Photography by Miranda Penn Turin
I think it’s sooo primal,” says Kyra Sedgwick. “We all need to be scared.” The 47-year-old actress is talking about her role in the new Sam Raimi fright fest, The Possession (it’s all there in the title), but she could also be addressing her career, which is in a state of major flux. “I got involved because it reminded me of old horror movies, where you don’t see much so you really get involved with the characters. The Exorcist was incredibly important to me. Exceptional acting. The Omen -- I loved that movie! ‘Oh shit, it’s Damien! We’re all fucked now!’ ”
Sedgwick’s other upcoming film explores horror of a different kind -- Kill Your Darlings, a murder mystery, is set against Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg’s days at Columbia University and centers on the sexually ambiguous male student who served as their muse. Daniel Radcliffe plays Ginsberg, Jack Huston plays Kerouac, rising star Dane DeHaan plays the student, and Sedgwick plays the boy’s mother, who defends her son after he slays a sexual predator (Michael C. Hall) who’s been stalking him for years. It’s a cameo; she’s planning on doing the part unbilled. “It’s flashy fun, a very Marlene Dietrich–type thing,” says Sedgwick of her character. “She’s a lioness.”
The best kind of typecasting, perhaps. This month, her hit TNT series, The Closer, ends, and she’ll bid farewell to the fearless heroine that won her an Emmy and came to define Sedgwick: the relentlessly miniskirted detective Brenda Leigh Johnson.
“I hardly ever let myself feel like I’ve achieved something,” says Sedgwick, “but I feel like we really made something special. I felt a responsibility for making that character really real and flawed. She looked attainably pretty, and she dressed unattainably fashiony.”
Sedgwick continues, “She was so nonjudgmental… unless you were murdering somebody.”
She finds the comparisons to Helen Mirren’s performance in the landmark British crime drama Prime Suspect quite flattering. “She was an inspiration for me in every way,” she says. “That’s why I wanted Brenda to be in skirts -- because Helen always was. Brenda never dressed in pants and tried to be a guy. She was in a man’s world as a sexual, sensual woman who embraced that side of herself -- used it to make people underestimate her. I think it was kind of a genius strategy.”
The Closer ran for seven seasons -- a swell run for any show -- while the hyped American version of Prime Suspect conspicuously flamed out after a short season last year. But The Closer’s most enduring legacy may be something Sedgwick never anticipated.
“I knew I had a gay male fan base,” she says, “but I wasn’t aware of the female fan base until I got on Twitter and this one woman tweeted, ‘Do you have any idea how hot the chemistry is between you and [co-star] Mary McDonnell? All the lesbians talk about it.’ And then I started to get more and more tweets. I had no idea the chemistry between Brenda and Sharon was giving people great sexual fantasies.” She erupts in a very Brenda-esque guffaw before adding, “That is just so awesome!”
The Possession opens August 31.