DuJour Navigation

Inside A Big-Screen Love Triangle

A conversation with Carol star Kyle Chandler

In director Todd Haynes’ Carol, a young store clerk (Rooney Mara’s Therese) meets a woman (Cate Blanchett’s Carol) doing her holiday shopping and finds her life turned completely upside down. And while Haynes’ sumptuous filmmaking—as well as a top-notch script and homerun performances—makes for a beautiful story, the relationship between Therese and Carol doesn’t unfold without ruffling more than a few feathers. The chief opponent to the women’s burgeoning affection? Carol’s husband, Harge. 

Here, Kyle Chandler, who portrays the cuckolded spouse, explains the enduring appeal of a love story and wonders what it takes to convincingly play drunk. 

This is a beautiful movie, but your character’s sort of the guy who comes in and makes trouble for everyone. What drew you to him?

When I read the book—obviously I read the script and the book—it was clear that I would want to play the part, because it’s very complicated. You have to also realize who is involved and who is directing, that’s half the battle right there. If you have the right people, you’d go into a dark pit to work.

The story takes place in the 1950s, but—like so many of Patricia Highsmith’s stories—it feels a bit timeless.  

That’s another reason I wanted to be involved. This is not playing to any stereotypes. It’s not playing to the time period or what we assume the time period would be. It’s not playing to anything other than truth. Like Cate has said, whether it’s a love story from 5 B.C. or a love story from 2060, it’s still the truth. And I think that’s one thing that allows this to work so well, because you can play the truth anywhere, especially when you put the truth in something that blasts away the stereotypical ideal of what that is and all of a sudden it gives you a clarity and a roughness that is enjoyable to be a part of.

But the time period is so apparent. The movie’s incredibly stylized—there’s costuming and sets and cars and so much more—to evoke that period.

You’re right; it is very stylized. You might think it could be very restricting, but it wasn’t. The script wasn’t like that, the director wasn’t that and the director’s style wasn’t that. There was always room to move and be comfortable. 

Was it difficult to leave that world behind when you finished making the film? 

No. But it was a little bit scary to enter. [In 2013,] I did a movie called The Spectacular Now, where I played this drunken, son-of-a bitch father and it scared the hell out of me because it was the linchpin of the film in a way. If that didn’t work, the other great performances didn’t either. This film felt the same way in a sense, because I was playing a guy who didn’t have many scenes to do everything he needed to do. That’s sort of scary as opposed to having more time to know what you’re doing.  

Then, the most worried I became with any scene was one when I was falling down, doing the drunk thing. Playing drunk is the worst thing in the world. What does everyone watching know? That you’re not drunk. So, already you’re already behind the 8 ball. 

I’ve always heard that to play drunk, the trick is to act aggressively sober. 

In this film, I just got drunk. No, that’s a joke. I guess it turned out OK. I mean, you tell me. Every film you do, you wait to see how it turns out.