William Todd Field is an American actor and filmmaker. He is known for directing three feature films: In the Bedroom (2001), Little Children (2006), and Tár (2022). He has received three Academy Award nominations.
Field has worked in varying capacities as an actor, director, producer, composer, and screenwriter, and began making motion pictures after Woody Allen cast him in Radio Days (1987). He went on to work with some of America's greatest filmmakers, including Stanley Kubrick, Victor Nuñez, and Carl Franklin. Franklin and Nuñez, both AFI alumni, encouraged Field to enroll as a Directing Fellow at the AFI, which he did in 1992. Since then, he has received the Franklin J. Schaffner Fellow Award from the AFI, the Satyajit Ray Award from the British Film Institute, and a Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival. His short films have been exhibited at various venues overseas and domestically at the Museum of Modern Art.
In the Bedroom
Field became one of Hollywood's hottest new writer/directors with the release of In the Bedroom, a film based on Andre Dubus's short story "Killings". (Kubrick and Dubus were among Field's mentors; both died right before the production of In the Bedroom.) In the Bedroom was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Wilkinson, his first nomination), Best Actress (Sissy Spacek, her sixth), Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei, her second), and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was shot in Rockland, Maine, a New England town where Field resides. The house where he, his wife (Serena Rathbun), and their four children live was even used as the setting for one sequence. Rathbun and Spacek did some of the set design and Field handled the camera himself on many of the shots.
In the Bedroom made its debut at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Dennis Lim wrote in the Village Voice:
Todd Field’s debut feature, In the Bedroom, alighted on the snowy peaks of Sundance last January as if from another universe. Here was a small miracle of patience and composure, so starkly removed from everything the festival had come to represent that it seemed almost to herald the overdue coming-of-age of American independent film.
Upon the film's release David Ansen of Newsweek wrote:
Todd Field exhibits a mastery of his craft many filmmakers never acquire in a lifetime. With one film he’s guaranteed his future as a director. He has the magnificent obsession of the natural-born filmmaker.
Anthony Quinn of The Independent wrote, "Field has pulled off something here I thought no American filmmaker would ever manage again: he makes violence feel genuinely shocking."
For his work on In the Bedroom, Field was named Director of the Year by the National Board of Review, and his script was awarded Best Original Screenplay. The film was named Best Picture of the Year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the New York Film Critics Circle awarded Field Best First Film. In the Bedroom received six American Film Institute Awards, including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, three Golden Globe nominations, and five Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, and two individually for Field as screenwriter and producer. The American Film Institute honored Field with the Franklin Schaffner Alumni Medal.
The February 2020 issue of New York Magazine lists In the Bedroom alongside Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, Dr. Strangelove, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Conversation, Nashville, Taxi Driver, The Elephant Man, Pulp Fiction, There Will Be Blood, and Roma as "The Best Movies That Lost Best Picture at the Oscars."
Field followed In the Bedroom with Little Children, which was nominated for three Academy Awards, including two for the actors: Kate Winslet (her fifth nomination, and with it a record for the youngest actor to be nominated for five Academy Awards) and Jackie Earle Haley (his first nomination and first leading role in over 15 years). After having written, directed and produced just two feature films, Field had garnered five Academy Award nominations for his actors and three for himself. The film, based on Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name, premiered at the 2006 New York Film Festival. In his roundup "Best of 2006", A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote:
The first time you see Todd Field's adaptation of Tom Perrotta's novel, you may remark on the director's impressive control over the unruly source material and the emotional agility of the cast, Kate Winslet in particular. The second time, the film's lurid, crazy side is more apparent, and the intensity of the supporting performances—Noah Emmerich, Jackie Earle Haley, Phyllis Somerville—creep into the foreground. This movie, Mr. Field's second feature...is a complicated blend of gothic, melodrama and sexual comedy, unerringly attuned to the varieties of human failure.
International Cinephile Society's Matt Mazur called the film "subversive" and designed to disorient the viewer with "seemingly non-connected imagery to suggest a tone and a mood of disquiet." Mazur compared Field's technique with that of Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Georges Méliès, and Edwin S. Porter.
Many members of Field's creative team on In the Bedroom returned to work with him on the film, including Serena Rathbun. In a 2006 interview with The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson, Field said he quit acting and began making his own films after Rathbun told him, "Do what you want to do. Don't get distracted." Later that year, Field spoke extensively about the importance of Rathbun as his creative partner, describing a conversation he had with her where she gave him the most pivotal scene: "for me, the film is unthinkable without it."
2006–2021: Unrealized projects
After Little Children, Field went fifteen years without directing anything, which various film journalists lamented. In his 2015 Ioncinema piece "Top 10 American Indie Filmmakers Missing in Action", Nicholas Bell wrote, "It is definitely time for Field to throw one down the middle. In the meantime, we'll just have to watch In the Bedroom for the umpteenth time."
During that time, Field was attached to a number of film projects, including a film adaptation of the 2009 Boston Teran novel The Creed of Violence, set during the Mexican Revolution, which at different times was set to star Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale and Daniel Craig; a coming-of-age Minor League Baseball story set in the 1970s Northwest; an adaptation of the 1985 Cormac McCarthy novel Blood Meridian; a political thriller called As It Happens, co-written by Joan Didion; an adaptation of Jess Walter's novel Beautiful Ruins; and a film about U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl.
In 2016, Field worked on a planned television adaptation of the 2015 Jonathan Franzen novel Purity, which was to be a 20-hour limited series for Showtime. The series was to be co-written by Field, Franzen and playwright David Hare. It would have starred Daniel Craig as Andreas Wolf and be executive produced by Field, Franzen, Craig, Hare and Scott Rudin. In 2016 Franzen said on The Diane Rehm Show that he was learning the art of adaptation from Field, whom he considered a "master" of the form. But in a February 2018 interview with The Times, Hare said that, given the budget for the adaptation ($170 million), he doubted it would ever be made. "It was one of the richest and most interesting six weeks of my life, sitting in a room with Todd Field, Jonathan Franzen and Daniel Craig bashing out the story. They're extremely interesting people", Hare added.
Speaking publicly for the first time in 16 years, Field told the New York Times in 2022, "I set my sights in a very particular way on certain material that was probably very tough to get made."
Field's latest film project is Tár, which he wrote and directed, and which stars Cate Blanchett as the title character, fictional classical music conductor and composer Lydia Tár. Production began in August 2021. The film is set in Berlin. It premiered in September 2022 at the Venice International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Lion and Queer Lion, with Cate Blanchett winning the Volpi Cup for Best Actress. Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 91 out of 100 based on 43 critics, indicating a Metascore "Must-See" film and "Universal Acclaim" from critics.