A conversation with Trudie Styler
Text Matteo Mammoli
Trudie Styler arrives at the Strehler Theatre. She is not accompanied by her husband Sting, but by the actor who plays Billy, Alex Lawther – formerly James in the Netflix series The end of the fucking world – in the movie of which she is director and producer. They are in Milan to present the feature film Freak Show to the public of the Festival Mix, the QLGBT cinema festival that has been held every year for the past thirty-two years.
I meet Trudie in her dressing room, she smiles, she is tall, the floral blouse inside a blue pleated skirt. There is a welcome cocktail, and a pair of scissors – the label of the bra torments her. She did not have to direct Freak Show, but when the director had a personal crisis and resigned “we asked ourselves: do we give up everything or do we continue? I stepped forward, I thought of myself as Guy Ritchie, a creative producer, so I became the director.” Four weeks to do the casting, twenty-two days to shoot: “we did not have enough time, we did not have enough money.”
In the end the movie has seen the light. The theme is bullying, to which is added the claim of sexual identity. Billy has just moved into the rich property of his father in southern Connecticut, where he began high school. Eye pencil and women’s clothing: the nickname fag is not long in coming, nor physical violence. He dreams of Italy: “Putting on a pair of jeans will not save me. Maybe a ticket for Mars could, or for Milan.” He faces conservative cheerleaders and alpha males from the football team. He does not give up being himself: he sprinkles himself with perfume, he disguises himself as Ella Fitzgerald, he recites, he dances. He defines himself as transvisionary, gender obliviator, freak. He gathers support: he is a candidate to become a homecoming queen defying the Trump’s fan Lynette whose slogan is “Let’s make America great again”, and unexpectedly he loses.
It seems like the metaphor of real politics, and yet “when we were shooting the movie we did not know that Trump would win, no one imagined it”, Trudie reveals. “The fact that Lynette has proclaimed that slogan is an irony of fate. The fact that Trump won is absurd. The world is an increasingly dangerous place because of him.” She also worries about our country: “You too have a government that is veering more and more to the right, are you, young people, not scared of it?”
She knows Italy well. Billy wanders Milan, Trudie the same: “We all think that it is the most avant-garde city in fashion. Billy, after a horrible day at school, imagines spending his holidays here: what better place to shop?». She looks in the mirror and realises: «I am all Italian!». On request, she looks at her outfit: «this bag is by Prada, Valentino’s blouse, the skirt, also this by Prada. No, shoes are not Italian: Manolo Blanik.” She loves clothes, she has a nice wardrobe: “I choose all the clothes I wear, I want to feel at ease. To work I have a daytime wardrobe, which I need to move from one part of New York to another, but in the evening I love wearing my beautiful shoes and Italian brands.”
For the realisation of the costumes of the movie the choice fell on her friends and colleagues Colleen Atwood and Sarah Laux: “I have two girlfriends costume designers: it is really useful! We had so little budget to make the movie that they were very good at making all of Billy’s clothes.” Also for the choice of music she asked the support of a trusted person: “my daughter Eliot is a musician, two songs are her. I had a lot of fun choosing the songs together. Besides the designer friends, it is also useful to have a ‘musical family’.”
With Sting she got married in 1992. “He is incredibly ‘supportive’ in everything I do – even in this my directorial debut. He look at all my movies and give me some useful feedbacks.” One of the four children, Eliot, was born in Pisa. Tuscany, their second home: “we have been adopted by Italy. My husband registers here and we have an estate where we make wine, Il Palagio. Each bottle has the title of a song, Sister moon, Message in a bottle, Roxanne. Wine is the expression of our love for this territory, to which we feel we belong.”