Filmmaker Todd Field has made his triumphant return to the world of movie-making with his powerhouse film Tár after a nearly 17-year hiatus. The actor-turned-director stormed onto the Hollywood scene in the early 2000s with his five-time Oscar-nominated directorial debut, In the Bedroom. But his career was almost doomed before it had time to get off the ground when Miramax Films acquired the movie. The heads of the distribution company, brothers Bob and (the now disgraced) Harvey Weinstein, requested a number of cuts. According to Field, his movie was saved due to the step-by-step advice Tom Cruise gave him.
Todd Field’s career was recently profiled for The New Yorker, during which he revealed that he met Tom Cruise while acting alongside him in Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut. While on set, Field told the Days of Thunder star he had an idea for a movie based on the 1979 short story “Killings” by Andre Dubus but didn’t believe he could get the rites. Cruise reportedly told him he was "making excuses" and to "figure it out." Field took the sage advice (which Cruise is known to give his fellow actors), resulting in In the Bedroom. However, after Miramax Pictures acquired the movie, Todd phoned Cruise, distraught. The Taps actor proceeded to give Field instructions, and the process was quite specific:
I was weeping in the bathroom…I called up Tom Cruise and said, ‘Something terrible has happened.’ He basically said, ‘This is how you’re going to play it. It’s going to take you six months, and you’ll beat him, but you have to do exactly what I’m going to tell you to do, step by step. Let Weinstein cut it to ribbons, wait for it to test poorly, then pull out the raves from Sundance and suggest that he release it the exact way it was when he’d bought it.’
He followed Tom Cruise’s advice down to the T, and In the Bedroom was released as Miramax had purchased it. The film went on to gross more than twenty-five times its budget and was nominated for Best Picture, along with garnering four other nominations. His sophomore film, 2006’s Little Children, was also critically acclaimed and well-received upon release. It earned a Best Actress for star Kate Winslet, Best Supporting Actor for Jackie Earle Haley, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Field, who adapted it from Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name.
After the release of Little Children and the reception it received, you would imagine the filmmaker would quickly follow up his second film with another project. The sky seemed to be the limit for the lauded indie auteur. However, Todd Field spent nearly 16 years in development hell on numerous projects before finally getting Tár off the ground and into cinemas. And the Cate Blanchett-fronted film has earned praise.
The film tells the story of Lydia Tár (played by Cate Blanchett), who is considered one of the greatest living composers of her time. She is also the first woman to be the chief conductor of a German orchestra. However, things get murky when the musical juggernaut is accused of abusing her power. The drama premiered at the Venice Film Festival, receiving a six-minute standing ovation after the screening. Since its release, critics have highlighted Blanchett's performances as powerful and nuanced, making her a front-runner this award season.
Todd Field definitely seems to have another winner on his hands this year. However, even as he basks in the acclaim of his latest feature, he surely hasn't forgotten his directorial debut. And one would think that he'l be forever grateful to Tom Cruise for helping him to undo the changes that Harvey Weinstein and co. tried to make.
Tár landed in theaters on October 7 but is now available to rent on all major streaming services. Last year saw Blanchett join the cast of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio, and she is next slated for Eli Roth’s adaptation of Borderlands. Tár very well could be one of her greatest performances (but there are so many great Cate Blanchett movies to choose from). It could also finally land director Todd Field the Oscar gold that he's been dancing around for so many years.