When you trace the filmmaking career of Todd Field, you start to see how the filmmaker has had just an incredible number of projects fall apart or just not come together. This is shown in his filmography, where there are huge gaps in his output. He seems to be one of the preeminent examples of a filmmaker who just doesn’t seem to land his original idea and then settles for something else, only to then see that resulting project be immensely beloved. And that is perfectly encapsulated in his quest to adapt Richard Yates’ novel, “Revolutionary Road,” into a feature film.
Speaking to Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, Todd Field dove deep into his desire to adapt Richard Yates’ acclaimed novel, “Revolutionary Road,” into a feature film and how it led to the creation of “Little Children.” The filmmaker explained that he was taking meetings, attempting to get “Revolutionary Road” because he was so enamored with the original source material.
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“That was the film I really wanted to make,” said Field.
He added, “It’s the ultimate [story of] dashed American dreams or the lie of the middle class in the suburbs. It’s the seminal novel. It really is.”
However, after that project eventually went to Sam Mendes, Field found himself meeting with someone who suggested he take a look at Tom Perrotta’s novel, “Little Children.” Though very different in their time periods and stories, “Little Children” appealed to Field because it still tackled that sort of dark suburban tale that he was hoping to make with “Revolutionary Road.” There was just one problem—he thought “Little Children” would be best served as a limited series. And this was back in 2005, when the idea of miniseries and prestige limited series was unheard of.
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“I’m suspicious that what is so great about the novel, we’ll lose. It has all of these wonderful character digressions. Just wonderful,” explained the filmmaker. “So, I said, ‘Why don’t we take it to HBO and see if they’ll make it into a miniseries?’ They said, ‘Nobody makes miniseries anymore. No one would ever do that. There’s no such form.’”
Field explained that producer Scott Rudin came in and purchased the rights to “Little Children” and wanted to make it into a feature film. This forced the filmmaker’s hand. Eventually, Todd Field and Scott Rudin came to an agreement, and the film was set up at New Line with different executives.
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When asked if “Little Children” was a sort of “modern interpretation” of the story in “Revolutionary Road,” Field replied, “Absolutely.”
Of course, as mentioned above, Field landed on his feet just fine. “Little Children” would go on to be nominated for three Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, which he co-wrote with Perrotta. So, even though “Revolutionary Road” would find another filmmaker to bring it to life (with a hugely acclaimed, award-winning adaptation, no less), Field was still able to tell his dark suburban tale.
Todd Field’s latest film, “Tar,” is available now on VOD.