It was always Kate Winslet and Evan Rachel Wood.
From the moment Todd Haynes (“I’m Not There”) began reading the classic James M. Cain novel “Mildred Pierce,” upon which the new HBO miniseries is based, he had the two actresses in mind to play the roles of overbearing mother Mildred Pierce, and her ungrateful daughter Veda.
“For some reason at the level of reading it, I fashioned on Kate’s face, and her presence entered my mind,” Haynes, who wrote, executive produced, and directed the five-part series, recently told us. “I hadn’t met Kate or worked with her before. I only knew her from her roles, so I didn’t really know what she was like. But I knew there was something about that physicality, that sort of intense commitment that she brings to whatever she does, and a sense of her being a worker, and a driven person – it just seemed right for Mildred.”
Learn More About Mildred & Veda’s Relationship:
Then came Wood, an actress whose career Haynes has followed since her role as teen Jessie Sammler on ABC’s series “Once and Again.” I was watching [“Once and Again”] like, Who is this kid? I realized I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was just so interesting and so great to watch,” he said. “There are few people in her age range who I think could viably fill the shoes of this really difficult character, which is a really well known part of classic American pop culture fiction.” Haynes credits Wood’s “incredible sense of presence and physical bearing,” as the ultimate deal sealer.
For her part, Wood, 23, said being asked to play Veda Pierce was like “someone delivering the greatest present of all time to my doorstep.” At first, she was overwhelmed by the idea of working with Haynes and Winslet. “It was intimidating. I did tear up slightly on the elevator up for my first rehearsal,” she said. “I mean, Kate is probably my favorite actress, and Todd’s one of my favorite directors.” But after a few days of “working harder than I’ve ever worked before,” she developed a sisterly bond with Winslet. In fact, it’s that bond that helped Wood tackle one of her biggest professional challenges yet: full-frontal nudity. “Kate helped me,” she revealed earlier this week. “She gave me strength.”
“Mildred Pierce” premieres tonight at 9/8c on HBO.