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Todd Haynes Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (8)  | Personal Quotes (12)

Overview (2)

Born in Los Angeles, California, USA
Height 5' 10" (1.78 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Todd Haynes was always interested in art, and made amateur movies and painted while he was still a child. He attended Brown university and majored in art and semiotics. After he graduated he moved to New York City and made the controversial short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988). The movie uses dolls instead of actors to tell the the story of the late Karen Carpenter. The movie was a success at several film festivals, and because of a lawsuit by Richard Carpenter (over musical rights) is very hard to see but it is a true classic for bootleg video buyers. His first feature, Poison (1991) was even more controversial. The film was attacked by conservatives and Christians who said it was pornographic, but it won the Grand jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It is now considered a seminal work of the new queer cinema. His short film Dottie Gets Spanked (1993) was aired on PBS. His next feature film Safe (1995) told the story of a women played by his good friend, Julianne Moore, suffering from a breakdown caused by a mysterious illness. Many thought the film was a metaphor of the Aids virus. The movie was a considered to be an outstanding work and one of the best films of the year. In Velvet Goldmine (1998), starring Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor, he combines the visual style of 60s/70s art films and his love for glam rock music to tell the story of a fictional rock star's rise and fall. Far from Heaven (2002), set in the 1950s and starring Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid, is about a Connecticut housewife who discovers that her husband is gay, and has an affair with her black gardener, played by Dennis Haysbert. The film was a critical and box office success, garnering four Academy Awards. It was hailed as a breakthrough for independent film, and brought Haynes mainstream recognition. With I'm Not There (2007), Haynes returned to the theme of musical legend bio, portraying Bob Dylan via seven fictive characters played by six different actors. The film brought him critical claim, with special attention to the casting of Cate Blanchett as arguably the most convincing of the Dylan characters, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. In 2011, Haynes directed Mildred Pierce, a five-hour miniseries for HBO starring Kate Winslet in the title role. His new feature film Carol (2015) with Cate Blanchett premiered at the Cannes International Festival 2015 to rave reviews and won Best Actress for Rooney Mara.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: che

Trivia (8)

Received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art and Semiotics with honors, from Brown University, 1985. Is a member of ACT-UP.
Brother of Shawn Haynes and Wendy Haynes
Often works with Christine Vachon.
Biography in: "Contemporary Authors". Volume 220, pp. 165-168. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2004.
Has directed 3 actresses to Oscar-nominated performances: Julianne Moore, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett.
He wrote the role of Cathy Whitaker in Far from Heaven (2002) specifically for Julianne Moore. She went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the film.
His mother's family was Ashkenazi Jewish (from Poland, Romania, and Russia), and his father has English/Welsh ancestry.
Haynes has made a habit of creating image books as a guide to the visual feel of his films, going back to his drama Safe (1995). The compendiums are culled from photographs, film stills, paintings, periodicals and other sources to generate ideas for the film's style. They are meant initially for the cinematographer. The books are not to be confused with storyboards, the shot-by-shot breakdowns he has made since his first feature, Poison (1991). Haynes said that his image books are "a way of communicating beyond words that gets to the crux of what the mood, temperature and stylistic references would be." And "on a very practical level, it becomes great reference for clothes, hair, makeup, the way women carry themselves in the period and the specificity of how they're being created from the outside in." [from N.Y.Times 2016].

Personal Quotes (12)

I mean, making a film is so scary and there's such a kind of void that you're working from initially. I mean, you can have all the ideas and be as prepared as possible, but you're also still bringing people together and saying, "Trust me", even when you don't necessarily trust every element. You're making something out of nothing and it requires so many people's collaborative efforts and participation that it seems like at any moment it could just fall through the cracks and be gone forever.
You can be a smarty-pants director, but that won't matter if the movie doesn't work emotionally as well as intellectually.
It's funny, when I watched Safe (1995) I thought of Far from Heaven (2002), because Douglas Sirk is famous for his happy endings that aren't really happy endings. You don't really trust the absolute wrapping up or the solving of the problem. In a way, my ending of "Far from Heaven" is not exactly a Sirkian ending, because it's kind of full of despair and loss. When I saw "Safe", I thought, "That's a Sirkian happy ending." Carol follows all the steps and says she made herself sick and says all the things people are telling her to say, but you know, in your heart, that's not really what you want for her, but it's sort of what society tells us what we're supposed to do. I got my Sirk ending in there somewhere.[Laughs][2014]
It's impossible to overstate the experience of working with Julianne Moore on Safe (1995), and the projects that followed. I don't think I ever wrote or conceived of a more challenging character on the page for an actor to embody than Carol White, who's just so absent from herself when you first encounter her. There's so many barriers set up for the viewer's access to her that we usually come to expect from movies, not the least of which is the fact she's not a very fleshed-out or interesting person. Initially, Julianne had total respect for that predicament: the fragility of the interior world of Carol White. Julianne not only respected the character and the person, but also the filmmaking, which really distinguishes her from a lot of actors. Julianne really thinks about what the stylistic language of the film is and what the frame is, and she really wants to work with directors who have a strong sense of how that process can be articulated in different ways to serve different kinds of stories. She understands that, so she doesn't try to fill in as some actors, understandably, feel compelled to do, to feel they're helping the viewer out. Ultimately, Julianne recognizes viewers have incredible intuition, and power of reading information on the screen, and reading narrative form and style. An audience's hunger for stories to unfold a certain way are actually opportunities actors and directors have at their disposal to illicit but also betray, play with, or toy with - and we were certainly doing some of that with "Safe". She really trusted me and the writing, but, ultimately, it's the trust in herself that gives her the ability to underplay and let an audience find you in the frame, and not always be waving desperately for their attention. She's really extraordinary that way. When I saw it again recently she... I'm proud of the film, but it rests entirely on that performance. It's an inconceivable piece of work without someone as powerful as Julianne at the core.[2014]
[on his home base Portland] I love it. I still feel a tremendous amount of relief when I come back here, because it's a beautiful, vital, and exciting city.[2014]
In Safe (1995), Carol's introduced almost as one of the objects of her house, almost competing for a sense of importance or presence with the objects in her house. She ultimately comes to realize there's tremendous danger within the walls of what would otherwise be described as the American dream home: full of all the material comforts we covet as a culture. It's very much like the Sirkian homes, from Douglas Sirk's films, which are these magazine images of idyllic dream interiors. The clothes, costumes and stylings of those films only contribute to that sense of an almost unbearably perfect domestic life, that none of the subjects in these films can quite live up to. Their limitations as subjects or characters is what's so poignant about those films - that they're not nearly as gorgeous, heroic and victorious as they look. There's a sense of loneliness and despair living amongst perfection.[2014]
[on Los Angeles in Safe (1995)] I still feel that way about LA: everyone is sealed off in their separate vehicles. There's a glassed-in feeling about life in Los Angeles, and it's quite different from life in the East Coast. I remember thinking of the films of Stanley Kubrick and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and trying to infuse suburban life with that weird sense of being in a completely controlled environment, where there's conveyer walkways, carpeted walls, and where nothing feels it's been bruised by human soiling. It's beyond human, in a way. You find this fragile subject, Carol, at the center of this alienated life and world, which really does come through. It speaks a lot to that city.[2014]
[on Safe (1995)] It was a tough shoot. I've told this story before, but we lived through the L.A. earthquake on Safe (1995), and it really did send shudders through the production itself. So we found ourselves shooting scenes with aftershocks still happening. in fact, this was true of all of the scenes at Wrenwood, which we shot at a Jewish day camp in Simi Valley, which was close to the epicenter of that earthquake in January of '94. Literally, we were shooting through aftershocks, like the scene were Julianne [Julianne Moore] gives that amazing, rambling speech at the end on her birthday celebration at Wrenwood. The reaction shot of Peter [Peter Friedman] and Claire [Kate McGregor-Stewart] and James Le Gros all looking at her - an aftershock actually occurred on camera, and they were just acting through it. The sense of existential uncertainty that the film does convey was only strengthened by the actual seismic conditions we were experiencing at the time. And it made everything just feel like we were really hanging from this apocalyptic edge where [producers] Christine [Christine Vachon] and Lauren Zalaznick and I were all living, right off Cahuenga and Hollywood Boulevard. It's in a really seedy part of Hollywood in a very cheap and seedy apartment house we could afford. The car wash across the street became a service center and water-resource center for people after the earthquake. Everything that was at work in that film was being played out externally around us in a trippy way. That didn't make it easier, but it sort of resounded in what we were doing as filmmakers.[2014]
[on shooting _Safe (1995) low budget] Like most of the films I've made, every single frame - and certainly every single day of shooting - had to be incredibly well-planned. We were still drawing on and exhausting all those favors that burgeoning feature filmmakers exhaust from family and friends at the beginnings of their careers. I shot some of the film in my uncle's house in Malibu. I shot some of the film at my grandparents' house at Laurel Canyon, and we exhausted all the possible resources that we could around us. But mostly, it just meant really careful planning and discussion with [cinematographer] Alex Nepomniaschy and myself, the designers of the film, and everybody involved. That's really what was accomplished. I knew I really wanted that pristine, almost Kubrickian austerity to the look of the film, and the way that Carol White is set up as almost part of the mise en scene, or one of the objects that she inhabits in the film as much as the central character at the beginning of the story.[2014]
It's hard to overestimate the importance of casting in films, and finding the right person for the role, but in this particular case, I don't know if I had a bigger eureka moment than when Julianne Moore auditioned for me for Safe (1995). I had just been getting to know her [on screen]. I had just seen an early advance screening of Short Cuts (1993), but I hadn't seen her work on soap operas like some of my friends did, and didn't really know who she was. She was starting to be discussed as someone who had a bit of buzz in the industry, and then I saw "Short Cuts", and I was sufficiently blown away by her in that. It was an extraordinarily brave performance. But still, this role was so transparent. And I was impressed with how she could make somebody who is that much of a cipher into somebody who you believe is a real person, but not over imbuing it with too much editorializing or second guessing, or kind of winking to the audience. That took a kind of bravery on her part, and an intuition that I never fully appreciated until she was there in the room doing it for me. All of a sudden, it really was a flesh-and-blood person who was speaking these lines, and that felt like a revelation. She said something similar about having read the script saying she was very excited about it, and she had never read something like it.[2014]
[on Safe (1995)] It's an experiment, that movie. It was very much so at the time, and it remains so. It's the kind of film that people didn't really know what to make of initially, and it probably took a little longer...Well, all my films take a little time for some people to appreciate, and that was certainly true with Safe (1995). Maybe that came somewhat from expectations coming out of "New Queer Cinema," as it was called at the time, and really taking a very different course from the kind of stories and settings of films that were associated with [that movement]. But it was definitely something I conceived of fairly quickly after Poison (1991). That it got made is really a testament to [producer] Christine Vachon's persistence. It wouldn't have gotten financed without her. I really was interested in doing it, and I really believed in it. It was a tough call to get the financing. All we needed was $1 million to make "Safe". Even that little amount back then was tough. She just wouldn't stop, and she was fearless, and the film owes its very existence to that tenacity.[2014]
Love stories, unlike war films which are about conquering the object, are about conquering the subject. It's always the subject who is in a state of vulnerability and peril. What I loved about the story is that what happens to the two women moves them through a series of events which change them both, and by the end of the film it shifts. All the elements of looking and who's being looked at, were conducive to the cinematic feeling.

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