×

Todd Haynes on ‘Wonderstruck’: ‘It Is a Kids’ Movie’

Wonderstruck,” in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, is director Todd Haynes’ seventh feature film, his fourth with Julianne Moore, and his first for Amazon Studios, which backed it along with Roadside Attractions. The film is “weird, wild, and not like anything I can think of,” he tells Variety. It also turns out it’s a kids’ movie.

You’ve talked in Cannes about making something kids would love. Was that always the idea?

It is a kids’ movie, and that’s something I could never have conceived myself from scratch. I think [illustrated novel and screenplay writer] Brian Selznick has some strange line in to the idiosyncrasies of kids that shows them utter respect and is true.

In process of making this movie, by working with kids, working with deaf kids, showing cuts of the film to kids as we were making it, they taught me everything I needed to know about making this film. They will always be more radical and surprising and open than adults.

What I always felt, and the reason I wanted to do it, was that it is an incredibly rich and unique gift for kids. It’s not like anything else kids get and they are totally capable of getting into a movie like this.

Millicent Simmonds was a first-timer and deaf. How would you characterize her performance?

When the sound, the image, the story, and dialogue are all saying the same thing and hitting you over the head, personally I just disengage. When there is something of a mystery, an unfinished sentence, you add the punctuation and it invites you in. I felt that Julianne Moore could do that from the beginning of her career, because we’ve spanned a career together, but to see it in a kid like Millie, that level of mystery, is truly revelatory.

The silent parts of the film had French subtitles at the Cannes screenings. Will they remain in the final international versions?

That was bizarre. That was a mistake and I have to remove them. They were making the presumption that some lines are visibly readable to an English-speaking audience, but it’s too distracting.

There’s almost 90 minutes of score in the film. Was the music more important because of the dialogue-free element of the movie?

It became part of the process of building the film in ways I can’t find any parallels to. We could not put two shots from the black-and-white story together without having music selected first upon which it would sit. Music was the utter foundation for building the film and that was such a unique demand and structuring device for the film, and particular challenge for the composer of the film [Carter Burwell].

You’ve talked up working with Amazon Studios. Do you care about the platform on which your work is released?

I do need to know about the platform and release. I would not have been interested in working with them if there was no theatrical release for the film. That’s absolutely essential to me; it’s essential to them as well.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • BETWEEN TWO FERNS, 2019, PH_0027.RAF

    Film Review: 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'

    If you’re a fan of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” the fake public-access talk show that Zach Galifianakis has been hosting online, for three to six minutes a pop, over the last 10 years, then you’ll probably like “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” the snark-lite 82-minute road movie that Galifianakis and his director and [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese, Frances McDormand, Donald Sutherland Join Lineup of France's Lumiere Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s eagerly awaited Netflix movie “The Irishman” wasn’t completed on time to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’s topper, managed to pin down the high-profile movie and Scorsese himself for the upcoming Lumiere festival in Lyon next month. Dedicated to heritage movies, the Lumiere festival was created 10 years [...]

  • 'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for

    'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for a Broader Diversity of Storytelling in Movies and TV

    The star of “Aladdin,” Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, called for a greater diversity of storytelling in movies and television when he spoke at the glamorous opening ceremony Thursday of the 3rd edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival. Massoud, whose credits include Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and Hulu’s “Reprisal,” lauded “the power of art” [...]

  • 4127_D015_00199_RC(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Beats 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo: Last Blood' on Thursday Night

    “Downton Abbey,” the movie continuation of the hit TV series centering on the Crawley family, has won Thursday previews with $2.1 million from 2,800 North American locations. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” has launched with $1.5 million in previews, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: Last Blood” scooped up $1.3 million at nearly 2,900 [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Benedict Andrews (L) and US actress

    Kristen Stewart on the 'Insane Gall' of Directors as 'Seberg' Arrives in San Sebastian

    SAN SEBASTIAN – On Friday, Kristen Stewart and Benedict Andrews’ political thriller “Seberg” plays at the 67th San Sebastian Film Festival, where it opens Perlak, a section dedicated to the Spanish premieres of major international films. The star and her director addressed the media prior to the screening in the festival’s first high-profile press conference, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content