The show must go on! The New York Film Festival opened its 61st edition as scheduled with “May December,” despite a torrential rainstorm that flooded streets and subways across the five boroughs.
“Thank you all for braving the weather and making it here tonight,” director Todd Haynes said to the mostly full theater. “We didn’t know what to expect.”
On one of New York’s wettest days in recent years, Haynes walked the red carpet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and took part in a post-screening question-and-answer session. The soap-drama’s stars, Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton, were unable to attend in accordance with SAG-AFTRA strike rules.
Haynes expressed his disappointment that the cast couldn’t celebrate at the premiere. “We miss you,” he said, referring to Portman, Moore and Melton. “We are here to help. We want it resolved.”
Dennis Lim, NYFF artistic director, added: “I wanted to express our hope for a solution as quickly as possible.”
Because the WGA strike was lifted, the film’s screenwriter, Samy Burch, was able to participate in the post-premiere panel with Haynes and the producers. A long-time fan of Haynes’ work, Burch said she couldn’t believe he would direct a script she had written: “I remember getting this phone call and freezing in the doorway. It was a huge shock and awe.”
Earlier Friday, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay off the streets as parts of the city are inundated by stormwater, making it difficult to get around by car or train. The flash floods subsided in the middle of the day, although New York City Mayor Eric Adams continued to warn anyone trying to cross the streets. “This is a dangerous weather situation and it is not over yet,” he said during a news conference.
By Friday evening, the rain had mostly subsided, so guests headed to Central Park for the annual afterparty hosted by Campari, Tavern on the Green.
“May December” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Netflix acquired distribution rights for $20 million. The story revolves around the scandalous 20-year age difference between married couple Gracie and Joe (Moore and Melton), whose relationship sparked a national tabloid scandal because Joe was 13 when the two fell in love. Decades later, the two are still together (with kids!), but their connection is tested when popular television actress Elizabeth (Portman) travels to Georgia to study the life of Gracie, whom she will play in a film .
Haynes, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Far From Heaven,” has a long history at NYFF, where he has screened films such as “Velvet Goldmine,” “Carol” and “The Velvet Underground.” This is the first time he has opened a film at the New York Film Festival.
“It was long overdue to recognize Todd in this slot,” festival artistic director Dennis Lim told Variety ahead of the premiere. “It’s one of the wittiest scripts, the actors and directors are beautiful. We think about how a film plays in a room and this ticks all the boxes.”