Daniel Barnz in Wonderland

Out filmmaker Daniel Barnz arrives on the scene -- attended by the likes of Felicity Huffman and Patricia Clarkson -- with his first film, Phoebe in Wonderland .

BY Kyle Buchanan

March 09 2009 12:00 AM ET

Phoebe in Wonderland Elle Fanning and Paticia Clarkson x390 (publcity) | Advocate.com

Did you feel growing up that there were elements of your
personality that you tamped down, then once you got out of that
crucible of school, you realized they were strengths instead of

Yes, definitely. It's really interesting, the generational
differences. When I was growing up, I went to this very liberal
school outside Philadelphia, and there was not a single gay
person at all. I constructed this very bizarre
intellectualization of my life [

], and happiness was this very amorphous thing. "Maybe I
would be happier if I was heterosexual, it would be safer"
... Literally, it was these boring, on-and-on rationalizations
of my life, and then in college I was like, "Of course I
should just come out." So I definitely felt a tamping
down, although there was nobody encouraging me not to be

At the same time, I
went to film school, and then I immediately wanted to direct
movies. It's taken a long time, about 10 years, and
I've been screen-writing in the studio system, and it's
really interesting. I sort of learned from that process about
restriction and struggle, which ended up making me a better
filmmaker. So it's sort of like there's these two
parallel things: my identity as a gay man was tamped down once,
and then there was my experience of working in films [for other
people] until I finally got to do what I wanted to do.

Are you still working on a biopic of openly gay silent-film
star William Haines?

Yeah, it's written. It's based on this book

by William Mann. We're in the process of putting together
the cast. You know, it's really interesting, because
he's this amazing personality. He was wildly witty, a
prankster, the life of the party, and yet he had these fits of
fury and this dark, brooding aspect. That world is very
interesting to me too, 1925-1934 Hollywood, moving from that
wildly sexual, orgiastic time, and then the Depression hits.
Values changed, and everybody became so conservative. So
it's interesting that I wrote that, and then this recession
happened. It'll be interesting to see if those kinds of
conservative values from the '30s play out again. Tight
pocketbooks lead to tight minds.

Haines also had a very long, successful relationship with
another man.

It's a historical same-sex marriage that lasted for 47
years. That seems like such a great story to put it out now,
because of all that's going on with same-sex marriage.

Tags: Film