Oscar winner Joaquin Phoenix is set to star in a “sexually explicit” gay love story that will be directed by Todd Haynes, the acclaimed filmmaker told Variety at the Deauville American Film Festival.
Haynes was on hand to promote his upcoming Netflix movie May December starring Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore, and he didn’t hold back when Variety asked him what’s next.
“It’s a love story between two men… that has explicit sexual content. Or, at least, it challenges you with the sexual relationship between these two men. One is a Native American character and one is a corrupt cop in L.A. It’s set in the 30s. They have to flee L.A. ultimately and go to Mexico. But it’s a love story with a strong sexual component,” Haynes told the trade.
Apparently, the project originated with Phoenix, who brought “fragments of ideas” to Haynes and asked the director if he connected to them at all. Eventually, the two began speaking regularly on the phone, and it developed into a screenplay with the help of John Raymond, who worked with Haynes on Mildred Pierce.
“Basically, it was just this wonderful, organic way to create the script. And Joaquin was pushing it further into more dangerous territory, sexually,” Haynes told Variety, adding that the Native American character is “probably going to be a discovery.”
Haynes explained that he’s talking to producers in Mexico, because he may want to shoot the whole thing down there, as it would be cheaper to recreate Los Angeles in the 1930s south of the border. The less money Haynes spends, the more creative freedom he’ll likely have, which is vital to a provocative project such as this one.
May December is loosely based on the story of Mary Kay Letourneau, a teacher who had an affair with her sixth-grade student. Charles Melton plays Moore’s much younger husband in the film, and he’s already earning awards buzz for his supporting turn. Netflix acquired the film out of Cannes earlier this year, and it will be released in select theaters on Nov. 17 before streaming on Dec. 1. Haynes’ other feature credits include the landmark LGBTQ drama Carol, the Mark Ruffalo thriller Dark Waters, and the unconventional Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There.
Phoenix will soon be seen as the title character in Ridley Scott‘s Napoleon, and he has wrapped Todd Phillips‘ upcoming Joker sequel, which pairs him with Lady Gaga.