Todd Field Loves Your “Tár” Theories
As he was writing Tár, Todd Field kept the studio behind it, Focus Features, in the dark. “I didn’t tell them anything,” he tells Little Gold Men. “I didn’t tell them who the character was. I think they probably assumed I was writing a story for a man.”
But he did call chairman of Focus Features Peter Kujawski about halfway through his writing process to warn him the script—about a genius female composer whose abuses of power catch up to her—might not be exactly what he wanted. “I said, ‘Look, I really don’t want anyone to be out on a limb for this. I can’t tell you what I’m doing, but I’m very excited about it. But when I hand it in, there’s a 99.9% chance that you’re going to hate it and not want to make it,’” Field says. Kujawski’s response was clear: He didn’t care what Field was writing. They simply wanted to work with him. “Just write your film,” he told Field.
Field’s film, his first in 16 years, has at its core a bombastic performance by Cate Blanchett. The character of Lydia Tár is so layered and complicated that, even as Blanchett earns awards buzz for playing her, a whole cottage industry of memes have emerged around the idea that she is, in fact, a real person. On this week’s Little Gold Men podcast (listen below), Field weighs in on why he loves any and all the reactions to his film and if he’ll tell us how his central character won her EGOT.
Vanity Fair: Let’s start with Lydia Tár because, when you look at social media, everyone is talking about her almost like she’s a real person. Everyone loves to analyze her. How did this character first take shape for you?
Todd Field: She kind of appeared about 10 years ago to me. I understand, in a fashion, why people do think that she’s real because she’s very real to me and has been for a long time. I wasn’t sure that I would ever be able to sort of share her with anyone because everything that I’ve been adapting for however many years has been based on underlying material, where the characters have been imagined by others. But here she is.
I was reading over the screenplay and I noticed this opening note that you put in there: “Based on the script’s page count, it would be reasonable to assume that the total running time for Tár would be well under two hours. However, this will not be a reasonable film.” And then you go on to say, “if you are mad enough to greenlight this film, be prepared for one whose necessary length represents these practical accommodations.” It sounds like you really led with the fact that you needed to have the freedom to make the story you wanted to tell. Was that ever met with any resistance?