Todd Haynes is one of the most gifted filmmakers working today, acclaimed for everything from his student film Superstar (1987) to his debut feature Poison (1991), Safe (1995), Velvet Goldmine (1998) and now Far From Heaven, which earned him his first Oscar nomination. Todd is also a remarkably nice guy—down-to-earth, articulate and opinionated, and passionate about the cinema. When Rich met Todd in London, they quickly discovered that besides sharing a love of film, they share a common background: Both were raised in 1960s Los Angeles. And both have no desire to go back...
Rich: Talk a bit about your background. You were born in L.A., did you grow up there?
Todd: I grew up there and left as soon as I was able. I suspected something else lurked somewhere else and I was right.
Rich: What were you looking for?
Todd: I think I was looking for New York. When I was 9 and I visited New York with my grandparents I was just like in heaven. And I loved our family trips to San Francisco. Anything more urban or European.
Rich: Well L.A. in the ’60s was still not terribly urban; back then it was extremely rural.
Todd: Absolutely. Definitely.
Rich: So you were exposed to New York as a child, then did you always have this aspiration to get there
Todd: Pretty much yes. I loved the city. I think at the time all I wanted to do was go to Europe, and I became kind of an art house movie snob by the time was a young teenager. I loved Bergman and Fellini and Antonioni. And you can see all those movies, as you probably remember, at the revival houses around L.A. I lived in those theatres and actually took a year off before I going to college at Brown University to travel Europe and do the Eur-Rail pass and get in there. And that was amazing. Maybe your first time ever at the Louvre or places that are most impactful. I’m sure being that age helped too, but I don’t know if you can ever relive that amazing openness.
Rich: Did you just go straight into film then? You say you were obsessed with film as a youngster.
Todd: Yes, I was obsessed with film from the very first film I saw which was Mary Poppins when I was three. And I was absolutely, just, that was it!
Rich: Mine was Snow White.
Todd: How old were you when you went?
Rich: I was probably about 4 or 5, at a drive-in. I still remember the film in detail.
Todd: Yeah! God, is that intense? It’s amazing.
Rich: Exactly. So after studying film did you find it difficult to get going in the whole business?
Todd: Well, I never intended to get going in the business. I assumed, given my interest in film and art, that I would never have a career in film, that I would teach and make my own weird films on the side. And I made my film Superstar about Karen Carpenter while I was in my MFA programme.