Todd Solondz (born October 15, 1959) is an American independent film
screenwriter and director known for his style of dark,
thought-provoking, socially conscious satire. Solondz has been
critically acclaimed for his examination of the "dark underbelly of
middle class American suburbia," a reflection of his own background in
New Jersey. His work includes
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995),
Happiness (1998), Storytelling (2001), Palindromes (2004), Life During
Wartime (2009), Dark Horse (2011), and Wiener-Dog (2016).
2 Early films
3 Feature films
3.1 Welcome to the Dollhouse
3.3 Storytelling and Palindromes
3.4 Life During Wartime
3.5 Dark Horse
4 Academic work
7 Further reading
8 External links
Solondz was born in Newark, New Jersey. Solondz wrote several
screenplays while working as a delivery boy for the Writers Guild of
America. Solondz earned his undergraduate degree in English from Yale
and attended New York University's (NYU) Graduate MFA Program in film
and television, but did not complete a degree.
During the early 1990s, Solondz worked as a teacher of English as a
second language to Russian immigrants in New York City, and has
described the experience as positive.
Solondz is an atheist. In The A.V. Club's article "Is There a God?",
he answered the question "Well, me, I'm an atheist, so I don't really
believe there is. But I suppose I could be proven wrong."
One of Solondz's short films, Schatt's Last Shot, was made in 1985.
The title character is a high schooler who wants to get into Stanford,
but his gym teacher hates him. The teacher fails him because he cannot
make a shot in basketball. He has no luck with the girl of his dreams,
but he wishes he was more like the coach, whom he challenges to a game
In 1989 Solondz wrote and directed Fear, Anxiety & Depression,
an episodic comedy about fledgling playwright Ira (played by Solondz)
and his frustrating interactions with the opposite sex. The film
contains several musical interludes, including three songs written for
Stanley Tucci appears in one of his earliest roles as an
old, disliked acquaintance of Ira's, who takes up playwriting on a
whim and becomes the toast of Off-Broadway.
Welcome to the Dollhouse
The frustrations of his first feature led Solondz to swear off further
involvement with the industry. More than five years later, an attorney
friend urged Solondz to give filmmaking another go, and promised
partial finance for any project Solondz came up with.
The end result was 1995's Welcome to the Dollhouse, which went on to
win the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The dark
comedy follows the travails of Dawn Wiener, a bespectacled, toothy,
and shy 7th-grade girl who is mercilessly teased at school and treated
to alternating contempt and neglect at home. It was distinct from most
earlier films about adolescent abuse due to its complex
characterization. It gave a balanced and sometimes sympathetic
portrayal of the bully antagonist Brandon, and its depiction of Dawn,
the ostensible protagonist and victim of the story, showed her as
deeply flawed and sometimes cruel. The film was a major success among
critics, and a moderate success at the box office. It was a
festival hit, with screenings all over the world.
Solondz's next piece was Happiness (1998), a highly controversial film
due to the themes explored in it, which range from rape, pedophilia,
suicide and murder to a bizarre sexual phone caller. After the
October Films dropped it, the film was
distributed by Good Machine Releasing. The movie received numerous
awards, including International Critics' Prize at the Cannes Film
Festival, and yielded strong critical praise for Solondz.
Storytelling and Palindromes
In 2001, Solondz released Storytelling, which premiered at the 2001
Cannes Film Festival. It is a film separated into two parts,
entitled "Fiction" and "Nonfiction." The two stories share two
thematic elements, but deal with each in an autonomous manner. Solondz
used this format because he wanted to "find a fresh structure, a fresh
form, and a different way of tackling what may be identical
geographical material." When Solondz initially presented the film
to the MPAA, he was told that if he wished to receive a rating other
than NC-17, he would have to remove a scene of explicit sex involving
a white female and a black male. However, a clause in Solondz's
contract allowed him to cover part of the actors with a bright red
box. "For me it's a great victory to have a big red box, the first red
box in any studio feature [...] it's right in your face: You're not
allowed to see this in our country." Solondz did, however, remove a
portion of the film (which has variously been reported as either a
subplot of the second story, or a third story entirely) which
contained a sex scene involving two male actors (one of whom was James
Van Der Beek).
Solondz's next film, Palindromes (2004), raised the eyebrows of many
pundits and reviewers due to its themes of child molestation,
statutory rape and abortion. The film was financed largely by the
filmmaker. Like all of Solondz's previous films, Palindromes is set in
suburban New Jersey. It was released unrated in the US.
Life During Wartime
Life During Wartime (formerly known as Forgiveness) was produced by
John Hart and Evamere Entertainment and released in 2009. Solondz
said the film is a companion piece to Happiness and Welcome to the
Dollhouse. Life During Wartime has characters in common with the
two earlier films, but played by different actors and with loose
continuity. Information about the characters in the film, and their
differences from those of its predecessor Happiness, first emerged in
August 2009. The film features Ally Sheedy, Renée Taylor, Paul
Reubens, Ciarán Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Michael Lerner, Michael
Kenneth Williams, Rich Pecci, Charlotte Rampling, Allison Janney, and
The film debuted at the
Telluride Film Festival
Telluride Film Festival in September 2009; it
was nominated for the
Golden Lion at the
Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival in
August–September 2009, and it won the Osella award there for Best
In July 2010 Solondz completed the script of his next film, Dark
Horse, which was filmed in Fall 2010. To Solondz's surprise, the
Creative Artists Agency
Creative Artists Agency has appreciated the script, the first time for
a movie of his. Solondz commented that he realized this is
because "there's no rape, there's no child molestation, there's no
masturbation, and then I thought, 'omg, why didn't I think of this
On September 5, 2011, Dark Horse was presented at the Venice Film
Festival. On October 14, 2011, Dark Horse made its European premiere
at the BFI London Film Festival. The film received a mixed reception.
On April 23, 2012, Dark Horse was announced as the Closing Night
Maryland Film Festival
Maryland Film Festival 2012.
Wiener-Dog premiered at Sundance 2016. The film tells the story of a
dog, as she travels from home to home. Amazon purchased the film at
On December 19, 2009, Solondz joined as adjunct professor the New York
University's Tisch School of the Arts; he alternates semesters between
New York's main campus of the school, and the grad film sister program
at the Tisch Asia campus in Singapore. He teaches Directing and
Writing the Feature.
In 2007, Solondz was honored with the
Filmmaker on the Edge Award at
the Provincetown International Film Festival.
^ a b c "
Todd Solondz – WOLFMAN PRODUCTIONS". Archived from the
original on 2007-05-10. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
^ a b Cooke, Rachel (2016-07-24). "Todd Solondz: 'There may be a line
I shouldn't cross – I don't know where it is'". The Observer.
ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
^ a b c d e f g "The
Todd Solondz Picture Pages". Retrieved
The A.V. Club – Is There A God?". Retrieved 2006-09-26.
^ a b Interview at Salon.com, 1/30/2002 Archived 2006-08-14 at the
^ Interview in The Guardian, 4/15/2005
^ CHUD.com – A film site for the brilliant
^ Carl Swanson, "Somewhat Happily Ever After:
Todd Solondz introduces
forgiveness to his latest grim comedy, Life During Wartime," New York
July 11, 2010: "'The first scene of this movie, it's shot exactly as
if you're watching Happiness again. . . . But then I can subvert it
and take it someplace else.'"
^ Festival di Venezia 2009: Life During Wartime di
Todd Solondz –
Alla ricerca dei personaggi e della trama
^ Child, Ben (2008-11-12). "Solondz casts Hilton in Happiness
follow-up". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival 66th edition awards
^ a b Exclusive: Todd Solondz's Next Picture 'Dark Horse' Shoots This
^ a b Simone, "Dark Horse: il prossimo film di Todd Solondz,"
badtaste.it, July 12, 2010, retrieved July 15, 2010: "ho realizzato
che non ci sono stupri, molestie ai bambini, non c'è masturbazione, e
ho pensato 'oddio, perchè non li ho fatto anni fa?'."
^ "Amazon buys Sundance comedy Wiener-Dog from Todd Solondz". The
Verge. Retrieved 2016-01-27.
Todd Solondz Joins NYU Grad Film Faculty Archived 2011-09-27 at the
Moore, Michelle E. "If It Was a Rape, Then Why Would She Be a Whore?:
Rape in Todd Solondz' Films."
Rape in Art Cinema. Ed. Dominique
Russell. New York: Continuum Press, 2010. 129–144.
Todd Solondz on IMDb
ToddSolondz.com – Website dedicated to the films of Todd Solondz
Gothamist interview – with Todd Solondz, April 2005
A review of Life During Wartime by Andréa Grunert (in French)
Literature on Todd Solondz
Films directed by Todd Solondz
Fear, Anxiety & Depression (1989)
Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Life During Wartime (2009)
Dark Horse (2011)
ISNI: 0000 0000 7841 3711
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