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SWAIN, DOMINQUE: LOLITA

As the political climate hots up around the release of Adrian Lyne's Lolita, its star, 18 year old Dominque Swain is fiercely defensive of the film and its position against paedophilia. She speaks from her Malibu home to LOUISE KELLER.

"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."

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