Todd Field, a one-man band with rare films

Director Todd Field, January 11, 2023, at the premiere of his film

At the turn of the millennium it appeared as the new promise of American cinema. Two movies: In the bedroomwith Sissy Spacek (2001, five Oscar nominations), and Small childrenwith Kate Winslet (2006, three Oscar nominations). And then, nothing. Todd Field disappeared. Registered since then in the mysterious pantheon of erratic directors, such as Terrence Malick and others, it would take seventeen years to reappear with Tar.

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“I miss my family, it’s a snow day today, and my son, as of now, is home from school…” Behind his computer, Todd Field sips his morning coffee. He’s in Los Angeles, we’re in Paris, and his real life is in Rockland, Maine. Mystery of Extinction: Depression, Agoraphobia, Bankruptcy? He laughs, none of that. Seventeen years ago, while on tour for the release of Small childrenhis wife announces to him that she is pregnant. “We already had three children. And we spent our youth running around trying to keep the lights on. I thought it would be a good idea to stay home to watch this one grow and take a little more active part in it. »

The voice – young, joyful, detached – does not match the image we get of him on the internet. A 58-year-old man with a half-moon face, outline moustache, thick black hair under a felt hat or baseball cap. Todd Field apologizes: his computer is blind, the camera no longer works, it will be a “video” without seeing… You don’t hang out with a ghost, especially if he’s friendly.

Tar is a film that comes from afar, I have been thinking about this character for more than ten years. But, to be able to write a screenplay, you need four or five months without thinking about anything else or working to earn money. I have quite a large family and not such a large bank account.”, explains the director, who has lived for seventeen years by making commercials or working on scripts for others. However, at the beginning of childbirth, Focus studios (a subsidiary of Universal) offered him to write a film without forcing a subject on him. “They presented me with a blank slate. It is very rare. »

A sharpshooter

Todd Field was only 19 when he arrived in New York to become an actor. In Portland, Oregon, where he grew up, benefiting from a scholarship to study music, he switched to the theater option to follow a girlfriend, and then, pushed by a teacher, decided to try his luck trying the East Coast. We could see it Radio Days (1987), by Woody Allen, as a pianist in Eyes wide shut (1999), by Stanley Kubrick… But it was always, he explains, for “get closer to a camera”. The same reason that drove him, a student, to act in one of these educational films that one shows in the colleges. The title: Self-esteem: It’s up to you! (“self-esteem is your business”). Todd Field bursts out laughing: “I don’t know if it was prophetic, or pathetic! »

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