‘Carol’ Q&A with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes and Phyllis Nagy
Following our glowing review of upcoming drama Carol, we were delighted to attend the film’s London press conference today (14.10.15), as attended by stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, director Todd Haynes, screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, and producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Christine Vachon.
The general consensus among the panel was that Carol delivers a timeless love story, which shouldn’t necessarily be treated differently, or politically, just because that love is between two women living in the 1950s.
“This is, at its root, a love story. And it’s always the right time for love stories,” said screenwriter Phyllis Nagy when asked why Carol is being released now, as opposed to any other moment in time.
Cate Blanchett added: “Even if this film had been made five or ten years ago, and if it were exactly the same, I think it would’ve been perceived as more political. I think the landscape, or the conversation, around same-sex relationships has been advanced in a lot of countries, and therefore the universality of the love story comes to the fore, rather than any sort of political agenda”.
Speaking of political agendas, Blanchett doesn’t believe that the female-centricity of Carol needs to be made an issue out of.
“Every time there are interesting, complex roles played by actresses on screen, someone says ‘Do you think this is a breakthrough?’ and ‘Does this mean that there’s going to be more?’. We seem to every year find ourselves in the same conversation, that somehow it’s remarkable. I think there’s a swathe of great roles for women, and certainly a swathe of wonderful female performers. I think it’s just time to get on with it, really”, said Cate.
Blanchett and Mara also took issue with a reporter using the term ‘strong women’.
“What does that mean?” questioned Blanchett. “I think it’s a short-hand, like saying that women are ‘luminous’. I don’t know what it means! It’s probably just a catch-all, but what’s it a catch-all for?”.
“It suggests a social agenda, and a responsibility for women to be strong and courageous in the roles that they pick. What you see in the work of these actors, and the choices that they’ve made in their careers, is that they’re interested in playing human beings, who are full of universal challenges, weakness, exploitation… They’re capable of abuse as characters, as well as subjugation. So the whole gamut is available. Women’s lives reflect even more range of experience, because of the constraints that they often find themselves living under,”
added director Todd Haynes, most eloquently.
“Just because we have fully realised parts in the movie, it’s somehow strong?” followed Mara, causing said reporter to blush.
Blanchett then gave the audience further cause for blushing, with this rather saucy analogy about the timelessness of love:
There’s a sense that somehow, because people fall in love in the ‘50s, and they’re wearing girdles, they don’t feel the things that we feel. So it’s about finding the timeless nature of that; the deeply human, internal side of falling in love … When you fall in love, it’s as if no one else has experienced what you’re experiencing. It’s dangerous, you’re out of control, it’s akin to panic, and fear, and that’s why your heart literally beats faster. That doesn’t change, whether you’re wearing a corset or a G-string! Well, I suppose it’s easier to get naked. But it’s about finding that connection.
And how did she and Rooney create such a connection for the screen?
“It was easy for me to feel chemistry towards Cate; not only because she’s well, Cate, but because my character spends much of the film just in awe of this woman, and enamoured with her, and that was very easy for me to embody”, Mara gushed over her co-star.
Blanchett added: “Also, both characters are quite isolated – not only because their feelings for one another set them apart from the worlds which they inhabit, but also because of the gap in their ages, and so they go through a lot of processing of these volcanic feelings independent of one another. Frankly, it was a relief to do the scenes with Rooney. Like, ‘finally, we get to be together’!”.
Yet, in spite of this co-dependency of the two women, the film takes the name of Carol alone. Asked by TVDaily why this decision was made, Nagy responded:
“I called it Carol from the beginning because Pat Highsmith had changed the name of the novel herself [from The Price of Salt] after she had published it. Also, I liked the strange, obsessive nature of calling it by someone’s name”.
Of course, before we could let the stars go, the elephant in the room had to be addressed. When questioned about the fluidity of her sexuality, as suggested in a prior interview, Blanchett set the record straight:
“It’s just funny. If I were playing someone who had had an affair, I think there would be a moment of pause before a journalist said ‘So how many affairs have you had?’. And I think if were playing an axe murderer, people wouldn’t necessarily ask me how many people I’d murdered. So I probably answered in a way that was a bit facetious, to someone who was probably a bit too literal, and it was misinterpreted. But look, I don’t read it. No offence.”
Carol will be on general release in the UK from November 27th.