AFI Movie Club: CAROL – American Film Institute
Carol Film Still - Cate Blanchett


AFI Movie Club: CAROL

CAROL was recognized by AFI AWARDS as one of the 10 outstanding films deemed culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image. The editor of the film, Affonso Gonçalves, is a graduate of the AFI Conservatory. 

In this exclusive AFI Archive video, watch CAROL director Todd Haynes and actress Rooney Mara talk about working together, alongside Cate Blanchett.

Movie Trivia about CAROL

DID YOU KNOW that CAROL is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt”? She originally published it in 1952 under the nom de plume “Claire Morgan,” and it rose to fame as one of the first depictions of a lesbian storyline with a happy ending. 

DID YOU KNOW that the character of Carol Aird was inspired by several women – including Kathleen Senn, a New Yorker Patricia Highsmith encountered at Bloomingdale’s and Virginia Kent Catherwood, a Philadelphia socialite with whom she had a love affair in the 1940s? As in the film, Catherwood lost custody of her daughter after at taped recording of a lesbian liaison was used against her. 

DID YOU KNOW that Phyllis Nagy wrote the first draft of the script in 1996? She spent almost two decades trying to get the film made. 

DID YOU KNOW a treatment of Highsmith’s novel was written for the screen in the mid-‘60s, with Lana Turner envisioned to star – although it remains unclear if she was approached? A previous treatment, written in 1952, changed the main character’s name and gender from “Carol” to “Carl” to adhere to the strict Hays Code. Neither version made it to the screen, and it would be over 60 years until the novel was finally adapted successfully in 2015. 

DID YOU KNOW Todd Haynes was inspired by David Lean’s film BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945)? Haynes said, “I thought it was a beautiful way to structure a narrative: You start with an encounter, and you travel through the story to explain what we missed. And then when you replay it at the end of the film, you know the importance of it.” 

DID YOU KNOW Rooney Mara was originally offered the role of Therese Belivet, but she turned it down from exhaustion due to having just completed THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO? Mia Wasikowska was next attached, but left due to a scheduling conflict – which allowed Mara to assume the part after all. 

DID YOU KNOW that CAROL was shot using Super 16 mm film to mirror the look and feel of photographic film from the early 1950s? Cinematographer Edward Lachman was influenced by the photography of Vivian Maier, Ruth Orkin, Helen Levitt, Esther Bubley and Saul Leiter – known for his compositions using windowpanes and reflections.  

DID YOU KNOW this film was Todd Haynes and Cate Blanchett’s second collaboration together? Blanchett also starred in Haynes’ unconventional biopic I’M NOT THERE, inspired by the life and music of American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. 

DID YOU KNOW CAROL marked the second Patricia Highsmith adaptation for Cate Blanchett? She also starred as Meredith Logue in THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. 

DID YOU KNOW CAROL won the Queer Palm, and Rooney Mara tied for the Best Actress award at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival? It would be nominated for six OscarsÒ, including Best Actress for Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress for Rooney Mara, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Costume Design.

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Why do you think the novel was called “The Price of Salt”? 

-The film begins midway through a scene between Carol and Therese and circles back to the scene in full context at the end. What is the effect of telling the story with this structure? 

-What does Carol mean by “flung out of space” when referring to Therese? 

-What draws these two women to one another? How is it remarkable that they found each other despite living in1950s New York? 

-How are attitudes toward LGBTQ relationships different today? 

-Why do Therese and Carol leave New York City? What does a road trip West represent for them and what obstacles do they encounter along the way? 

-What did you think of the Aird’s marriage? Why did it descend into such an acrimonious divorce and custody battle? How was Rindy used as a pawn to try to get Carol to conform? 

-Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy said it was more challenging to get the film made because the two leads were female, rather than the fact that it was a gay relationship. What does that say about our culture and industry?   

-How would you rate CAROL? 


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AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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