Filmmaker Todd Haynes is known for making provocative films that subvert narrative structure and resound with transgressive, complex eroticism. The content of his work has made Haynes the subject of both acclaim and controversy, a whipping boy for debates about NEA funding and a figurehead in the new queer cinema. Although he doesn't characterize himself as a gay filmmaker who makes exclusively gay films -- he has pointed out in interviews that to do this would be taking only the content instead of the form of his films into consideration -- Haynes' name has become synonymous with that cinematic movement and its work to both expose and redefine the contours of queer culture in America and beyond.
Born January 2, 1961, in Los Angeles, Haynes grew up in nearby Encino. He developed an interest in film at a young age, and while still a high school student, he produced his first film, a short about contemporary teenage life entitled The Suicide (1978). Haynes went on to study at Brown University, where he made his directorial debut with Assassins: A Film Concerning Rimbaud (1985). After attaining his BA in Arts and Semiotics, the young filmmaker moved to New York, where he launched Apparatus Productions, a non-profit organization for the support of independent films. Shortly thereafter, he gained his first dose of attention -- and ultimately, controversy -- with Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1987). A psychological docudrama about the life and death of singer and anorexia victim Karen Carpenter, the film blended sharp satire (most obviously in its use of Barbie dolls to portray the characters) with historical perspective and surprising compassion. Unfortunately, the considerable notice it earned at a number of film festivals was tempered by a lawsuit filed against Haynes by Richard Carpenter, whom the film portrayed in a less than flattering light. Carpenter's lawsuit resulted in Superstar's almost complete disappearance from theatres and the video market alike; unsurprisingly, it went on to become a bootleg classic.