Cate Blanchett doubted that Todd Haynes’ adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s landmark lesbian novella “The Price of Salt” would ever hit theaters. Film4 acquired rights way back in 2000, and several directors fell on and off the project. But finally after wrapping last May and doing the Weinstein dance, Haynes’ version of Phyllis Nagy’s scripted drama bows at Cannes on May 17.
“It was so hard,” Blanchett told Variety. “Midrange films with women at the center are tricky to finance. There are a lot of people laboring under the misapprehension that people don’t want to see them, which isn’t true… I think there’s been a critical mass of women who have reached a certain place in the industry… I want it to not be discussed anymore. But it needs to be discussed.”
Said the Aussie actress, “We have to push forward. What industry has parity pay for women? None. Why would we expect this industry to be any different?” When she won her 2014 Best Actress Oscar for “Blue Jasmine,” Blanchett railed against “those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”
Haynes’ first film since 2007’s experimental Bob Dylan biopic “I’m Not There,” which earned Blanchett an Oscar nom, “Carol” stars Blanchett and Rooney Mara as two women in a relationship in 1950s New York. Therese (Mara, originally Mia Wasikowska), a twentysomething department store clerk who dreams of a bigger life, meets Carol (Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, wealthy marriage. Their lives begin to unravel as Carol fears losing custody of her daughter when her husband (Kyle Chandler) threatens her with separation. Sarah Paulson co-stars as one of Carol’s ex-lovers.
After Blanchett got the call from her bud Haynes in 2013, “Carol” shot for 35 days in Cincinnati the following spring, April 2014. Bringing Highsmith’s lesbian text to the screen was a challenge, though her books like “The Talented Mr. Ripley” have been adapted successfully. “We asked, ‘What is the most erotic part of the body?’ We kept saying that wrists are really erotic,” Blanchett told Variety. “The neck. The ankles. The way Highsmith writes, she’s got this exquisite observation of detail that most people would miss, but a lover’s eye never would. We talked a lot about erogenous zones.”
Regarding the film’s central love scene, between Blanchett and Mara in a hotel room, she said, “It’s not ‘Blue Is the Warmest Color.’ That’s not the ambition of the film.” That doesn’t mean we’re any less excited to see “Carol,” surely one of the most hotly awaited films of the year. (More from Variety here.)