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It's a wrap, J.T.

November 16, 2003|Nancy Rommelmann | Special to The Times

By midnight, the party celebrating the wrap of the movie "The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things," based on elusive author J.T. LeRoy's semiautobiographical chronicle of truck-stop hustlers and quasi-redemption, had been distilled into one room in a sixth-floor suite at the Chateau Marmont.

Earlier, on the patio, there'd been Jeremy Sisto, who appears in the film as a crystal-meth addict, saying, "J.T. is a very interesting person, in that he survived. But I bet he won't show up here." There'd been the film's producer, Chris Hanley, describing the film as "treacherous, and tortured -- it's the story of a young boy and abuse, and you know how hard it is to tell the truth about this subject." Was the author, who's been known to not appear at his own readings, going to show up? "He's in the building," said Hanley, as the crowd swelled and the rooms took on what one attendee called "nightclub aroma."

There was the film's screenwriter, director and star, Asia Argento, who said she was compelled to tell the story "because I know how hard it is, especially in America, to be a single mother. I'd done a reading of [LeRoy's first book] 'Sarah' in Italy, and he contacted me to make this." Asked if she'd heard the rumors that LeRoy doesn't actually exist, she gave a disgusted shrug common to Italians. Was Chloe Sevigny in the movie, or just here to celebrate it? "We're here for a movie?" she asked, adding that it is "absolutely not true that J.T. LeRoy is not real.... I've met him. He's a short guy in a blond wig."

"He's in here," said Index Magazine editor in chief Ariana Speyer, walking down the hall -- past filmmaker Larry Clark in tete-a-tetes with two young women, a voluptuous Karen Black, a down-dressed Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore holding his sleepy daughter -- and into the bedroom.

"Hi, I'm Speedy," said a beatific-looking woman with honey-colored hair, "and this is J.T.'s son, Thor." A 6-year-old peered from behind her. "We just finished recording a song with Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads," who nodded hello. Were they J.T.'s songs? "He'll tell you," said Speedy, who smiled at a small young man in a fuzzy black tam, enfolded into the space between the bed and the wall.

"Hi," said LeRoy, in a tiny voice. "I wrote the lyrics. The band's name is Thistle, like what Eeyore likes." Did LeRoy sing as well? "Um," he said, as he watched two towheaded boys jump on the bed and poke their fingers in Marilyn Manson's eyes and ask which one was the contact lens. "I did sing in the background, but I'm not a good singer. It's more like singing in the bathtub."

"J.T., let's take a picture," said Speedy, waving him up to stand with rocker Kim Gordon and actress Tara Subkoff. After the photo was snapped, LeRoy scrunched back down and peered up at "Six Feet Under's" Ben Foster huddled against the headboard, and Gus Van Sant's producer Dany Wolf in a huddle with "Elephant" star John Robinson, and Sharon Osbourne in the doorway, cursing on cue.

"I'm sorry if I'm not answering your questions very well," LeRoy said softly, and leaned his head on his interviewer's knee.

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