When HBO premieres its miniseries adaptation of “Mildred Pierce” on March 29, fans of the original film — the 1945 noir that won an Academy Award for Joan Crawford — should expect a different beast.
Director, writer and executive producer Todd Haynes (“I’m Not There,” “Velvet Goldmine”) tells press at the Television Critics Association press tour that he was really inspired to do the project by James M. Cain’s 1941 novel.
“I had never read the novel until 2008, right as the financial markets were crashing,” he says. “I was surprised by how incredibly frank he was… doing a mother/daughter relationship over the 10-year depression period in Los Angeles. This felt modern and contemporary and approachable. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to take it on.”
And Winslet, speaking via satellite from Paris, reveals that she never even sat through the original film.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she says. “When you’re playing Mildred Pierce, and you know someone utterly extraordinary played her before, what do you do? I saw the first five minutes, and I thought I actually shouldn’t watch it — I would never be able to unsee it, and I had to honor the book.”
That’s not to say she wasn’t impressed by the few scenes she caught. “I could feel almost immediately, watching Joan Crawford’s brilliant performance,” says Winslet, “that what I was working toward with Todd was something completely different.”