Black comedy involving social satire and exploration of deviance.
He spent his entire life savings on making Palindromes (2004) because no studio would back it.
Todd Solondz is an American independent film screenwriter and director known for his style of dark, thought-provoking, and often controversial satire. Solondz has been nominated for several prestigious awards, including the Palme d’Or and the Golden Lion. His films often explore the “dark side” of American suburbia, focusing on topics such as child abuse, racism, suicide, and pedophilia.
Solondz was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on October 15, 1959. His parents, Dorothy (née Solomon) and Harry Solondz, were Jewish immigrants from Poland. He has two sisters, Debbie and Wendy. Solondz was raised in a middle-class Jewish household and attended Hebrew school. He later went on to study at Harvard University, where he graduated with a degree in English in 1981.
After college, Solondz worked as a stand-up comedian and wrote for National Lampoon magazine. He also wrote and directed several short films, including “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf” (1982) and “Fear, Anxiety & Depression” (1989). Solondz’s first feature-length film, “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (1995), was a critical and commercial success. The film earned Solondz an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature and launched the career of actress Heather Matarazzo.
Solondz’s subsequent films include “Happiness” (1998), “Storytelling” (2001), “Palindromes” (2004), “Life During Wartime” (2009), and “Wiener-Dog” (2016). His work often deals with taboo subjects, such as pedophilia, suicide, and racism. Solondz has been both praised and criticized for his approach to these sensitive topics. In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Solondz is also a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Solondz is married to Joani Tyler, with whom he has two children. His net worth is estimated to be $5 million.
Actor, Film director, Screenwriter, Filmmaker
Tisch School of the Arts, Yale University, New York University
Best Screenplay Award, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Dramatic, British Independent Film Award for Best Foreign Independent Film - English Language
Golden Lion, Grand Jury Prize, Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature, Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, Silver Lion for Best Director, Bodil Award for Best American Film
Fear, Anxiety and Depression, Welcome to the Dollhouse, As Good as It Gets, Happiness, Storytelling, Palindromes, Cinema16: American Short Films, Life During Wartime, Dark Horse, Wiener-Dog, Feelings, In Transit
Black comedy involving social satire and exploration of deviance.
Realistic, twisted characters
All his movies involve Livingston, New Jersey, in some way
[on Wiener-Dog (2016)] I do love going to the movies. I don't watch them otherwise unless it's homework. I don't like to watch them on TV or the computer. I like to watch them in the movie theater. Many years ago when they invented the DVR you could record all these great movies and you'd have all these great movies recorded, but it would feel like homework to watch them. I like to go out to see movies on a big screen in a dark room. I like having an audience. That's what movies are for me. 
[on Wiener-Dog (2016)] I teach Monday mornings. I love it. I have a great time. I love teaching the students, working with them. They're like little puzzles. Trying to help them figure out their own solutions. 
One of the lessons that I tell my students is: You want to make a film only YOU could make, but NOT only you can sit through.
My movies aren't for everyone, especially people who like them.
There aren't any other countries in the world where they kill abortionists and bomb clinics. To be an abortionist in the United States is like to be a fireman or a policeman, to take on a heroic profession, but of course, it puts your life on the line. Regardless of one's political convictions, you have to respect the integrity of someone who is willing to risk his life to perform this kind of procedure. You can make a good living doing other sorts of procedures.
I saw Vera Drake and Mike Leigh is a masterful filmmaker. I think it's indisputable. He works with actors like no one else. It's beautifully shot and beautifully played. And yet at the same time, I just want to scream! I say, would it have been a sin for her to take money for a job well done? Does she have to be sanctified? I can't take it, just how all the liberals, we all go in to see the movie and in a sense it turns us all into martyrs for the good fight. But it's clearly not an examination of the ethical nature and so forth, it's just a given that this is the good fight and we are martyrs for this cause. There's another movie, a lovely film, wonderfully directed, Maria Full of Grace. There's a scene in the movie where you have this 17-year-old pregnant girl in Queens and she sees Women's Health Services, and she goes there. What's the purpose of the scene? All it does is tell us that the baby is okay. I just want to scream! She stays in American, 17, pregnant, no money, no friends, doesn't speak the language. I mean, really, the only thing she's equipped to do is be a prostitute. To me, it's just the falseness of that stay-on-in-America, land-of-hope and so forth, the falseness just makes me want to scream. It's faux-liberal, in fact. I guess it's just being patted on the back, being told, 'You're doing the right thing.' There's no questioning. There's no examination. There's no stopping to think.
Even talking about the nature of this war, and Iraq and the Middle East, it's very difficult even to have a conversation. Anything that veers away from the official line, there's a hysteria that pops in.
I'm just unfortunate that I have this job I hate, I suppose. I keep thinking I've got to find a new career and maybe I will. But for now, this is all I've got. I haven't found a good alternative yet.
Some people will of course accuse me of misanthropy and cynicism. I can't celebrate humanity but I'm not out to indict it either. I just want to expose certain truths.
To be an abortionist today in the States is, to my mind, very heroic. Who wants to put their lives on the line? You get assassinated, there are bombs in the clinics. There are so many other easier ways to make a living. You put yourself in a very vulnerable place if you do choose that calling.
I don't have children but if I did and my child wanted to act, I'd be fine with him acting in my movie where I feel a certain dignity is accorded. But I would never let my child act in a commercial for the Gap or Banana Republic or for some other consumer goods corporation. That would be the obscenity.
There's good laughter and bad laughter. As long as they're not laughing at the expense of any of these characters, it's OK. My films are comedies, but they're sad comedies and this is the saddest of all.
(On his movie "Happiness"): "It's not for everyone and it's not designed for everyone and I don't think I'll ever write anything that's designed to appeal to everyone. If you want sympathetic characters it's easy enough to do, you just give someone cancer and of course we'll all feel horribly sad and sorry. You make anyone a victim and people feel that way. But that's not of interest to me as a filmmaker or as a writer. I may be accused of a certain kind of misanthropy but I think I could argue the opposite. I think that it's only by acknowledging the flaws, the foibles, the failings and so forth of who we are that we can in fact fully embrace the all of who we are. People say I'm cruel or that the film's cruel, but I think rather it exposes the cruelty and I think that certainly the capacity for cruelty is the most difficult, the most painful thing for any of us to acknowledge. That we are at all capable. And yet I think that it exists as much as the capacity for kindness and it's only the best of us that are able to suppress, sublimate, re-channel and so forth these baser instincts, but I see them to some degree at play as a regular part of life in very subtle ways and not so subtle ways. I don't think that after the seventh grade that these impulses evaporate. So from my perspective I'm trying to be honest with what I see and what I've experienced and what I believe is true to our nature."
In American films, this period of life is not treated seriously. You have either the cute and cuddly Disney kid or the evil devil monster. For me it's fertile territory - middle class kids growing up in the suburbs.
He initially gave up on his film career after negative experiences making Fear, Anxiety & Depression (1989) but a friend convinced him to give it another try.