Tales of the Unexpected
Whether she’s flouting wedding traditions, getting rude tattoos or rebelling against her publicist, actress AMANDA SEYFRIED is not one to conform to convention. Wearing the season’s dark and dramatic eveningwear, she tells SANJIV BHATTACHARYA why she won’t be silenced on mental health
No one walks in LA, A-list celebrities especially. But Amanda Seyfried walked to Cheebo today, a humble neighborhood café on Sunset Boulevard. No disguise, just Amanda, in skinny black jeans, a plain red tee and no makeup. “I live up the street,” she explains. “And no one bothers me. I’m not J.Lo. Here, look.” She shows me a photo on her phone of two hands intertwined, wearing rings, on a Cheebo menu. “That’s me and Tommy,” she says, referring to her husband, actor Thomas Sadoski. “We came here for brunch after we got married.” On the day itself? What about the reception? “Didn’t have one!” she says, delighted. “We got married in Topanga, March last year. Just the two of us. And afterwards, I was like, ‘Can we just go to Cheebo?’ It was awesome.”
So, wait – the star of Mamma Mia!, a giant wedding fantasy, didn’t have a wedding? “That’s why! I get married all the time. I was in a wedding dress last week!” (She’s been shooting The Art of Racing in the Rain, based on the 2008 bestseller, in Vancouver.) “I also go to premieres where people take my picture. I just don’t care about all that stuff.” Why marry at all, then? “Look.” Another picture: Amanda in a wedding dress; this time, nine months pregnant. “Look at that f*****g belly! But I really wanted to have rings on in the hospital, you know? And what if something goes wrong, and he’s not legally my husband?” So she bought a dress at Free People and off they went. “But I never picked any f*****g flowers!”
“I didn’t have a wedding RECEPTION. I get married all the time [on screen]. I was in a WEDDING dress last week! I don’t care about that STUFF”
Seyfried, 32, is great company; chatty, warm and candid. There’s an exuberance to her, but a vulnerability, too, which is instantly endearing. And she’s in “a good place” these days – motherhood suits her. “I definitely want more babies,” she says. “Maybe three? Or four? Or five?” Professionally, she’s soaring, with three films out this year – Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the musical sequel with Meryl Streep and Cher; dystopic sci-fi Anon with Clive Owen; and Gringo, a bawdy comedy co-starring David Oyelowo and Charlize Theron. What’s more, work is easier now, post-baby. “I feel more empowered,” she says. “Like, I’ll say no, I can’t do that press trip, because I’m spending time with my daughter. ‘Oh, you want my top off for that part? How about we scrap that sex scene altogether? And no, I’m not wearing those thongs!’”
“I feel more EMPOWERED [to say no]. ‘Oh, you want my top off for that part? How about we SCRAP that sex scene altogether? And no, I’m not wearing those THONGS!’”
As celebrities go, Seyfried is virtually without airs. It’s easy to forget that she’s the star of Mean Girls, Les Misérables, Big Love and Ted 2. I can’t reveal her baby’s name, but that’s her only concession to fame. Otherwise, she’s very much one of us. The way she talks about money, for instance, and how she loves it. She says she likes seeing high rises go up in her ’hood, because “it’ll make my house price go up”. She’s converting her garage to a guesthouse because of a tax exemption. “It’s really for my mom – she’s our live-in nanny,” she explains. And as for her other homes – a New York apartment and a farm upstate with, at last count, three goats, two horses, two miniature horses, six chickens, a cat and two donkeys – she feels guilty for not renting them out. “I could be making so much, it’s a waste.” She thinks for a moment. “I think my relationship to money will always be weird, because I grew up without it.”
The actress was raised in the suburbs of Allentown, Pennsylvania, the younger of two daughters. Her mother was a therapist in a psychiatric ward, and her father a pharmacist. It was a happy childhood, and, while she wasn’t the easiest child (“Mom called me ‘Demanda’”), she kept a low profile at school: “Just one level above uncool, so no one bothered me.”
She’s being modest about the cool thing. At 11 years old, she was already modeling; as a teenager, she was a regular on ABC’s long-running soap, All My Children, commuting to New York City by bus. She says got her teenage rebellion out of her system early – some booze and weed – and when she was 17, her mom let her move to New York and live alone in an apartment on 69th Street. I could barely boil an egg at that age, I tell her, and she shoots back: “You’re a boy. Sorry, but kinda true. I told my husband, ‘If you were any younger, I wouldn’t have married you.’” Sadoski is 42.
“My publicist said, ‘Don’t talk about your ANXIETY.’ And I thought, f**k you, actually. I want kids who are having WEIRD thoughts to share them without STIGMA. If that affects my career, so be it”
Through it all, though, Seyfried quietly suffered from anxiety. After 2004’s Mean Girls, aged 19, she moved to LA and landed roles on TV shows Big Love and Veronica Mars. But on the way to set one day, she had a panic attack. “I got dizzy and had this crazy headache, so I pulled over onto the freeway ramp and called my mom: ‘I’m going to die!’ I was gasping.” Her mom flew out at once, and drove her to all kinds of specialists. Then a psychiatrist showed her a checklist for OCD, and her “whole life changed. It was so empowering.” Typically, Seyfried went public about it at once. “At first, my publicist said, ‘Don’t talk about your anxiety.’ And I thought, f**k you, actually. I want kids who are having weird thoughts to share them without stigma. And if that affects my career, so be it.”
Today she’s on medication and decrees herself fine. And her career doesn’t appear to have suffered by her admissions in the slightest. At 21, she made Mamma Mia!. “It was incredible – I’m working with Meryl Streep, I’m in love with this guy [co-star Dominic Cooper], and my best friends are there [co-stars Rachel McDowall and Ashley Lilley].” (She calls her friends “Team Minge”, which is tattooed on her foot.) They were in Greece, having parties on the beach. And the film was such a hit that it gave her “international value”, which meant more money, and a higher ranking on studio lists.
“[My now husband] never FLIRTED, never disrespected his wife. That was another reason why I thought, later on, I could MARRY him. We can tell the story without GUILT”
Her personal life, however, was bumpy. Seyfried dated Cooper for a few years, then actors Desmond Harrington (Dexter) and Justin Long (Dodgeball, He’s Just Not That Into You). When she met Sadoski – while doing a two-person off-Broadway play called The Way We Get By – she says: “We were both in bad relationships.” They were friends at first. When she’d have panic attacks on stage, he’d help her through. But nothing happened. Sadoski, she says, “never flirted, never disrespected his wife. That was another reason why I thought, later on, that I could marry him.” When their relationships both ended, Seyfried suggested Sadoski for her love interest in The Last Word, with Shirley MacLaine, and love grew. “It was amazing. It felt healthy and freeing and clean. We can tell the story without any guilt.”
“It’s crazy, because I was a KID back then [filming Mamma Mia!], so MERYL was more maternal. But now I have a kid, so we relate as MOMS”
MacLaine is one of several legends the actress has worked with. In Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Cher plays her grandmother. “You expect her to be super-confident, but she gets nervous, too!” And she reunited with Meryl Streep after 10 years. “It’s crazy, because I was a kid back then, so Meryl was more maternal. But now I have a kid, so we relate as moms.”
There were fewer parties this time, though. Seyfried had her baby daughter with her, and while they were filming in Croatia, the Weinstein scandal was breaking – every day the set reeled at fresh allegations. “You start thinking of all the guys with reputations, like, is he next?” says the actress. “I was lucky. I didn’t deal with anything that my peers did. People have been s****y, but I’m pretty good at deflecting.” She’d come forward if she had a story. Seyfried isn’t shy about speaking out, as her Instagram account attests. She has posted about gun control, chemical weapons, and animal welfare, dogs especially, with her own dog, Finn, making frequent appearances.
With our time almost up, I ask her what she wants from life now. “[Learn] how to sign. More alpacas for the farm. Oh, and I’m obsessed with making plants out of paper.” I have no idea what she means. So, before we part ways, she explains. We’re standing on Sunset Boulevard, and she’s saying: “You get these digital cutters, and you can design the patterns, it’s awesome.” And then she’s off, walking back home, just like anyone else.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is out July 20
Off The Scale
Amanda Seyfried is the all-singing star of Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, but how did she catch the musical bug? Watch now as she talks about her very first audition and what her dog thinks of her impressive vocal range
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