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Kate Winslet/Todd Haynes/HBO take on a MILDRED PIERCE redux this weekend.

by Jim on March 24, 2011 · 0 comments

Kate Winslet as MILDRED PIERCE in HBO's new adaptation of the James M. Cain novel

There are certain films that should never be remade. All About Eve and The Wizard Of Oz comes to mind, anything by Hitchcock (a few have tried and failed), and the classic melodrama, Mildred Pierce. That 1945 film stars Joan Crawford in an iconic (it won her an Oscar) performance as the long-suffering housewife who becomes a waitress and builds a chain of successful restaurants only to be trumped by her ungrateful daughter. It turns out that HBO had no intention of remaking the Crawford film, but rather the 1941 novel by James M. Cain, which differs significantly from the movie, and they were going to do so as five-hour-plus mini-series.

Having the openly gay Todd Haynes (who helmed such films as Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine and Poison) take charge behind the camera was a step in the right direction. Then having such high-caliber acting talent as Kate Winslet (as Mildred), Guy Pearce (as her lover Monty), Melissa Leo (as Lucy) and Evan Rachel Wood (as the adult daughter Veda) appear in the key roles gave even larger credibility to the project.

Joan Crawford in one of her best performances in the 1945 original film, MILDRED PIERCE

As the five-part miniseries, which was written by Haynes and Jon Raymond, begins to air this Sunday, Winslet, Pearce, Wood and Haynes recently gathered at the Television Critics Association in Pasadena to talk about tackling this project, identifying with their characters and whether they watched the Joan Crawford version of the film.

Q: When we see this era and we see things about it, and we remember the movies from that era, we somehow expect a bigger, almost operatic style of acting and style of pictures and so forth. Is any of that reflected here?

Todd Haynes: I’m a great admirer of the Michael Curtiz original film, but I was so startled and surprised by reading the James M. Cain novel, which I had never read until 2008 right as the financial markets were tumbling in the United States and how incredibly frank and how much he was really purposefully trying to not do a film noir as he’d come to be known for in The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity, but really doing a realistic portrait of a mother-daughter relationship set in the ten-year span of the depression in Los Angeles. And the frankness with…CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE

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