Todd Haynes born 2 January 1961
Maverick, one-time New Queer Cinema director Todd Haynes was born in Encino, California, and has had a controversial career.
His 1987 film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (which chronicles the life of American singer Karen Carpenter using Barbie dolls as actors) caused Richard Carpenter to sue him and was removed from distribution.
His 1991 debut, Poison, based on the writings of Jean Genet, and partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, was targeted by the American Family Association's, Rev. Donald Wildmon as inappropriately federally funded 'filth'. Poison won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival 1991. His second effort, 1995's Safe, confirmed him as a maverick director capable of dealing with more issues than his new queer cinema tag might indicate.
He also directed the glam rock-inspired Velvet Goldmine (1998), and the Douglas Sirk-inspired Far From Heaven (2002).
Only Poison, Velvet Goldmine, and Far from Heaven deal directly with homosexuality. But all of Haynes' films subvert conventional narrative structure, a structure he associates with the dominant heterosexual culture and its artifacts. The experimental, non-linear, and complex narrative designs of his films qualify them all as queer, according to Haynes. Each of Haynes' films is unique, each employing a distinctly experimental structure. Yet they are united by a common concern with the problem of identity and by their relentless opposition to the dominant discourses and images of heterosexual Hollywood.
During the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, Haynes premiered I'm Not There, an experimental film based on the life and legends of Bob Dylan, with the singer-songwriter being portrayed by six actors: Richard Gere, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw and Christian Bale.
Haynes' current project is a five-hour miniseries for HBO of Mildred Pierce based on the novel by James M. Cain and the 1945 film starring Joan Crawford. The cast stars Kate Winslet in the title role. Filming was completed in mid 2010 and the series is scheduled to air on HBO in Spring 2011.
Haynes is a semiotics graduate of Brown University, and received an MFA from Bard College. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon.
Photograph of Todd Haynes by Joyce George
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