going into Tower Records, praying that the shop girls would notice me and validate my ensemble.”

One look at her classic sophistication on red carpets today and it’s clear that Danes is all grown up. She has become a regular on best-dressed lists, whether decked out in pearls and a corset dress by Lanvin (as she was at the Independent Spirit Awards earlier this year) or elegant creations by friends such as Zac Posen and Narciso Rodriguez. She was a natural to be the face of Gucci fine jewelry, according to the fashion house’s creative director Frida Giannini, who referred to Danes as “a modern icon” when announcing the campaign, noting that, “Claire’s sensual, confident beauty and her passionate, independent and strong character embodies today’s Gucci woman.”

For her wedding day, she turned to Rodriguez. She describes the process as “surprisingly emotional. I’ve known Narciso since I was 16, and he’s made a lot of dresses with—and for—me. So it’s really special that this time it’s the dress.”

As the sun sets over the Manhattan skyline, Danes steps out onto the bustling streets of her beloved hometown, gearing up for a July 4th weekend that will see her celebrate the end of her own independence with her bachelorette party, an irony that she enjoys. She’s heading straight home to blow up the inflatable air mattress that Dancy’s sister will sleep on. (“She’s family, so she can get tortured.”) Later tonight, girlfriends from around the globe, including bridesmaid Devon Odessa, who played Sharon on My So-Called Life, are flying in to Manhattan for one last hurrah with Danes. But no, she doesn’t have a wad of singles on hand. Even the thought of it makes her laugh. “Women just aren’t wired that way,” she says. “We don’t get turned on by strippers in the same way that men do. Men are beasts like that—though we love you and your beastly ways.” A proper reunion with her girlfriends over cocktails is enough for her. “What a privilege to have your favorite women all together drinking. I’ll have to come up with some other ideas to get everyone together—I can’t just keep getting married.”

image Dress by Herve Leger by Max Azria. Earrings by Alexis Bittar.

Top Image: Blazer by D & G. Jeans by Ksubi. Shoes by Christian Louboutin. Necklace and cuffs by Alexis Bittar. Watch and bracelet by Gucci.


Photography by Sante D’Orazio. Styling by Elizabeth Sulcer. Hair by Peter Butler for Redken. Makeup by Matin, Neutrogena Cosmetics Science Expert. Manicurist Rica Romain @ See Management. Photographer’s assistants: Noel Federizo, Sam Crawford, and Kat Soutar. Stylist’s assistants: Megan Frelich and Lindsay Ray Abrams. Production Assistant: Rachel A. St. Lifer. Retouching Kat Soutar of Sante D’Orazio. Location: Cooper Square Hotel. Catering by D’Orazio Food Events. Special thanks to CSI Rentals. Glass Desk and Silver Balls by Props for Today.
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Office Art: The Fiery Furnaces, Writing On The Walls

My brother Matt and I are not visual artists,” says Eleanor Friedberger, one-half of the brother-sister duo the Fiery Furnaces, while cutting maps into shapes of the various states and countries mentioned on her band’s eighth album, I’m Going Away. “Not at all.” Regardless, the wildly inventive Brooklyn-based indie-rock band is always up for a challenge. When invited to create an art project on BlackBook’s office walls, they came with sketch books in hand, Eleanor in an oversize shirt that could function as a smock if need be.


“It’s not like we’ve made some big sculpture of a turkey, a pornographic color book and then a sound sculpture,” says Matt. “We’re not those sorts of artists. We work in one given genre, and explore the conventions of that. So, we thought, if we were going to do a visual thing, it had to be directly related to our music.” To that end, they set their sights on making “a roadmap” to I’m Going Away, which was recorded throughout New York, from a friend’s basement to Eleanor’s living room in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, bypassing the expense and limitations of the traditional studio experience.


Just as their music is all over the place, with more twists and turns than a high-speed throttle down a country road—thrillingly unexpected speed bumps along the way—their representational wall map offers no direct, point A-to-point B route. Matt channels the mad genius of John Forbes Nash, Jr. today, scrawling notes and numbers that only he can understand. “Eleanor’s thing is illustrative, and mine is strictly, or merely, analogical,” he says. He goes on, trying in vain to explain his three-dimensional representations as they relate to album tracks and the central theme of their single, “The End is Near.”


Eleanor’s work takes inspirational cues from the maps made by one of her favorite artists, Saul Steinberg. “There are a lot of place names in our songs,” she says. “There’s a song called ‘Even in the Rain,’ in which I mention going to Lake Geneva, so we have Wisconsin here. New York has a bunch of references, so I’m going to make a more detailed map for New York. There’s a song called ‘Charmaine Champagne’ that mentions an old West Village bar called Johnny Romero’s.”


Side by side, Matt and Eleanor focus on separate maps, the mystery of how these pieces will interact part of their process. It echoes how they create their songs. Abandoning convention on each album, these sonic rule-breakers have incorporated seemingly disparate inspirations—occult themes, Inuit lyrics and even spoken-word stories from their now-deceased grandmother—letting their muse take them wherever it may. But it’s most definitely controlled chaos. “For me, it’s all very schematic because I’m so disorganized,” says Matt. “I try to over-organize to show Eleanor that I have it all planned out, so really, then I can just do whatever I want.”

Editor’s Letter: Rebel Yell

Jumpin’ Jack Flash! We certainly had a gas with the ebullient Juliette Lewis, who took on the diverse roles of Bettie Page, Coco Chanel, Bonnie Parker and Mick Jagger for this issue devoted to the act of creative rebellion. Each one of these individuals, in their own way, defied convention in their heyday as much as Lewis herself does. The Oscar-nominated actress made the radical decision at the age of 30 that she could no longer resist the call to rock. She stepped off of “the hamster wheel” in Hollywood a few years back and got down to the business of rock ’n’ roll. Her soulful intensity and raw self-examination come through full-throttle on her new record, Terra Incognita. But thankfully, she’s back on the big screen, too, with four new films due out over the next year (and a brutally candid interview).

The idea of rebellion brought up a lot of thoughtful commentary from the rogue’s gallery of rule-breakers and limit-pushers we spoke to, from the transgressive literary anti-star Dennis Cooper and the rabble-rousing playwright Alex Timbers to hip-hop fireband Rye Rye and an unlikely insurgent, actor Hugh Dancy (see his best Sid Vicious impersonation).

Eleanor Friedberger, singer for the brother-sister rock duo the Fiery Furnaces, wasn’t sold on the idea: “There are no rebels around anymore. Is that why you’re doing an issue on rebels?” Funny question from an artist whose very definition of rebel—“someone who’s really into breaking the rules, trying new things, pushing the limit”—could be a line from a music critic trying to describe her band. Discover their unexpected art project on our office walls.

When it comes to pushing limits, few young actors have gone as far as our cover star, Evan Rachel Wood. Her rebellious acts on celluloid—and off-screen—since her breakthrough as every mother’s worst nightmare in Thirteen have captivated us for some time now. Her surprising turn as a comedic detonator in Woody Allen’s latest movie, Whatever Works, is another indication of her range. Next up? Wood’s out for blood, vamping it up on the new season of HBO’s True Blood. We can’t wait to see where else Wood’s renegade spirit takes her in the future.

The way Juliette Lewis sees it, there are destructive ways to rebel and constructive ways to do so, which now seem more revolutionary to her. “It’s a really radical thing to be present,” she says. “To own your lust, your anger, your joy, your fear… Doing a rock show, for example, in Budapest in front of 20,000 people stone-cold sober is radical.”

Juliette isn’t the only Lewis in this issue with strong opinions on what it means to rebel today. Steve Lewis, BlackBook’s Nightlife Correspondent, documents the rise—and laments the sanitization of—New York’s outlaw club scene. A devout disciple of the night, he recently teamed up with the Nightlife Preservation Community in support of the struggling industry, which directly employs more than 20,000 New Yorkers. For them (and us), the world after dark opens up countless possibilities for the strongest type of rebellion: exercising the freedom to be our own remarkable selves.


Juliette Lewis Is a Natural Born Rebel

There are radicals, and then there is Juliette Lewis, the wildly unpredictable, Oscar-nominated actress-turned-musician, whose rich life story runs the gamut from emancipation and aliens to chemical dependency and Brad Pitt. (See more of Juliette in BlackBook here!) After a three-year absence from the silver screen, the stunning provocateur cracks the whip with four new films and her most assured album yet.

Those wild eyes of hers go all cat’s-tail-in-the-light-socket electric and Juliette Lewis lets out a howling “Whoooaaa!”—to nobody, apparently, but herself. Lewis is what you might call a self-motivator. Whenever the energy begins to dip on set during the daylong shoot for this rebels-inspired story, which sees her step into the many-storied heels and platform boots of such diverse firebrands as Bettie Page, Coco Chanel, Bonnie Parker and Mick Jagger, Lewis flips her inner switch and ramps it up a notch or 10.

That special wildfire in her eyes is a familiar sight for fans of her incendiary on-screen performances—the crazed pupils of, say, Mallory Knox in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers—or her on-stage presence, as the frontwoman for the (now-disbanded) rock group, Juliette and the Licks.

“She summons it,” says actor Mark Ruffalo, who directed her in Sympathy for Delicious, one of the four upcoming fi lms heralding her return to the big screen this year. “She’s like a sorcerer.”

Lewis, 36, first rose to international fame with her Oscar-nominated role as a provocative wild child in Martin Scorsese’s 1991 remake of Cape Fear, her spectacular cornrow-sporting red carpet arrival earning her nearly as much notoriety. Hey, she was 19 at the time and a free spirit living in a galaxy far away from the Rachel Zoe-ification of young Hollywood—not that the contrarian would have ever followed suit, no matter when she came of age.

Lewis is here today to celebrate the act of creative rebellion, a dangling carrot that convinced her to board a plane to New York from Paris days earlier than planned. “You’re talking to the number one renegade here,” she says in her raspy Southern California drawl, when we sit down for a post-shoot talk at Industria Studios in Manhattan’s West Village over a round of Guinness. “I don’t want to blow my own horn, but I am the queen of defiance—stupid, silly shit like having hairy armpits at the age of 16, or rocking cornrows at the Oscars. These things weren’t done out of anger. It was more about, Th is is me; I’m going to own me and be me.”

Th is uncompromising self-expression has been her divining principle as an artist from the start, and it’s only intensified over the years. After 2006’s forgettable romantic comedy Catch and Release, Lewis took a three-year hiatus from Hollywood, heeding the long-simmering call of her inner rocker. Actor-turned-musician rolls of the eyes be damned: Far from some vanity project, her three albums, each a step above the last, have artistic merit of their own accord, regardless of her film career fame (or Brad Pitt-affiliated past). To hear her talk about it, rock was a calling: “This creative desire was brewing inside me and turning into a lion’s roar, and it was not going down as I got older,” she says. “Th e desire grew so strong, stronger than the fear of how to do it… if you love it, need it and have something to say, you can make it happen.”

Lewis’ greatest strength as a musician is “her intuition—and the fact that she listens to it,” says Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, frontman for indie kingpins the Mars Volta, who produced Lewis’ upcoming album Terra Incognita, her first without the Licks. “A lot of people in the arts have been taught not to listen to it. But she fully listens to her intuition.” He was sold on the project before he even signed on, purely on the strength of her raw demos: “It was just Juliette and her melodies, maybe a couple of notes on the piano. I told her as far as I was concerned, it was the best thing she’d ever done.”

The two began recording tracks in New York and then hunkered down at his studio compound in Mexico. Rodriguez-Lopez describes the overall feel of this album as “her version of the blues—I don’t mean blues as a genre. What she’s singing about is really her: her life, all the insecurities, triumphs, strong points, weak points—she puts it all out there. I only want to work with people who are really trying to get to the emotional core of things,” he says. “And that’s how she lives her life.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by her recent film collaborators. “Juliette is not just incredibly talented—she is so remarkably present that I am constantly inspired by her,” says Juno star Ellen Page, who squares off against Lewis’ awesome roller derby baddie “Iron Maven” in the upcoming Drew Barrymore-directed Whip It!, Lewis’ return to the screen this October. “Juliette’s passion, her open heart and her honesty make working with her, and knowing her, a gift .”

Ruffalo was also bowled over by her ability to bring it. In his film, Lewis inhabits the role of a bass player with a drug problem, the reality of which hit close to home for Lewis, a recovered addict. “The character is sort of the anti-chick, the opposite of these lightweight chicklets we’re seeing so much of these days in movies,” Ruffalo says. “Not a lot of young girls could play that part. I just kept coming back to Juliette as we were writing the part. I think Hollywood has this perception of her as having been difficult in the past. But I knew she would give a gutsy, full-on performance in the short amount of time I had her on screen—and that’s exactly what she did.”


What does the idea of rebellion mean to you? Rebellion, to me, is about finding out where you feel safe, and then stepping outside of that space. I never got into acting to be safe. I get the most out of myself right before I start a project, when I’m scared to death. That’s the revolt, that’s the rebellion.

What sort of fears do you face? Starting a rock ’n’ roll band at the age of 30 and pursuing my love of musical expression, not knowing how the fuck I was going to do it, where I would begin, what kind of music I would even do. It’s like renegade filmmakers who never went to art school. It’s really about finding your voice.

Did you have any sort of formal acting training? I took three little classes when I was 11 with this lady in her backyard. The third time I went to her door, a person told me she died. So I never went back to class after that.

From whom did you learn the most? I learned from Oliver Stone that I am my own worst enemy. One time, I was putting myself down on set, saying stuff like, Why should we do the take again? I suck. And then he said, “Juliette, nobody wants to hear that shit.” He basically told me to knock it off, and from that day forth, I’ve never again voiced that kind of negativity.

You started out early as a rebel by emancipating from your parents at the age of 14. Everyone takes that the wrong way. We were co-conspirators, my parents and I, working together to emancipate myself from child labor laws. It seems like some radical thing, but it was done because I was more apt to be hired as an emancipated minor.

How old were you when you stole their car? I was 13. It was actually my stepmom’s car. My girlfriend and I went to Hollywood, and hung out with our boyfriends and friends at a club. And then it broke down in a liquor store parking lot. I hung around with some seedy kids for a while, had criminal boyfriends—tested the boundaries. There are destructive ways to test the boundaries, to rebel, and then there are constructive ways to do so, which to me, at my age, seem more radical. Doing a rock show, for example, in Budapest in front of 20,000 people stone-cold sober is radical.

The transition from actress to rocker must have been daunting. I had been writing for the past 15 years, and it had a lot to do with—I don’t often share this—when I quit drugs. I did hard drugs. I never name them because it gets too sensational, but you can imagine. It was hard. All of my life lessons were very short but very intense. When I was a teenager, I smoked tons of pot. And my relationship to chemicals was very specifically tied to my inability to connect with people. It’s almost as if the drugs—disconnection—helped me connect. It doesn’t make sense. But people thought I was on drugs when I wasn’t on drugs, because I guess I’ve always been a strange bird. I wasn’t fun on drugs, so I quit at 22.

How did you quit? I’m a Scientologist. I did this program called Narconon—it’s secular—that uses technologies to help addicts get off drugs, like this brilliant sauna program that involves sweating out the toxins and vitamins. It’s all about questioning why you took drugs in the first place and rehabilitating your sense of self-worth.

Is that what led you to Scientology, or were you a Scientologist before? I was always aware of it, but I took it for granted. There are all kinds of things in Scientology that are really simple and interesting, and people only talk about the folklore—the aliens.

Do you believe in aliens? I, Juliette, believe in aliens. I don’t know any other Scientologists who do. I also believe in fairies, you know, the real ones that live in the forest. Like most Scientologists, I’m really antidrug, especially in our anaesthetized, consumerist culture. The idea of taking a pill when you’re unhappy or uneven to even out, to consume, to be perfect little robots—it all fucking relates. I think it’s a really radical thing to be present, to own your shit—your lust, your anger, your joy, your fear. That’s hard, but in the long run, it’s the better road to take.


Let’s talk about today’s photo shoot. How did it feel to dress up like Bettie Page in her S&M phase? One of the things that struck me about Bettie Page, like Marilyn Monroe, is that even though there’s an obvious sexuality to her pictures, there’s also joy and insouciance—a lot of life force in her. You could have 10 different girls doing the same bondage shit, but when Bettie does it, it’s got that extra-special viva verve.

Coco Chanel’s verve is of a different breed altogether. She was the first of her kind in a male-dominated scene, and I’m all for that, in the sense of breaking through that kind of wall. Fuck, she must have made a few people mad. But that’s talent, isn’t it?

How would describe your personal fashion aesthetic? When I’m out on a date with a man that I feel very soft around, I like wearing a dress or heels because they change the shape of my legs—but my own fashion? I’m always changing. I describe my look onstage as The Little Prince in a Mad Max world. He wears deep blue. There’s another one, a little pixie who lives in the forest, who befriended all of the animals there and owns a pet bull. It’s a little bit of magic and shimmer and glam, but with earth elements like feathers and things that replicate animals.

Have you been dating? I did date someone recently, but we’re not dating now. It’s really nice when you’re okay alone, but I realize, for me, that it’s all or nothing. I can’t really casually date. When you want to experience anything worth experiencing, the stakes get higher. And to open your heart, even a little bit, well, I don’t want someone stepping in there kicking me around.

You’ve been single for several years now. I was married eight years ago for three-and-a-half years. Me and Steve [Berra, Lewis’ ex-husband, an actor and professional skateboarder] got married when we were both 26. Incidentally, we’re still best friends and that’s real.

Let’s talk for a minute about Mick Jagger, since we had a Mick Jagger moment earlier today. Here’s a profound moment: I went to a Rolling Stones show in ’98 at Dodger Stadium, where there was a lot of energy, which made me a little freaky, scared. I used to get panic attacks, probably from getting famous too young and also doing drugs, which fucks up your nervous system. Then the Rolling Stones started playing. I was completely transformed. I understood in that moment what it meant to be a fan, in the most glorious sense, where you have a release of affection and an affinity for an artist—togetherness.

Was your break from acting intentional? I wanted to get off the hamster wheel. Movies are so omnipresent, so omnipotent. But, at the end of the day, they’re just movies. I had to rediscover my purpose. I was able to realign my priorities—family, friends, life and the trees. But it was also very scary because I was thinking of doing something else, but I wasn’t sure what that would be. I wanted to live a simple life. But that’s an illusion, just like living an artist’s life. I wanted to be married and have a little child—isn’t that funny? I was living in Clearwater, Florida, so I thought I might work at the post office.

What brought you back? It’s what I’m good at.

How was it being back on set for Whip It! after this break? It was my first film in a few years, and it was a really special experience. We would all wake up at 9:00 a.m. and do yoga, strength training for an hour and then six hours of roller derby. We trained extensively for a month. I’d never been so physical for a role. For Natural Born Killers, I did fight training, but here, we all felt like athletes.

What was Ellen Page like to work with? She’s awesome, an uncompromising one-of-a-kind renegade. She’s very young but has somehow managed not to get warped priorities by all that Hollywoodland attention.

Does she remind you at all of yourself at that age? I didn’t want to say that, but yes she does. When I was 19 and I showed up to a photo shoot, I honestly thought that I would take pictures with no makeup on, as myself. I came off as this unpolished, off-kilter girl—for better or for worse. She’s going through the same thing: trying to maintain a sense of self in all the hoopla.

You also had the added pressure, early on, of being with Brad Pitt. I can only imagine the amount of attention you received because of that relationship. I was just thinking about that today, actually. It was such a lovely time in my life—well, in both of our lives—because we were anonymous. We were both struggling actors and Brad blew up after we were together, when Legends of the Fall came out. We both had our turning points—there were six months between the release of Thelma & Louise and Cape Fear—but for half of our relationship, we were just unknown young actors in L.A. I even remember his little bungalow that we lived in off Melrose that we’d smoke lots of pot in. Then we split and he became Brad Pitt, and I became whoever I am now.

Can you image what it would have been like a few years on? I know! I worked with Jennifer Aniston on the last movie I did, The Baster. It’s so hard but she handles it with such grace and humor.

How do you feel about acting now? At 36, I can look back and see the through-line of some of the things I’ve done. Ever since I was very young, I’ve had this relationship of empathy to the disenfranchised, the emotionally sick, the depraved and the impoverished. I don’t know why, but I feel like the strength of my work comes from being the voice of outsiders, of people who don’t fit into that perfect square.

What role is most dear to your heart? The most important thing I’ve ever done was The Other Sister. I had taken a few years o at that point, changed my life and had a rebirth of sorts. This part was the most difficult thing I’d ever done, because she’s mentally handicapped and those roles so easily become clichés, but also because, on a deeper level, I related to her tireless persistence and her gift to constantly find joy in the mundane. I also love Adele from Kalifornia, because that was the first time where I played with my voice—the way she talks in this little baby voice. In her mind, she’s like a nine year old. I used to talk to my love at the time like that.

You spoke to Brad Pitt using the voice of a nine-year-old girl? Oh, come on! [laughs] Oh, this is horrible. Whatever that sentence was, please don’t make it horrible. Anyway, it came from a voice, some little baby voice that people have.

You have four films coming up soon. After having your hiatus, how did you choose these projects? They chose me. I’ve gained a sense of confidence because I’m now making a living through music. I don’t have to make movies to pay rent. I don’t need to make movies for any other reason but the love of the project and the people I’m working with. I also have no interest in the maintenance program: maintaining visibility and currency and all that star stuff, which I’ve never been good at nor have I given a hit about. Whereas other girls are really good at it, my laugh was always too loud, I’m too spastic and if I’m bored you’ll see it. I’m not socially groomed in that way. I wasn’t cut out to be a debutante.

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Photography by Mary Ellen Matthews. Styling by Ting Ting Lin.

Juliette’s Favorite Juice Joint Organic Avenue, New York City.
Juliette Lewis Tickets Slims Tickets San Francisco Tickets

American Psycho: Author Dennis Cooper

Rape. Murder. Teens. Transgressive literary anti-star Dennis Cooper can be depended on for a few things—convention, however, certainly isn’t one of them. “I never learned how to write fiction, never even took a fiction writing class, so my books are sort of strangely shaped,” says the 56-year-old writer who unleashed a five book cycle of snuff, drugs and rock ’n’ roll on an unsuspecting literary world beginning with 1989’s brilliant shocker Closer, and then went on to win wide acclaim for 2005’s The Sluts, an ingenious novel told by way of Internet postings on a male escort site.

The latter was a critical success for Cooper, winning him France’s prestigious Prix Sade award, but it only made him want to push further from the mainstream. “In The Sluts,” says Cooper, “I was co-opting forms, which doesn’t interest me much. I want to invent the form.”

The erudite rebel, who now splits his time between Paris and Los Angeles, began his writing career imitating the French libertine Arthur Rimbaud. “He’s the ultimate rebel,” says Cooper. “No one can come close to him.” He adds, with a look of befuddlement in his deep-set eyes, “But in France, they grew up studying him in school, so he’s like the establishment or something.” For Cooper himself, the greatest act of creative rebellion is to break as many rules as possible, while still managing to connect with readers. “I’m always trying to go against the expectations of fiction, and somehow manage to care about the people who read my work.”

His recently released collection of short stories, Ugly Man, taps deeper into a rich vein of humor (see: “The Anal-Retentive Line Editor”). Next, he’ll pen the story of—what else—a fictional 22-year-old French cannibal. As for Cooper’s literary victims and his fascination with the dark side, he says, “I feel compelled to write about that material, to represent teenagers as complex people and give them respect by showing them being brutalized. It’s about conveying how terrible that age can be. It’s a pretty rich area for me.”

Photo: Mary Ellen Matthews

Editor’s Letter: Get Out of Town

Just the thought of a summer issue put us in full-on beach mode — daydreams of far-off places, sandy toes and tropical drinks. To that end, a truckload of black volcanic sand was hauled in, along with a passel of plush beach blankets, chaise lounges and striped umbrellas, for our cover shoot with the incomparable Marion Cotillard, who brought a touch of the French Riviera to Canal Street one day in early May. The Oscar-winning La Vie en Rose star is certainly on a whirlwind journey of her own, as she ascends from respected actress to international movie star.

Summer break is definitely a pipe dream for Cotillard, who has been working nonstop since her breakthrough moment. But that hasn’t stopped her from indulging in life’s pleasures along the way. When in Chicago filming Public Enemies with Johnny Depp, she got further into character by hanging out on nights off with the cast and crew at Al Capone’s old stomping grounds, iconic jazz club the Green Mill. And she got her dance on with her boyfriend Guillaume Canet while shooting The Last Voyage of Lancaster in the dunes of Morocco, where the two of them shook hips with the local nomads and their toddlers.

Another actress who is going new places, Maya Rudolph, takes a surprisingly lovely detour from her comedic path with a muchbuzzed-about performance in Sam Mendes’ Away We Go. Her co-star John Krasinski gives her a proper grilling. Elsewhere in the issue, the Parisian rockers Phoenix sent us postcards from the road, while other world travelers stopped by our offices in person. Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince of the Kills gave our walls their stamp of cool, in the form of some seriously awesome skulls.

Wherever you are, let a cocktail, or mocktail if you please, take you to exotic places. New York nightlife icon Amanda Lepore taste tests the luscious libations on pour at Chinatown’s mixology drink den, Apothéke. If you stop by, ask for her house special: The Happy and Horny.

Or hop on the Jitney and meet me in Montauk. I’ll be at The Gig Shack on Main Street, cold beverage in hand. Find out how to get there — and everywhere else worth going to — with the BlackBook Guides app on your iPhone. Bonus: Our new BlackBook Access program gets you great deals at the chicest places around.

Not Fade Away: Farewell to Shawn Mortensen

image Shawn Mortensen with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

When word came that photographer and BlackBook contributor Shawn Mortensen had passed away, our last issue had just come in from the printer. In it was a portfolio of Shawn’s most recent work, including some of the most fabulous images we’d ever seen of the Gossip’s Beth Ditto and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a soulful moment with Clive Barker in his studio. It was an art issue, and Shawn’s images were both celebrations of the wild forms of self-expression from these creative types and works of art in their own right. Shawn wasn’t the kind of guy to sit still, and his lust for life came through in his subjects. He had an uncanny way of working with people, who often became more like collaborators in his photos, ignited by his passion.

image Mortensen’s favorite shot of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

When I last saw Shawn, he was thrilled about the turnout for his art gallery opening and the number of books he had signed the previous night, and excited to embark on all kinds of new creative adventures. A television show was in the works, one that would see him travel the world as an artist and activist. Shawn was always turned on by art and music, and it was part of his mission in life to turn others on to it, too.

image A candid moment from his Beth Ditto shoot.

That morning, when we met for brunch at the Sunset Marquis in West Hollywood, he was raving about two new accessories designers that I just had to write about: Dee and Ricky, whom he’d just photographed. Over a round of strong coffees, he insisted on giving me the white Lego heart brooch they designed, which he had pinned to his chest. Similarly, he’d given Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs a red version of the heart when he shot them for BlackBook; she loved it so much she wore it in the pictures for our shoot and left with it. Shawn was that kind of guy: always at the ready to give a little piece of his heart. The soulfulness in his art, and in his own heart, left a lasting impression.

image Dee and Ricky, photographed by Mortensen.