CANNES — Twenty-two years. That’s how long it’s been since Todd Haynes and Julianne Moore first worked together in the now-indie-classic “Safe.” The pair reunited to spectacular effect in “Far From Heaven,” and Moore had a small supporting role in Haynes’ massive ensemble piece “I’m Not There.” Now, they’re back together once more in the feature film adaptation of Brian Selznick‘s “Wonderstruck,” which premiered at the 70th Cannes Film Festival on Thursday.
During the official press conference for the Amazon Studios release, both Moore and Haynes were asked to reflect on their long working relationship. Moore immediately started laughing, noting, “He’s much meaner now.”
It was immediately obvious that Haynes, who was last at Cannes two years ago for the critically acclaimed “Carol,” takes his collaborations with Moore very much to heart.
“This has been amazing through line in my personal life,” Haynes says. “We were a lot younger when we did ‘Safe,’ but I was stunned by this sense that I found a creative soulmate who could understand this almost unimaginable character and brought a dimension to it I was still feeling out in a void. She brought specificity and clarity to that role and made that film work…It wasn’t until there was this person interpreting and [bringing] meaning and specificity to it that made that film land in that way. It’s just been a gift, and I keep going back, just throwing her very different challenges every time. And in the fourth film we did together, ‘I’m Not There,’ [she] played this homage to Joan Baez that cracked me up so much I that I had to leave the room, I was ruining the takes. It’s an amazing thing to find a partner in that way.”
Moore reflected back to their initial meeting, recalling, “What a shock for me to read this script so long ago and wonder, ‘How am I gonna get this part?’ And then to walk in and meet this man and have the privilege [to make a movie with him]. Honestly he’s an absolute genius. Michelle [Williams] and I were just talking about this. You don’t have to do anything. He’s done it all for you. Tactically, technically, linguistically. All you have to do is enter the world.”
“Wonderstruck” finds Moore technically playing three roles. She’s initially seen as fictional silent-film-era star Lillian Mayhew, then as Mayhew playing a character her deaf daughter Rose (Millicent Simmonds) watches in a movie house, and as Rose 50 years later in ’70s-era New York. Williams portrays the mother of Ben (Oakes Fegley), a 12-year-old who journeys to New York hoping to find his father, and who also has an unknown connection to Rose.
“I had an extraordinary opportunity in this film to play two different parts in two different time periods,” Moore says. “It was so interesting to hear Todd talk about making things and building things for me because of who I played and the genres which I was participating in the film, the silent-film genre and the theatrical genre, and then later on the character in the ’70s who spoke [American Sign Language]. For me, I felt it all boiled down to how we communicate and what languages we use and how we effectively use our bodies, our hands, ourselves, without spoken English. So, that was a first.”
She continues, “People who understand culture are people who can live in both rooms. I think for people who are in deaf families, for me as a hearing person, this is my first experience with deaf culture. I didn’t get to be in both rooms, but I was allowed to stand in the doorway. It completely changed the way I saw it. It was a great gift.”
“Wonderstruck” opens in limited release on Oct. 20th.