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Todd Haynes’ Obsession With ‘Mary Poppins’ as a Three-Year Old Inspired Him to Become a Filmmaker

A New Yorker profile of the "Dark Waters" director is full of charming bits, including about Haynes' precocious fixation on the 1964 musical.

Director Todd Haynes'Wonderstruck' special screening, New York, USA - 15 Nov 2017

Todd Haynes

John Salangsang/January Images/Shutterstock

Todd Haynes is without a doubt one of America’s most cinema-literate filmmakers, whether interrogating the Douglas Sirk melodrama in “Far From Heaven,” B-horror movies in “Poison,” or silent films in “Wonderstruck.” However, as revealed in this week’s New Yorker profile with the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, Haynes’ most formative moviegoing experience was the 1964 musical “Mary Poppins” — which he first saw at the age of three.

In the New Yorker story, Haynes described falling into a “total imaginative rapture” with the Julie Andrews-starring Disney classic, and that he immediately wanted to create a “fanatical, creative, obsession response where I had to replicate the experience.” Haynes said that he drew hundreds of “Poppins” pictures, sang the songs, and made his family dress up as the characters. “I could feel my parents behind me, worrying about what this might mean, or worrying whether they should be worried, and I always felt defiant of their concerns,” he said.

Haynes added that he had to “satisfy the hysteria I felt for this experience creatively.” Haynes’ 1993 short film “Dottie Gets Spanked” is a response to his childhood fixations on movies and TV. Made when the director was in his early 30s, he specifically draws upon his early obsession with “I Love Lucy,” which culminated with Haynes going on a set visit to see Lucille Ball in-person when he was seven.

Centered around the making of Haynes’ legal thriller “Dark Waters,” starring Mark Ruffalo and opening from Focus Features on November 22, the New Yorker piece is full of charming bits like these. In one aside, Kate Winslet talks to interviewer John Lahr about Haynes’ tireless energy while working on the set of their Emmy-winning HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” a feminist adaptation of the James M. Cain novel.

“He had salmonella, and he just carried on working. We would do a take and he’d throw up. We would do another take, and he’d throw up again. He would sit in his chair, sweat for a bit, stand up, throw up again, and do another take. This lasted for four or five days. He was very, very unwell,” Winslet said. “Then there was another day — oh, my fucking God. He had to have a dental surgeon come to the set and pull a tooth out. ‘Thank God, that’s out. O.K., let’s go!'”

“Dark Waters” marks Haynes’ first return to the screen since 2017’s “Wonderstruck.” His other films include Film Twitter favorite “Carol”; the Bob Dylan tribute “I’m Not There”; glam-rock musical “Velvet Goldmine”; and his eerie environmental thriller “Safe.”

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