"I think the movie has a very positive message," says Swain with the passion
and conviction of someone keen to change the world and make her mark. "Although it's
about paedophilia, it certainly doesn't condone paedophilia – it shows how it
destroys." But she is not surprised by the controversy that has greeted the film.
"Oh yeah, I think the story of Lolita will always be met with controversy. I think
that kind of relationship is doomed, and is definitely not a good idea."
"I didn't think I really had a chance."
Swain's fairytale selection for the title role in Lolita was a turning point for the
then 14 year old, who was selected after a six month search from over 2,500 hopefuls
considered for the coveted role. How did the audition come about? "This guy who used
to be my manager told me about it. Acting wasn't really working out – I had been for
auditions a hundred times and not even got commercials. I thought that if this didn't work
out, I would go to school and do something else."
Swain confides that when she heard about the making of the film, she read the novel and
loved it. "I was really fascinated by the story," she admits. "I sent a
video tape reading from the book. I memorised the scene mostly, but I had black hair and
braces and I didn't think I really had a chance."
"I was part woman and part little girl"
But it wasn't just the opportunity for a coveted role that appealed to the schoolgirl;
she believed that she could bring something unique to the role. "I thought Lolita
didn't have a point of view, which I thought I could give her. I was at that Lolita phase
in my life, although fortunately I hadn't had any such sexual experiences. I was part
woman and part little girl, and I could go back and forth without being very conscious of
it." Swain admits that she could relate to the character completely.
When they saw the video tape, the producers tracked Swain down at a friend's place,
telling her to make herself available to go to New York for three days of auditions –
if she wanted the role, that is. Forty pages of lines were faxed to her overnight; the
following day she was on the plane to New York. "I was sooooo excited," Swain
recalls. "I knew that no matter what happened, I was getting a free trip to New York,
so I was feeling pretty cool." So, together with her manager and another Lolita
hopeful, Swain went to New York for five days of intensive interviews and auditions.
'You're our girl!' they said.
Before leaving New York to return to Los Angeles, Swain was hopeful: "The reason
that I thought that maybe one of us would be hired for the part, was that although we were
collected from the airport in a town car, we were taken back in a stretch limousine."
But it wasn't until she arrived back in Los Angeles, that Swain knew that she actually had
the role. The producers had told her parents (who had been supportive throughout), while
she was still in the air; she heard the news on her answering machine 'You're our girl!'
they said. It was quite some time before Swain came down to earth. "My feet weren't
on the ground for quite a while. I was so excited." She drools at the recollection.
Three weeks later, Swain was on set. "Adrian Lyne was amazing to work with,"
Swain sighs. "He told me that he thought I had a pretty good grasp of the character.
He was really like a father. When he actually bought the rights to the film, his daughter
was my age, so I think he was very careful not to corrupt me."
"I think he was refreshed that ... I wasn't enamoured
or in awe of him." on Jeremy Irons
With teenage honesty and frankness, Swain found no pretentions on the set. Was she
star-struck by Oscar winner Jeremy Irons? She giggles. "I didn't really know about
his Oscar – I don't keep up with those kind of things," she admits. "We got
on very well. I met him when I was interviewed in New York." Irons came in and
introduced himself saying (Swain feigns a mock British Accent) 'Hello, I'm Jeremy Irons';
'Hi, I'm Dominique Swain.' "I think he was refreshed that I didn't really know who he
was and that I wasn't enamoured or in awe of him."
It was a relationship based on cameraderie, which was a memorable and good experience.
"He was very child-like, at least the Jeremy I got to know" she says. "He
was great. We fought a little and we just got on like I get on with my friends."
Swain is very matter-of-fact in recalling the entire experience. She admits that the
toughest role to shoot was when Lolita is 17 and pregnant, amid controversy of whether or
not she would be believable as a 17 year old.
But believable she is, and her performance in the film is extraordinary, making her
dream to become an actress a reality.
When did she first want to become an actress? "Ever since I saw The Never Ending
Story," Swain confides. "The Empress – I wanted to be her." She is
animated as she speaks about her ambitions and her role model, Juliette Lewis. "I
think she is an incredible actress. She plays every role naturally and is totally
uninhibited. Even when you see her in the background, she's completely in character and is
very charismatic." But when talking about the future and her ambitions, Swain still
manages to weave effortlessly from little girl to woman. "Oh yeah, I'm ambitious, but
I don't know what I want to be when I grown up," It's almost as though she's thinking
aloud. "But I definitely want to explore many paths and find out. I am definitely
ambitious; I'm always busy and there's always something that I'm working on and I'm always
getting new skills. I'm now going to take a biology class and a creative writing class,
but I still don't know what I want to major in. I'm a little undecided, actually."
"I haven't noticed getting screwed up." on
the Lolita experience
Undecided, she may be, the future is looking rosy for the pert teenager, who has
recently appeared in Face Off, Girl and is currently working on Depraved Indifference from
the novel by Robert K Tanenbaum, directed by Mark Williams. And of the Lolita experience?
"I haven't noticed getting screwed up."