Christine Vachon on queer cinema and her new lesbian-themed film with Ellen Page & Kate Mara

The black combat boots. The black T over dark pants. Simple. Everyday. It’s an outfit that disregards common desire to be a fashion snowflake. It’s the outfit of a cinema icon. It’s an outfit that gets shit done. And out producer Christine Vachon gets a lot of shit done.

"A Kind Of Murder" Premiere - 2016 Tribeca Film FestivalPhoto by Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic

Vachon’s production of artistic and bold independent films pioneered New Queer cinema in the 1990s. After working with producer Pam Koffler on the set of the indelible film Kids, the two formed Killer Films and kept slaying. Killer has worked with directors Todd Haynes, Todd Solondz, Mary Harron and Rose Troche, and produced queer classics like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Boys Don’t Cry, and Far From Heaven. Their projects frequently provide gritty roles that earn acclaim for actresses like Julianne Moore and Cate Blanchett, who cross-dressed to play Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. Vachon recently struck gold again with Blanchett in Carol, a lesbian love story set in a post-World War II world that looks luscious but seethes with restrictions.

AfterEllen: What are you most proud of in Carol? What does the film mean to you?

Christine Vachon: [Director] Todd [Haynes] was really working at the top of his game. I think it’s visually simply extraordinary, the performances are amazing, and obviously the fact that it clearly touched so many people is a big deal. It’s great when you can make a movie that can do that.


AE: What was it like working with Carol‘s [out screenwriter] Phyllis Nagy?

CV: We had worked with Phyllis on another movie that she directed as well, called Mrs. Harris, that we did for HBO about 10 years ago, so it wasn’t the first time we were working with her. I think she wrote a great script and then Todd and the actors brought their own voices to it as well.

 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards - Cocktail ReceptionPhoto by Frazer Harrison/WireImage

AE: What did cinema originally mean to you as a young queer woman?

CV: Oh man, these questions are always so hard for me. I’m not very self-reflective. Look, I grew up in New York City, I could walk to the movie theater, it’s what we did for entertainment on the weekends. If we liked a movie, we’d go see it over and over again. I lived near theaters that cost a dollar, and when I was ten or eleven years old, me and my best friend were walking around Time Square, where there were a lot of movie theaters that weren’t pornography theaters, although terrible things happened in them as well, and we were looking for a horror film and saw a marquee for Cries and Whispers, the Bergman film, and it certainly was a horror film but not in the way we anticipated. By virtue of being in New York City and being able to have a tremendous amount of freedom, I got to see a lot of movies that I might not have been able to see otherwise.

Also, you can’t underestimate the Million Dollar Movie on Channel 11 every day when you came home from school. You really just never knew what you would see. Sometimes it would be a David Lean film; sometimes it would be Godzilla.