Todd Haynes Interview: ‘Wonderstruck’ director
“The story was so unlike anything I’ve encountered,” reveals Todd Haynes as we chat via webcam (watch the exclusive video above) about his new film “Wonderstruck.” Based on the young adult novel by Brian Selznick, the film centers on the peculiar connection between a deaf girl (Millicent Simmonds) in the 1920s and an orphaned boy with hearing loss (Oakes Fegley) in the 1970s. “Basically, the film is a mystery,” adds Haynes. “The mystery keeps getting restated every time you cut between the two because the question is asked, Why? Why are these two stories being shared by one film? What are the reasons linking them?”
Throughout his career, Haynes has focused on outsiders, people who exist on the fringes of society because of their sexuality, race, or gender. That was true of “Wonderstruck” as well. “I liked the loneliness both kids shared,” he divulges, “and the ways that their creative interests and hobbies and curiosities were also things that were going to help them figure out their way… and give them a method for telling their own stories, and finding out the answers to these questions.”
Additionally, he was excited by the opportunity to direct a film “that doesn’t rely on spoken dialogue.” This meant that “everything had to rely on the visual language of cinema,” including “music and cinematography and performances that were about gestures and faces and looks… If all these things could work together, you could be compelled emotionally through the story without dialogue steering you.”
Haynes competed at the Oscars in Best Original Screenplay for “Far From Heaven” (2002), which also brought him Golden Globe and WGA noms. He contended at the Globes and BAFTA for directing “Carol” (2015) and at the Emmys for writing, directing, and producing the limited series “Mildred Pierce” (2011). Will “Wonderstruck” return him to the awards circuit? Check out our full interview above for more about Haynes’ work, including reuniting with frequent muse Julianne Moore.