It’s quite rare to find magazine interviews with Tawny Kitaen. Almost as rare is finding any issues of a French magazine called Starfix (this is why you need to use foreign eBay sites besides the main eBay site). Besides featuring rare photos of her, the February 1984 issue of this film magazine had Tawny at her most talkative when talking about a comic book movie titled Gwendoline but released in the U.S. as The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984). The article began with a quote from Tawny: “I’m so very Californian and I like it.”
Despite having previously appeared in a TV movie (Malibu) where she played a supporting character’s girlfriend, Gwendoline was referred to as Tawny’s first film. The article does, however, address her experience in having appeared in a few commercials and worked as a model. She said: “Only a little, because I lack a couple of centimetres to fulfil the criteria of the agencies. I measure 168 centimetres. The standard for being modelled is 170 cm. Some models are so big that I reach them at the navel! Fortunately, for commercials, one does not require a very tall height when it comes to playing a mother character praising the merits of a soup or a detergent. And I had the chance to present some of these commercials starting with Hello, my name is Tawny – a privilege normally reserved for celebrities.”
The Gwendoline screenplay had evolved considerably since the first draft that was submitted to Tawny Kitaen for the initial auditions. The story became undoubtedly less violent but the character of Gwendoline always remained a deeply kind young girl. As the star put it: “Naïve, but without giving this word anything pejorative. I’m not trying to play the role in the second degree, because, quite simply, I think I was chosen by Just Jaeckin because in his eyes I was Gwendoline. In fact, I think I would be making a mistake if I got up every morning and said to myself Ah! I’m going to have to put myself in this girl’s shoes voluntarily from 11am to 7:30 pm. On the contrary, I rely on my experience and my personal feelings to animate the character. For example, when I first found myself naked on set, I was very embarrassed. But at no time did I try to cover up this embarrassment. It was the one that Gwendoline must naturally have experienced when she found herself naked in front of the Queen. Anyway, when I saw myself in this rushes, I didn’t realize how good I was.”
It should also be seen that the naivety of Gwendoline is not a passive naivety, as Tawny says: “It is even this naivety that is its strength, in some cases, ignorance gives people the courage to do things they would never have done if they had known in advance the difficulty. Of course, Gwendoline’s adventures help transform her. Who could remain unchanged by facing what she faces? But this modification is done gradually. At no time is there a great revelation scene that would turn everything upside down. In addition, Gwendoline is probably less naïve at the end of the story, but she remains just as innocent. This naivety sometimes resembles pride – it is clear that Gwendoline clings to her butterfly hunt only to have a pretext which allows her to hold Willard, to prolong this love at first sight which has just struck her. But she is not selfish for all that – the way in which she refuses to admit that her friend Beth may be dead and the trouble she takes to find her in the Forbidden City sufficiently shows it. In fact, I don’t think there is any difference for Gwendoline between knowing herself better and knowing others better.”
Filming began in the Philippines. This was the hardest part, and everything didn’t go as well as it might have hoped right away. Tawny said: “The first week, everyone was creeping at everyone, and I wondered how I could last five months in such an environment. My inexperience and the language barrier prevented me from understanding the technical indications that were given to me. But I had to learn very quickly, because there was no room for mistakes. I really admire Just Jaeckin for his tenacity in the midst of this turmoil. Finally, everything was sorted out, and I remember the day when a cameraman applauded me because I had spontaneously anticipated one of the requests!”
Tawny Kitaen knew that she loved being in front of a film camera lens than a standard camera because her beauty and character is best captured in motion. Another time had gone by between the production’s end and the magazine article for herself to have acted in an American film starring Tom Hanks. This was Bachelor Party, which allowed her to forget the fatigue of adventure cinema. She demanded three days of freedom during the shooting so that she could attend an advance screening of Gwendoline in Paris. The film was reviewed in issue #20 of Charlie Mensuel. The issue was published in November 1983 yet the official wide release date in France was in the following year i.e. February 8.
In the April 27 1984 issue of Scope, writer Larry Keaton claimed that the director liked the look of Tawny so much that he signed her up without even asking for a screen test. In this issue, she iterated what she said before about the movie being far less violent than conceived but it would still include exiting scenes of bondage. Despite going on to co-star in Bachelor Party, she revealed that she was dying to get her claws into a more serious, psychological role. Upon recently visiting her agent, Tawny was spotted by Robert de Niro, who promptly placed her on top of the list of potential co-stars for his upcoming movie, Enchantment.
In a February 14, 1985 issue of The Times News, it was reported that Tawny’s confession of not being able to swim had led to an over-eager local actress exclaiming that she would like to double for Tawny. The moment that the girl leaped into the water, she disappeared, and it became apparent that she couldn’t swim either. The entire production jumped in and became part of the rescue squad. This wasn’t mentioned in the May 1985 issue of Prevue, where it was revealed that a three week screenplay revision changed the tone from an X to an R rating. Tawny specified: “There was just too much sex and bondage in it. The heroine is an innocent young girl, but the script was very kinky and violent – and she was a lesbian! You should’ve seen the things she was doing! I refused it, and was sure I’d lost the part. What a surprise when I heard It was rewritten to accommodate me!”
In a 1989 issue of Celebrity Sleuth, she issued a challenge in the form of a recall: “Try walking topless in front of 55 crew members with only a little bit of fishing line wrapped around you. At least I never removed my costume’s bottom half – that was in my contract! I’ve spent half my life on the San Diego beach wearing a teeny bikini, but I’ve got a deep-rooted objection to getting paid for sporting my body. I’m not shy, and I’ve been told that a model-ish body like mine should be preserved in pictures for posterity. But I’d rather take snapshots, lock them in a safe and show them to my kids in 50 years. My friends expected a typical hot and horny Emmanuelle-type film. Well, it’s not, but it isn’t Little Miss Muffet, either! Of course the nude scenes always drew everybody connected with the picture to the set, including the front office accountants.“
The below collage was in another French magazine whose article was written by the director, Mr. Just Jaeckin. He compared the casting process of Gwendoline with his past films, but Tawny was only mentioned in the final paragraph where he said: “I had to find the rare bird – plenty of candour, sufficient physical strength to face the jungle, pirates, a crazy queen ready to kill in a charming way, and finally resist a mad scientist, all while handily removing the heart of the hero who had vowed not to never love. Phew! I found her. There were 300 competitors who hoped to have the role, but the winner was Tawny Kitaen who is a mop of fire on a candid air.”
ln another article for another French magazine, Tawny was introduced as the new young free girl of America. The land of the free has a different connotation when you think about the sexual context of the film. The article was intended to publicize the release of Bachelor Party. Back to the theme of my article, she said: “I received very nice letters after Gwendoline. A Belgian businessman even confessed to me that he kept two pictures of me on his desk all the time. But the mail that I get from the United States is much weirder! I have been warned today that I will become a specialist in sex comedies. That’s not true. Proof? Before returning to Paris, I met Steven Spielberg in person.”
There’s more to learn…