Todd Haynes has always been influenced by music history, chronicling one of rock’s most influential bands in “The Velvet Underground” and putting a creative spin on Bob Dylan’s life story in “I’m Not There.” But decades earlier, he made an even more unorthodox film about a real life pop star. One of Haynes’ first film projects was “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story,” a 1991 stop-motion short that used Barbie dolls to tell the story of the troubled singer.
The film has become legendary in certain film circles, but few have seen it due to legal restrictions. Haynes used many of Carpenter’s songs in the film without obtaining permission, prompting a lawsuit from Carpenter’s brother that led to a cease and desist. But while cinephiles have not been able to legally watch the film for years, that could all be changing soon.
In a new interview with EW commemorating 30 years of the New Queer Cinema movement, Haynes spoke about the controversial short that helped launch his career. While the film is still banned, the director hopes that could be changing soon. He also praised a new remaster of the film that he’s excited to show to audiences if a day ultimately comes when he is allowed to do so.
“There have been some legal opinions written about the film that seem favorable to a way through,” Haynes said. “But there’s a lot more work that I need to do that I haven’t had time to, which is annotate the film and provide all of the sources of information and so forth. It’s been shown a couple of times, not announced publicly, and not for any fee, not for any ticket, under the terms of its cease and desist. But it has been remastered by UCLA and Sundance a couple years ago, and it looks so beautiful. Every time I see it now, I’m just like, ‘Oh, man, I’m so lucky that we have this version out there.’”
When asked for a concrete answer about whether the short will see an official re-release, Haynes offered plenty of optimism.
“Yes, it’ll happen,” he said. “It’s not something we’re working on at the moment, but it’s going to happen — it will happen, yeah.”