Three years ago, writer-director Todd Haynes found himself
depressed and burned out from the life in New York City he had known
for the last 15 years.
"I never found a really comfortable setting for my life there,"
he recalls. For most of his time in the city, Haynes hadn't even
fully unpacked, and his possessions collected in boxes.
As he gained prominence as a filmmaker with the critically
acclaimed "Safe" and "Velvet Goldmine," Haynes recalls, "I just
started to feel reduced by that experience. Every time I left my
apartment, that's what I was to friends and strangers, and I didn't
know where to go for something else."
It turns out the something else that Haynes sought was in
Portland, Ore., where the filmmaker first went to write a script
(his sister lives there), and he wound up staying.
"This place engendered a real change in me," says Haynes, clad
comfortably in a vintage shirt. "I started to enjoy myself again."
Haynes joins Gus Van Sant, who recently moved back to Portland
after a brief stay in New York, as the city's most famous filmmaking
Born and raised in the Los Angeles area, Haynes says relocating
to outside America's traditional entertainment capitals has helped
bring a new perspective to his work.
Ironically, though, the movie that resulted is the independent
filmmaker's closest in spirit to Hollywood - albeit one that exists
only in the past.
"Far From Heaven," opening in theaters Nov. 8, is a melodrama set
in the prim-and-proper 1950s, about an upper-middle-class
Connecticut housewife (Julianne Moore) who, upon discovering her
husband (Dennis Quaid) is a closeted homosexual, confides in her
African-American gardener, much to the chagrin of her gossiping
Haynes's film recalls director Douglas Sirk's Hollywood work of
the 1950s with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman, such as "All That Heaven
Allows" and "Magnificent Obsession."
At the time, these were referred to as "women's pictures," and
proved very popular. Although Sirk's pictures have today gained
greater critical praise than upon their initial release, that genre
has largely died out.
"The hardest thing about getting this film made was simply that
it's about a woman who's not being played by Julia Roberts,"
recounts Haynes. "I actually think it'd be easier to get a film made
about a woman in the '50s than it is today."
What Haynes could do that filmmakers of the 1950s couldn't,
however, is explore themes like homosexuality and interracial
romance in a melodramatic context with a sincere, non-satiric
"Far From Heaven" follows 1995's "Safe" as Haynes's second
collaboration with Julianne Moore, for whom the lead role was
specifically written. …