The real story behind the movie Lovelace

Making a movie about former porn star Linda Lovelace was always going to be fraught with controversy, but for producer Heidi Jo Markel (Eclectic Pictures) Linda’s story was too important to be ignored.

Lovelace poster

Lovelace poster

Lovelace is not a film that glorifies Linda’s life. Rather it sends an important message and warning about domestic violence, the subjugation of women and how making wrong decisions can have a lasting effect on the rest of your days.

Sharon Stone plays Linda's mother

Sharon Stone plays Linda’s mother

I’ve seen Lovelace twice and found it profoundly moving, at times entertaining and yes, absolutely confronting. Actor Amanda Seyfried puts in a brilliant performance as Lovelace, as does Sharon Stone, who plays her domineering mother.



And let’s not forget Peter Sarsgaard as Linda’s abusive husband Chuck Traynor. I can’t remember when I last saw so convincing a portrayal of such a manipulative and repugnant character.

One of the most startling facts revealed in the movie is that Linda Lovelace only spent SEVENTEEN DAYS working in the porn industry. The rest of her life, she campaigned against pornography and was an advocate for women’s rights.

Being in LA last week meant I had an opportunity to catch up with Heidi Jo Markel and learn more about why she was so committed to making this movie. We met for dinner at one of Hollywood’s most renowned establishments, Chateau Marmont, for a chat over dinner.

Heidi-Jo Markel

Heidi-Jo Markel

Markel first came across the concept for the Linda Lovelace story decades ago. ‘I was subconsciously tracking her story since the mid-eighties. I was too young to even really know what Deep Throat was, but I do remember Linda Lovelace speaking out against pornography and I remember thinking what an incredible juxtaposition. As it is, when anyone at the top of their field turns against it, therein lies a story,’ she said.



Many years later, Markel watched a documentary ‘Inside Deep Throat’ and learnt more about the abusive relationship between Linda and her then husband, Chuck Traynor. ‘That’s when I had a goose bump moment,’ said Markel.  ‘Linda was almost his prisoner, his property, his sex slave and that’s what I realised was the story.’

Markel first established Eclectic Pictures almost ten years ago and has well earned the respect of the industry, producing films garnering acclaim such as Trust, Solitary Man and Playing for Keeps. Markel also took on the role of Executive Producer for the recent blockbuster Olympus Has Fallen. Ideally, she’d like to focus on more movies with strong lead roles for women. Like Lovelace.

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Choosing the right actress for the role of Linda Lovelace was crucial. ‘You have to remember, at the start of this movie, we were looking at a very vulnerable young lady,’ said Markel. ‘She was oppressed by her parents before her captor. She was a Catholic schoolgirl with the nickname “Miss Holy Holy”. She didn’t lose her virginity till she was almost twenty years old. Then she got pregnant and was a prisoner in her parent’s home for about two years. So you need an actor who can play that vulnerability.’ Actor Amanda Seyfried was the perfect choice.

But what about critics who believe making such a movie only serves to glorify pornography? How did Markel go about explaining what she was working on to her family and friends? She took her time to consider these questions. ‘I had a hard time with this movie early on in that I had a devout Christian upbringing and I went to church every Sunday. I ran with that crowd and am still close with my parents and their generation, so for me to explain what I was working on was a bit awkward,’ she said.

‘I was a little concerned with the establishment over 60 as to whether they would respect it or not. Early on in the development process, we brought on board consultants; Gloria Steinem and Catharine MacKinnon, who is one of the greatest female rights attorneys of all time who represented Linda during the Senate hearings) on board as consultants, then the literati, the glitterati and the feminist elite fell in line to support the picture.

With such a salacious topic, Markel was surprised that the eldest of her family group have been the most supportive. ‘Just recently I was at a funeral with a lot of my parent’s friends, folks in their 80s. I was surprised they were all super excited to see this film, which meant a lot. I didn’t expect that.’ This is when Markel’s face lit up. Acceptance and approval from one’s family and friends is always important, no matter how successful you are.

Peter Saarsgard and Amanda Seyfriend

Peter Saarsgard and Amanda Seyfriend

Without wanting to give too much away about the movie itself, I’ll give you the heads up – don’t be fooled by the film’s light-hearted beginning. Structurally, not far in, it does a sharp U-turn and the story takes a much darker direction. This unusual idea was pitched by directing phenomenons, Rob Epstein and Jeffery Friedman, then executed by wunderkind writer, Andy Bellin. ‘I feel so blessed to have worked with such outstanding talent,’ says Markel. In doing so, the film achieves a clever balance between flash forward and present moments to draw the threads of Linda’s story together.

Yet still, when it came to an end, I wanted to know more about Linda’s later years.

How did the filmmakers decide when to end Linda’s story? ‘It was a big struggle for all of us,’ said Markel. ‘I very much wanted to include more of Linda’s activist stance and it troubled me greatly to diminish it. However, when we tested it on audiences, the few scenes filmed that summed up Linda’s activism seemed to open a Pandora’s box of more unanswered questions.  Structurally, it made the most sense to end the story shortly after Linda escaped her abusive husband, our main antagonist.’

So was she happy with the final result? ‘I always want more. What I do think is that this film erred on the side of being a disciplined 92 minutes…. personally, I think the audiences could have handled more, but studios are more conservative, relying strictly on test scores.  But yes, I am proud of it.’

Markel is being a harsh critic, but it’s refreshing to hear a Hollywood producer speak with such honesty. Especially given the film has received wide critical acclaim. Even talkback TV host Larry King gave the film his stamp of approval, saying, ‘Both Amanda Seyfried and Sharon Stone should win Oscars,’  – a rare tick from a man who wields huge influence.

Markel almost seems happier with how the film has helped Lovelace’s two now adult children, Dominic and Lindsay, come to terms with their mother’s past.

The 'real' Linda Lovelace

The ‘real’ Linda Lovelace


‘They took a blind leap of faith to go with us based on the recommendation from their attorney. And they trusted us. These kids are the most wonderful, loving kids,’ she said.  ‘The only dark part of their life is that they felt their mother’s shame from the whole experience, how Deep Throat had left her. They were proud of her for speaking out but it caused them a lot of problems too because her activism put the family under the spotlight. They didn’t know how to explain their mother’s situation to a lot of people and it was a huge burden.’


Markel says the movie has liberated the whole family. ‘They can now tell their peers and co-workers about their mother and they can own her story. A lot of has evolved in the past few decades and there is no shame in having been a victim. Linda spoke out because she wanted her story to be told. She lived a horror story and she didn’t want it to happen to other people.’

It’s also very important to Markel that the film exerts an influence over women trapped in similar circumstances. ‘I promise you, there will be women out there who will see this film and will think twice about the situation they’re in. You might think things have changed in the porn industry, but they haven’t. There will always be young women caught up with scummy men.’

But it’s not just the porn industry Markel is referring to. ‘It might just be someone who is in a relationship where they are being controlled and told what to do and how to think all the time. That’s my biggest fear as a mother of my daughter. I don’t want some strange man to have a huge influence over my daughter so that she is subjugated to his opinions and thoughts and that he might take away her freedom to express herself.’

All good reasons to see Lovelace, but ultimately, it’s also a finely directed and produced and movie with a strong cast. Go see it on the big screen and let me know what you think.

Lovelace opens at Village Cinemas across the country this Thursday, September 26th.






California Dreaming… at Paramount Studios

There’s a new chapter about to open in my life and one that I’m pretty excited about. It’s the reason I haven’t been ‘Blogging’ as consistently these past few months and that’s because I’ve been investing a lot of time in several projects that mean I’ll be taking on a new role in the world of film production – behind the scenes as a writer and producer.

(But more about that later… )

So naturally, I was very happy to be heading off to Los Angeles two weeks ago for a combination of personal and work reasons. While I’ve been to LA many times over the last decade, this trip was doubly enjoyable because a pack of Melbourne buddies were there at the same time which meant we could hang out, shop and play. Last week we decided to do a very ‘touristy’ thing – take a tour of Paramount Pictures studios.

With Kate McGrath and Anna Byrne at Paramount Studios

With Kate McGrath and Anna Byrne at Paramount Studios

I was as excited as a child visiting Disneyland. The history and filmic achievements of Paramount are epic, so with my absolute passion for film, it was akin to visiting a holy temple. I knew it would be fun, but in fact, I was blown away by the gorgeousness of it all. An experienced friend advised us to take the 2-hour tour, as opposed to the much more expensive four and a half hour version, and he was right – it was just the right amount of time to soak up the magic and history.

Touching the gates for good luck...

Touching the gates for good luck…


On arrival, we were greeted by our tour guide, Katy, who directed us to a buggy and we set off. First, through the majestic Paramount gates which we are touched for good luck – a Paramount tradition. (We’re all confident we are now headed for epic success!)


The famous Paramount Theatre

The famous Paramount Theatre

To list all of Paramount’s famous movies would take weeks, but just a handful include the likes of Rear Window, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Psycho, Love Story, The Great Gatsby (1972), Terms of Endearment, American Gigolo, the Godfather movies, Pretty in Pink, all the Star Trek movies and Titanic.



The foyer of Paramount's Theatre

The foyer of Paramount’s Theatre

Most of the them probably had a screening at Paramount’s famous on-site theatre, where we stopped and sat inside to hear a very entertaining history of the studio from Katy. Even the foyer of the theatre is stunning and is often used in movies where a bit of stage dressing can turn it into a hotel lobby.


A buggy ride took us everywhere bar New York

A buggy ride took us everywhere bar New York


Driving around in our buggy, we packed in a full tour – the only section we couldn’t see was the New York area, which was locked off while a TV commercial was being filmed. I also liked the fact that our tour was quite intimate. The three of us and another family meant there were only seven people demanding Katy’s attention.



The door to what was once Katherine Hepburn's dressing-room...

The door to what was once Katharine Hepburn’s dressing room…



We stopped at many famous doors along the way. And while it was disappointing not to actually venture inside, I still appreciated seeing them and learning the history. Here’s the door to what WAS Katharine Hepburn’s dressing room. She’d apparently ride to work on her bicycle, taking an alternative entrance to the studios to avoid the paparazzi.



The door Lucille Ball had concreted...

The door Lucille Ball had concreted…



And here’s a door we couldn’t have walked through even if we’d tried… It was cemented up after Lucille Ball discovered her husband Desi Arnaz’s philandering ways.

Katy gives us the low-down on the backsteps used for the beach house scene in Top Gun

Katy gives us the low-down on the back steps used for the beach house scene in Top Gun






Here are some steps you might recognise. Remember Top Gun? These were used for the scene where Tom Cruise (Maverick) sits on the back patio of Kelly McGillis’ (Charlie’s) beach house while they talk and drink wine.



Sitting on Forrest Gump's park bench

Sitting on Forrest Gump’s park bench

And I just had to have a photo, sitting on the very park bench where Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump) delivered his famous line, ‘Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.’




It was incredible to see the car park which can be turned into an ocean, filled with water from the massive tank above – it takes nearly a whole day – with projected images of beaches or other locations coming to life on the huge screen to the left. Of course, the cars have to park elsewhere on those days… The magic of cinema indeed.

The carpark that can be transformed into an ocean...

The car park that can be transformed into an ocean…

For those who love a good ghost story, you’ll feel a tingle passing the allegedly haunted STAGE NINETEEN. Child actor Heather O’Rourke, who died from cardiac arrest at the age of 12, is rumoured to haunt the studio as her filming days were apparently the happiest of her tragically short life. Heather was discovered by Steven Spielberg at the age of five and went on to star in the 1982 horror movie, Poltergeist, as well its two sequels.

What's being filmed at Paramount

What’s being filmed at Paramount


Nowadays, there’s more TV shows than movies being filmed at Paramount. Here’s a look at what’s being filmed on site right now.

We stopped briefly at Dr Phil’s door and peeked inside the studio…

The door to Dr Phil's studio

The door to Dr Phil’s studio









All Glee props and staging are kept under wraps

All Glee props and staging are kept under wraps

And while I’m not a Glee viewer, I’d happily have shown you the set. Except that it’s one show that keeps everything strictly under wraps. Even the props that are left outdoors are covered in black plastic so passers-by can’t guess from the sets, what might be coming up in the story-lines. Sorry…


Ah yes, a memorable day indeed and one I would highly recommend to anyone visiting LA.

Paramount Pictures is legendary – who could resist it’s magic? Even the tour tickets are beautiful, featuring the shot below. And this is how I will end my story because who could say it better than Cecil B DeMille?

Cecil B DeMille's famous quote

Cecil B DeMille’s famous quote


Which Celebrity Chef is lending a hand to save children in Cambodia from trafficking?

TV Celebrity Chef, author, naturopath and all-round good soul Janella Purcell first learnt about the charity, Connecting Hands, when they contacted her to see if she could contribute to their celebrity cookbook.

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

‘It’s a really beautiful book. They did a great job with that. People love cookbooks and it looks really pretty,’ she said. The book was launched last November and includes recipes from a range of high profile chefs, including Maggie Beer, Neil Perry, Poh Ling Yeow, Pete Evans and Marion Grasby.

But while most people would think they’d done enough by contributing a recipe, Janella has gone above and beyond in terms of helping Connecting Hands in their mission to help free children and women from trafficking and give them a future.

The Food for Life Cookbook

The Food for Life Cookbook

Since the book was published, Janella’s involvement has escalated to the point where she’s just returned from a trip with the Connecting Hands team to Cambodia, plus she hosted a cooking workshop in Sydney yesterday where all funds raised from ticket sales went to the charity as well.

Janella was keen to go to Cambodia so she could see for herself how Connecting Hands’ latest project – building a teaching cafe in Cambodia – was progressing.

The idea is that, once completed, the cafe will give the girls training in hospitality, employment with on-going jobs, and a safe place to live.

The Connecting Hands message - excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

The Connecting Hands message – excerpt from Celebrity Chef cookbook

For Janella, it was an unforgettable experience.  ‘A lot of people just put their heads in the sand over this, because it is a really hard issue to look at. I love what Connecting Hands is doing – the practicality of it. This cafe is really going to make a difference.’

When the cafe is finished, Janella says she’d like to return to Cambodia, possibly for three months, to help train the girls in hospitality. I asked her why she was so passionate about the cause.

‘Where do you start?’ she said. ‘What’s the difference between those young girls and our own children? I mean, we’re all the same. I believe in equality and injustice really upsets me at every level. They’re not being given a fair chance and that’s just appalling. And no one really wants to know about it – it’s all too hot for them to touch and I’m not scared of those sorts of things.’

Like myself, Janella wants to know why governments aren’t stepping in to do more. ‘The sexual trafficking of children is actually one of the biggest money-spinners on the planet. It makes more money than anything else. I don’t really understand why we don’t hear more about it. That’s a lot of money and a lot of children.’

‘It’s a really hard issue and I think a lot of people just want to pretend that it isn’t happening. Why else could it be?’

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

The title ‘celebrity chef’ is something Janella thinks first began with the success Masterchef. In her view, she’s really a naturopath who’s also a foodie. Still, she has been on TV continuously for fifteen years now, (Channel Nine – Mornings with Kerri-Anne Kennerley; Channel Seven – Good Chef, Bad Chef, and Channel Ten – Biggest Loser) so she’s well and truly earned the title.

Now living in the Hinterlands in Byron Bay, Janella runs clinics near home and in Sydney. She regularly writes magazine articles and her diary is packed with media commitments. But it’s her work in the clinics she finds most rewarding. ‘Consulting clients, one on one. It’s really beautiful, I love that work,’ she said. ‘I deal with all sorts of health issues, from cancer and libido-immune deficiency issues to fertility and skin problems.’

Can naturopathy really address all these complaints? ‘Of course,’ said Janella. ‘We make people better. It’s not that hard. For so many people, it’s a matter of taking chemicals out of your life – from your food, your skincare, your cleaning products. So many people become well once they do that. Chemicals are causing so many problems in our life. And then take out all the processed food from your diet.’

Janella’s top tip for natural skincare is the Pure and Green organic range. She also prefers to buy organic wine. And while it’s her preference to go organic generally, it’s not something she’s fanatical about.

After our chat, I was starting to feel quite exhausted. How does she keep up the pace, fitting all these commitments into her life? But wait, there’s more!

Janella Purcell

Janella Purcell

Janella is also working on her own TV show. It’s a show focusing on eating food without using meat and refined foods, but still making meals that are beautiful to taste. (watch this space!)

AND she’s working on her next book. It will be called Whole Foods for the Whole World, with recipes for every age, from babyhood to the elderly.

AND she’s shooting a TV commercial for OxFam about awareness about food waste.

Little wonder she has been named in the top 40 inspiring women in Australia, in Prevention Magazine. 

If you’d like to do just a little something to help Connecting Hands, here’s a couple of ideas. You can still purchase the cookbook by going to the charity’s website at

And you can buy tickets to Connecting Hands annual fund-raising dinner, at which I will be MC. It’s in St Kilda at The Great Provider on Saturday, October 19th.  I’d love to see you there!