Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play women in love in 1950’s New York in the Todd Haynes film “Carol,” which opens, Friday, November 20. Mara won best actress honors at Cannes as Therese, a sales clerk who falls for Carol (Blanchett), a wealthy socialite who is older and more experienced, after they meet in the toy department where she works.
At a special screening of “Carol” at the Museum of Modern Art Monday evening, Blanchett, who towered over Rooney, chatted with the press and posed for photographers with fellow cast members Cory Michael Smith, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler, along with director Todd Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy.
At the press conference earlier in the day (read Melanie Votaw’s report), Blanchett remarked on Therese’s obsessive pursuit of Carol despite the difference in their ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Carol, who had a young daughter, had a sense of consequence, Blanchett said. What was also interesting to her, she said, was the subtext of their language to each other, as well as the silent pauses and gazes.
“That’s delicious stuff to play with, because that’s what loads up all those silences. Every word is not only carefully chosen by the beautiful screenplay, but by the women. ‘Can I say this? This might have two meanings. I’m not sure that was taken the right way. Did I just hear what I thought you were saying behind what you just said?’ That’s wonderful stuff to play with. There’s so much stuff between them and keeping them apart.”
On the red carpet, I asked screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, who adapted “Carol” from the Patricia Highsmith book, “The Price of Salt,” if she had an actress in mind for the title role when she wrote it.
“No living actors. I don’t tend to write that way. It only leads to disappointment. But I did have in mind long, long ago when I started this, a very specific Grace Kelly performance, which was a real window,” she said. “And of course, Therese is the young Pat Highsmith, that’s exactly where she comes from, in the book too. I heard her voice and her syntax.”
In the film, Carol yells at Cory Michael Smith’s character and also nearly shoots him. How did that feel, I asked the young actor, who stars as the Riddler in Fox’s popular television show, “Gotham.” “Isn’t that wild?” he laughed. “It’s an odd thing when you’re getting ready to film something like that, there are a couple of things happening. One, I’m trying to do my work and trying to do it well. And then in Cory’s head, it’s like, ‘Oh my God! This is a dream! I’m in a dream! It’s an amazing thing!’ So I had to kind of quiet myself down so I was able to do the scene well. I feel so happy to have played a pivotal role in the plot,” said Smith. “It’s when the movie kind of turns. I’m happy to have been the force that does that in the movie.”
As for what’s in store for the Riddler, Smith told me, “He will eventually. as he becomes a bit more flamboyant and outspoken, he will take more and more pride in his appearance and we will have him looking a bit more handsome.” Smith conceded his character wasn’t the most appealing of guys. So will he have a girlfriend?
“I’ve had a girlfriend, but unfortunately, I killed her. It was an accident, though,” he said dolefully. I told him to try to treat the next one nicer.
Blanchett, who looked fantastic in a Lanvin mustard-colored gown with cut out panels on the hip and back that revealed a sexy pink undergarment, told me the director made the period set seamless.
“He provides a musical landscape. He provides a play track for the atmosphere that you’re going to exist in. You’re also working with Sandy Powell (the costume designer), so you get a sense very early on how the character can move within the constraints of what they’re wearing, how fast you can run, so to speak. And then working with (cinematographer) Ed Lachman again” all helped to create a set that “was so hermetically sealed like one of those snow globes, that’s what it felt like being in ‘Carol.’ It’s a complete universe.”
After the screening, the party moved to the Four Seasons where champagne flowed and there was a fancy buffet that included filet mignon, risotto, lamb chops and crab cakes.
Only Blanchett didn’t make it to the after party, but then she had done a dizzying round of press conferences, two morning talk shows and Jimmy Fallon, and has a newly adopted baby girl to attend to.
A-listers at the party included Zosia Mamet, playwright Suzan-Lori Park and Holland Taylor.