Todd Haynes woke up this morning to 21 Emmy nominations for his Mildred Pierce HBO miniseries, and celebrated by telling WW that he and fellow Emmy nominee Jonathan Raymond have begun research for a film project about contemporary right-wing populist movements in America.
That's right: Todd Haynes, Portland's crown prince of New Queer Cinema, is working on a Tea Party movie.
"It's really, really early, so it's hard to talk about it," Haynes said, "except to say that it examines the populist conservative culture, and the latest chapter of paranoia in the American political style."
That sure sounds like they're making a Tea Party movie, we said.
"Well, yeah, kind of," Haynes replied. "Kind of are. We're really curious about what's been going on, and concerned. But I think we have to approach it from the inside-out, and not the outside-in, which is really where we stand in our lives. So it will be a process, that's for sure."
Haynes has a history with right-wingers, and it's definitely combative: In 1991, Rev. Donald Wildemon of the American Family Association in Mississippi condemned the National Endowment for the Arts for funding Haynes' Poison, which he said featured "explicit porno scenes of homosexuals involved in anal sex." (It didn't.) Haynes' Far From Heaven also explored homophobia and racism.
Still, Haynes—who recently returned home to Portland after nearly a year making Mildred Pierce in New York and Los Angeles—is eager to explore conservatism.
"It's be amazing," Haynes said. "It's great to work with Jon [Raymond], and I think we both have a similar curiosity, and frustration with aspects of it. But the way we want to approach it narratively is without a strong judgmental point of view going in. Which is tough."
Haynes said he and Raymond have begun research by reading Richard J. Hofstadter's 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."
"The basic tenants, the basic instincts, the basic characteristics of a lot of these feelings of disempowerment and resentment—of elite culture and educated culture and Ivy League leadership—just all of it is all there. It's just amazing how far back the roots go."
While Haynes says the project is a long way from a title or even a format, Haynes said HBO has invited him to return in the wake of Mildred Pierce's success.
"The door seems to be open, and the welcome mat is extended to us with HBO," Haynes said. "I have to say, that was an exemplary experience for me."
Haynes will be appearing with his longtime producer Christine Vachon at the NW Film Center on Sunday, July 24 to discuss their work. The Film Center will also be showing the entirety of Mildred Pierce (again, 21 Emmy nods!) on the big screen next week.
Look for a full interview with Haynes (including more details on upcoming Portland projects) in next Wednesday's paper.