Todd Haynes is not a filmmaker who is afraid to take risks. When you look at his films, Haynes often tells stories of relationships that push the lines of decency. Not necessarily in some sort of explicit sexual way, but definitely in terms of societal taboos. Now, with Oscar buzz being built around his latest film, “May December,” it appears Haynes is ready to push his storytelling expertise even further with the help of one of the best actors working today.
Speaking to Variety, while promoting the aforementioned “May December,” Todd Haynes teased what he is hoping will be the next film on his schedule, an untitled feature starring Joaquin Phoenix. The film is described as a period drama about two men and their romantic relationship during a time when that sort of thing was definitely going against social norms. But in describing how the film and the story came together, Haynes explained how Phoenix became a driving force in trying to get the filmmaker to push things further.
“It’s a love story between two men set in the ‘30s that has explicit sexual content that or at least it challenges you with the sexual relationship between these two men,” said Haynes. “One is a Native American character and one is a corrupt cop in LA…They have to flee L.A. ultimately and go to Mexico. But it’s a love story and with a strong sexual component.”
He continued, “And what was so remarkable is that it all started with Joaquin having some ideas and some thoughts and just questions and images. And he came to me and said, ‘Does this connect to you at all?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, this is really interesting.’ And so we would just be on the phone talking and it developed into a script.”
As for what Phoenix contributed when developing the script with Haynes, the filmmaker explained that the Oscar-winning actor kept pushing the story further and further into, perhaps, “dangerous territory.”
“He had fragments of ideas and then I started to formulate them into an actual narrative,” Haynes said. “And then I brought my wonderful, brilliant friend John Raymond, with whom I collaborated with on ‘Mildred Pierce’ into the process. Basically it was just this wonderful, organic way to create the script. And Joaquin was pushing it further into more dangerous territory, sexually.”
Obviously, when you talk about sexually explicit films featuring a gay relationship, the next question has to be about which studio would be willing to finance the venture. Well, thankfully, Todd Haynes and Joaquin Phoenix are two of the biggest names in Hollywood, and that sort of cache goes a long way. Not only that, the filmmaker is hoping to keep costs down so that they have much more creative control.
“I want to do it as cheaply as we can so we have all the freedom to do it the way we want,” the filmmaker said.
Clearly, there are no definites in Hollywood, but this feels as if Haynes is sure the film will eventually get made, and soon. Just from his brief descriptions, this film feels as if it could be another strong entry in Haynes’ filmography.
“May December” is set to arrive in select theaters on November 17 before hitting Netflix on December 1.