EXCLUSIVE: Why Kyra Sedgwick Waited More Than 30 Years to Make Her Directorial Debut
By Philiana Ng
After more than three decades as an actress and producer in Hollywood, Kyra Sedgwick is finally taking the leap behind the camera, making her directorial debut in Lifetime's coming-of-age TV movie, Story of a Girl.
Based on the 2007 YA novel by Sara Zarr, the two-hour movie centers on a young teenage girl named Deanna (played by Banshee's Ryann Shane), whose sex tape goes viral in the sleepy town she's called home all her life, fracturing her relationship with her family and exiling her among her peers.
For Sedgwick, Story of a Girl hits close to home -- "So many things about the story rang true to me," she shared with ET -- and part of the reason why she was less hesitant about putting on the director's hat for the first time. For it to have been made into a movie is itself a feat, as Sedgwick optioned the book when it was first published and attempted to make it for 10 years.
"I knew the material so well that I felt more confident [directing] than I ever would with a new piece of material, especially for my first time out," the Ten Days in the Valley star said. "When I got the opportunity to possibly make the movie -- my husband [Kevin Bacon] had been really riding me about directing -- this was the first time where I went, 'If I am going to try something, it's going to be this.' Now that I've tried it, I've got the bug and I can't wait to find my next directing gig."
"When I got to working on the film, it was something I had been preparing for as an actor. It's just having more control over the storytelling," Sedgwick added, hinting that she already has her eye on her next directing vehicle and hopes to cut her teeth in television directing.
Even though a decade has passed since she first optioned the novel, the former star of The Closer believes there's a reason why the themes are still resonant and relevant to this day.
"So much of [Deanna's] experience as a teenager and what it's like to be inside of her head and her heart rang so authentic to me and reminded me of my teenage years and that feeling that everything is life or death. Everything feels so huge and so big, and your emotions are enormous," the 52-year-old first-time director said. "The point is: You're shamed about something in the world and the world sees you as a certain thing and you have to fight your way out of the world seeing you that way and yourself seeing you that way."
Though there are differences from page to screen (in the novel, Deanna's father catches her performing oral sex on her boyfriend in the back of a car; in the film, it's updated to be a sex tape and the social media fervor that follows), much of the feelings and emotions Sedgwick experienced reading the book remain in the film.
"This is a universal theme for the characters with female sexuality, a dysfunctional family, the complexity of the relationship between fathers and daughters, the demise of the middle class. We're grappling with a lot of big issues in a sort of smaller container," Sedgwick said.
It was also a family affair in front of the camera; Sedgwick recruited Bacon and their 25-year-old actress daughter, Sosie Bacon, for key supporting roles in the film. Bacon plays Michael, the gay owner of the sleepy seaside town's diner and Deanna's advice-wielding boss, while Sosie portrays Stacy, Deanna's brother’s girlfriend and mother of his child.
"I always wanted Kevin to be in it to play Michael. I just thought it was a great role for him and the truth is, when we were trying to make it as an independent feature, we were trying to raise money and I asked him if he would be interested in playing that role -- not because I thought he would be brilliant, but frankly because he would get the movie made," Sedgwick confessed. "He loved the part. He said he thought it was the best part in the movie. It's a special, excellent part -- he's never played a role quite like that before."
As for Sosie, Sedgwick revealed that her daughter had been with the project from its infancy, participating in readings over the years. Casting Sosie as Stacy was a suggestion made by co-producer Emily Bickford Lansbury.
"I hadn't thought of it, but she was absolutely amazing and she squeezed me in between 13 Reasons Why and the new HBO Alan Ball show. I was grateful to have her. It's the least she could do for her mother!" Sedgwick said with a laugh.
Sedgwick hopes viewers who watch Story of a Girl take away one key lesson.
"Self-forgiveness and self-love is so important because the world can tell us that we're one thing and we can have a lot of shame, but until we forgive ourselves, we can't really forgive others and how they reacted, and [that's when we can] move on and start to heal," she said.
Story of a Girl premieres Sunday, July 23 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Lifetime.