An interview with Lisa Cholodenko


It’s been eight years since out writer-director Lisa Cholodenko stepped behind the camera to helm the steamy Laurel Canyon. In that time, Cholodenko also provided us with lesbian staple High Art, started a family with her partner, musician Wendy Melvoin, and has been hard at work penning what could easily be considered the biggest film of the year for the LGBT community: Focus Features’ The Kids Are All Right.

Cholodenko began writing the story for Kids — about a long-term lesbian couple (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) with two teenagers (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) whose sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) becomes part of their life — in 2004, paused to have a baby and drew from her parenting experiences as the script evolved. caught up with Cholodenko to discuss the film, how the social landscape has changed and why Kids will make Hollywood take notice of the many ways lesbian stories can be told. When you first set out to write Kids in 2004, how much were you writing about any fears you had as you prepared for motherhood?

LC: The genesis of the film, the first ideas for it, started from my own experience but it splintered off from there. I always felt that if we [Melvoin and Cholodenko] were going to go with an anonymous sperm donor — because we weren’t sure we were going to do that — that we would always encourage total openness about it as early as possible.

The moms in the film are sort of coming from a different place. We hope the audience will see their anxieties about meeting their donor aren’t really because they’re not in favor of that idea; they’re just becoming more clingy and possessive as their daughter is about to leave for college.

AE: Was it always your intention as you were writing to make Kids a family film first and a gay film second?

LC: Yeah, it kind of was. I didn’t really want to make a film that was political — I really didn’t have a lot to say about the subject in political terms; I felt like what would be more interesting to me as a writer and a filmgoer was to see this configuration of a family going through this but to be focusing much more on the emotional dilemmas and dynamics than the issues of sexuality, per se.

AE: Julianne Moore mentioned that she based her character’s mannerisms and speech on you.

LC: I know, I learned that later! She definitely didn’t tell me that when we were filming. [Laughs]

AE: Can you see yourself in her performance?

LC: Yeah. At a certain point when I was watching her do the role, I thought, “Well, she’s locked into something — I don’t know what it is. It seems like some kind of California surfer lesbian and I’m not sure where she’s getting it but let’s roll with it.” Later, she said, “That was my interpretation of you and your mannerisms.” I didn’t put it together at all.

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