Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen Q&A: ‘Carol’ producers
With wins from the New York Film Critics Circle for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay and Cinematography, the effort to bring Todd Haynes’s “Carol” to the screen is certainly proving fruitful. In our recent audio chat, producers Christine Vachon and Elizabeth Karlsen share their insights into the making of the film, which, as Karlsen admits, took “great passion and a lot of hard work."
“The nuts and bolts of the story are that we made a film together about 12 years ago called ‘Mrs. Harris,’” Karlsen continues. That film was written and directed by Phyllis Nagy, who later approached Karlsen with a script for “Carol,” her adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel "The Price of Salt" about a love affair between a shopgirl (Rooney Mara) and a married woman (Cate Blanchett).
Karlsen loved the script, but reveals, “There was a slight hitch, which was that the rights to the novel were tied up elsewhere. So it took 11 years before those rights became free, and the second they became free, I agreed to pursue them with the aggression of a small terrier.”
However, the film still had many starts and stops, even with Blanchett set to star in the title role. It was during a conversation with Vachon that Karlsen first floated the idea of sending the script to Haynes. “He’s an extraordinarily meticulous filmmaker,” explains Vachon, who has worked with the director on all six of his feature films as well as the TV miniseries "Mildred Pierce."
“Like many of our movies, ‘Carol’s' eyes were too big for its stomach. It was a very challenging budget, and given Todd’s perfectionism, which obviously shows in the film in the most beautiful and exhilarating ways, it wasn’t easy to get that out of the limited dollars that we had.”
“Carol” recently received nominations from the Indie Spirit Awards for Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Cinematography, and Actress for both Blanchett and Mara. Vachon is no stranger to these kudos, having won their Best Picture prize for producing Haynes' “Far From Heaven.” She also contended in that category for three of his other films (“Safe” in 1995, “Velvet Goldmine” in 1998, and “I’m Not There” in 2007) as well as with “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” in 2001. And she was nominated in Best First Feature for Haynes' “Poison” in 1991 as well as “Swoon” in 1992, “I Shot Andy Warhol” in 1996 and “Boys Don’t Cry” in 1999.
Karlsen contended at the BAFTAs for Best British Film with “Little Voice” (1998). Both Karlsen and Vachon competed at the Emmys and the PGA Awards for the telefilm “Mrs. Harris," while Vachon was also Emmy- and PGA-nommed for her work on “Mildred Pierce” (2011).