NYFF opening night storms flood city with ‘May December’

This scene must happen! The New York Film Festival opened its 61st edition as scheduled with “May December,” despite a massive rainstorm that flooded streets and subways in the five boroughs.

“Thank you for braving the weather and coming here tonight,” director Todd Haynes told most of the theater. “We didn’t know what to expect.”

On one of NY’s wettest days in recent years, Haynes walked the red carpet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and sat down for a post-screening Q&A. Soap stars Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton were unable to attend due to SAG-AFTRA strike rules.

Haynes expressed her disappointment that the cast couldn’t celebrate at the premiere. “We miss you guys,” he said, referring to Portman, Moore and Melton. “We stand with you. We want it resolved.

NYFF artistic director Dennis Lim added, “I want to express our hope for a resolution as soon as possible.”

With the WGA strike lifted, the film’s screenwriter Sammy Burch was able to join Haynes and the producers at the premiere. A longtime fan of Haynes’ work, Burch shared that he couldn’t believe he’d be directing a script he wrote: “I remember getting that call and freezing at the door. It was very shocking and awe-inspiring.”

Earlier on Friday, Gov. Cathy Hochul declared a state of emergency and urged people to stay off the roads as rainwater stagnates in parts of the city, making it difficult to get around by car or train. Flash floodwaters began receding by mid-day, though New York City Mayor Eric Adams warned people to try to travel on the streets. “It’s a dangerous weather situation and it’s not over,” he told a news conference.

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By Friday night, the rain had mostly let up, so guests headed to Central Park for a party hosted by Campari, Tavern on the Green.

“May December” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, where Netflix acquired the distribution rights for $20 million. The story centers on the scandalous 20-year age gap between married couple Gracie and Joe (Moore and Melton), whose relationship sparked a national tabloid scandal, as Joe was 13 when the two fell in love. Decades later, the couple is still together (with kids!) but their union is put to the test when popular TV actor Elizabeth (Portman) travels to Georgia to study the life of Gracie, who she’s starring in a movie.

Haynes, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Far From Heaven,” has a long history with NYFF, where he has screened films such as “Velvet Goldmine,” “Carol” and “The Velvet Underground.” This is his first time opening a film at the New York Film Festival.

“Recognizing Todd in this space is overdue,” said Dennis Lim, the festival’s artistic director. Variety Before the first scene. “It’s one of those witty scripts and it’s beautifully acted and directed. We think about how a film will play in a room and it checks all the boxes.

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