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Natasha Lyonne hangs with a very cool crowd.
Her inner circle includes Chloe Sevigny, Carrie Brownstein, boyfriend Fred Armisen and his former SNL castmate Maya Rudolph, as well as the Oscar-nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips. Not to mention, she’s a frequent collaborator with Kenzo and Opening Ceremony creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim.
With such an accomplished group of multi-hyphenate pals, it’s easy to understand how Lyonne herself feels the pressure to do more. That’s not to downplay the actress’ own three-decade long career, most recently starring as fan-favorite character Nicky on Orange Is the New Black, but, as she notes, the Hollywood peer pressure is real. So when the opportunity arose to direct a short film for Kenzo, following the footsteps of Brownstein and Spike Jonze, she jumped.
“Frankly, [I tried directing] because all my pals were doing it, and I was like, ‘I’m not getting left behind, these are my only friends,'” she joked to The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re not just acting anymore … I love the idea that this is what grown-up time in the arts is going to look like.”
Written by Lyonne, the 10-minute short called “Cabiria, Charity, Chastity” — a bit of a hat tip to 1957’s Nights of Cabiria — will premiere this evening in New York on the final day of New York Fashion Week (Kenzo presented the spring collection in Paris in June). The film stars Rudolph as a gibberish-speaking performer, with Armisen, Macaulay Culkin (who was Lyonne’s co-star in 2003’s Party Monster) and Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr. as supporting players. Phillips and famed makeup artist Kabuki also helped out on the project.
“[The film] is a way to sort of go through the looking glass into the mind of a cracked person and to see things from their point of view,” said Lyonne of the storyline about a woman struggling to find herself, all, of course, while outfitted in Kenzo’s brightly colored, patterned pieces.
As for how the idea to have Maya speak a fake tongue came to be, she said, “I wanted Maya to speak in gibberish the whole time, but of course Maya is so good at that, you end up having an experience where you think she’s speaking a real language. People assume it’s a language they don’t know because she’s so good.”
The short film is yet another masterful and beautiful piece of storytelling commissioned by Lim and Leon, who just last week debuted their first dance piece, “Changers,” in collaboration with Jonze and choreographer Ryan Heffington for Opening Ceremony. “What makes this experience so rare and easy to re-create is the freedom of Kenzo,” added Lyonne. “Carol and Humberto bring out the best spirit.”
As for her future as a director, Lyonne says that this is only the beginning, with her sights set on a feature further down the road. “I think it’s well-documented that I have an addictive personality,” she joked of her past. “The short-film was a major gateway drug.”
Watch the full film below:
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