Todd Field was working as an actor on Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” when star Tom Cruise took him aside. Cruise looked Field in the eye and told the aspiring author that he would be a director one day. “He basically pushed me onto the fighter jet,” Field recalled. VarietyAwards Circuit Podcast. “I said, ‘oh yeah, I went to film school.’ And he said, ‘no, no… you’re going to DIRECT.’ What are you going to do?”
This time with the superstar had a profound effect on Field, who was then pursuing an acting career, with previous film credits that included “Radio Days” (1987) and “Sleep with Me” (1994).
Field, of course, eventually became a famous filmmaker. But 16 years have passed since the theatrical release of his last film “Little Children” (2006). Now he’s back with his best movie yet, “Tár,” starring Cate Blanchett.
On this week’s episode of the award-winning show Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, we sit down with Todd Field, the writer, director and producer of “Tár”, as he discusses his work with Blanchett and Nina Hoss, as well as some of the most burning questions of film and time that it will take us to get another feature from him.
It may have been 16 years since “Little Children,” Todd Field’s last film, but it only took him three months to write “Tár.” And a fictional composer’s psychological look at the world has generated many thought-provoking conversations from audiences.
“Tár” focuses on two-time Oscar winner Lydia Tár, played by Blanchett (“The Aviator” and “Blue Jasmine”), a lesbian composer who becomes the first woman to conduct a major German orchestra.
After premiering at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals, the film opened to rave reviews from critics, placing the film firmly in the middle of the Oscar race in all categories.
Field’s previous two feature films were both adaptations of other stories, earning him two nominations for best-adapted screenplay of their respective years. “Tár” is his first original story, but not the only original screenplay he has ever written. When Field finished his fellowship at the American Film Institute in the early 1990s, he wrote an original screenplay which he describes as his version of “400 Blows” (1959), the French coming-of-age classic by Francois Truffaut. “I gave it to my agent at the time who said the 1980s were not an era.”
Field was depressed and discouraged by this response, and never showed it to anyone.
So naturally, when Focus Features President Peter Kujawski asked Field to write whatever he wanted, Field was worried. “When someone gives you that kind of freedom and respect, you’re desperate to meet them, head-on,” he says.
In about twelve weeks, and at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Field wrote the screenplay for “Tár”. “I’m not a plotter,” he said. “I normally think about the characters. I am interested in people and observe their behavior.
Before directing his first two feature films – ‘In the Bedroom’ (2001) and ‘Little Children’ – Field starred in films such as ‘Twister’ (1996) alongside the likes of Bill Paxton and Philip Seymour Hoffman. He remembers “being bombarded with real hail of machines, having his scalp split and having to put stitches on himself”.
As for what he’s been up to for the past 16 years, it’s not as complicated as many think. “I was raising children,” he says. “Trying to keep the lights on.”
What’s next for Field? Along with knowing he’s no longer attached to the Hulu series “The Devil in White Town,” the filmmaker says he has a few ideas in the works. One is a project he wants to do with Blanchett and his “Little Children” star Kate Winslet. “I have this idea,” he said. “I still kinda think about the two ‘C/Kates’ and how we thought of DeNiro and Pacino before they were in that scene in Michael Mann’s ‘Heat’. It was there when we were all waiting to have a scene with the two of them together. I think ‘C/Kates’ at some point, they have to work together.
Also in this episode, actor Jeremy Pope talks about his role in the new film “The Inspection”, from writer and director Elegance Bratton. He talks about his love for Broadway, his upcoming opening alongside Paul Bettany, and being seen in Hollywood.
Plus, the panel returns to discuss some of the year’s best animated and documentary films (with “Good Night Oppy” hitting theaters this week and “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” premiering at the ‘AFI Film Fest).
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, who also co-hosts with Clayton Davis, is your one-stop-shop for lively conversations about the best in film and TV. Each week, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; And much more. Subscribe through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts. New episodes released every week.