Movies

A Very Real Conversation With, Uh, Lydia Tár

The totally non-fictional conductor had a lot to say about Ghislaine Maxwell, being called “daddy,” and her film’s Oscar nominations.

Lydia Tar conducts a composition of tweets.
Twitter-sweet symphony. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Focus Features.

We already knew that critics loved Tár, Todd Field’s psychological drama about an embattled orchestra conductor. And now that it’s received six Oscar nominations, we know that the Academy does, too. In fact, there’s really only one person whose opinion on Tár we’re still curious about: Lydia Tár herself.

There’s been much discussion in recent months about whether Tár is a real person, and the critical consensus seems to have landed on no. But how do those naysayers explain the Twitter account @LydiaTarReal, which has been tweeting for months now about things like the conductor’s close, personal friendship with “Marty” Scorsese, her thoughts on Emily in Paris, and her never-ending search for a new assistant? It has “real” right there in its handle, after all.

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Thanks to a deal brokered by the account’s so-called publicist, Chicago-based writer and performer Daniella Mazzio, the totally-not-made-up Lydia Tár agreed to give Slate an exclusive interview, her first since the film’s release. She claimed to be speaking to us between screenings as she attends the Sundance Film Festival. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Heather Schwedel: This is Lydia, right? If I may call you Lydia.

@LydiaTarReal: Yes, of course. Correct.

You started a Twitter account a few months ago, around the time the film about you came out. How come?

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Once we started to see the momentum of the film and the publicity, it was a bit frustrating to see a lot of that goodwill go to, of course, the well-earned artistic work of the film. But I was speaking with my publicist, who’s also with me right now on the call, and we decided that it was a good opportunity for me to speak directly to the folks who had taken such a liking to my work and legacy.

One thing that’s been interesting to observe during the life cycle of this film is that there’s all this confusion over whether Lydia Tár is a real person. What do you make of that?

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Well, if I wasn’t a real person, would we be speaking at this very moment?

You got me there. Let’s talk about Oscar nominations. How do you feel about how Tár made out?

Well, I can’t say I’m surprised about the nominations. I’ve been a part of Academy Award campaigns before, but this is the first time I’ve experienced so much overwhelming support for my work, particularly online. It’s a new beast, and I have mixed feelings about the film itself, but it feels gratifying to be welcomed so warmly by the film’s fans.

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Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of you got a nomination. I think that was expected.

Yes, and I’ve known Cate for a long time. She’s a very hard worker. I’d be wrong to deny that we have quite an uncanny resemblance, and I think she really put in the work to try to pick up on all of my mannerisms. This is a little-known fact, but there are a couple of shots in the film of conducting where my hands make an uncredited cameo. They’re actually my hands, not Cate’s. But I couldn’t be happier for her. And I think she’s a very generous performer. I anticipate she’ll do well during the race.

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I don’t know what your relationship is like with Todd Field. Are things contentious there?

Well, if I’m being honest, I was quite unhappy when I first saw the cut. I’ve spoken to Todd about it, and I’ve continued to assert that many events in the film are untrue works of fiction. But I won’t deny that I can be a prickly authoritarian at times, and if that’s ever rubbed anyone the wrong way, I’m sorry for that. But I think those who’ve known me for a long time are familiar with my warmth and fairness, and I wish a little bit more of that would’ve come through in the film.

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It’s water under the bridge between me and Todd. We’ve been amicable these past several weeks. And I think part of that has been seeing that, in spite of the betrayal, folks have really come to discover me and my work. They’ve really become supporters of it, and they’ve engaged more deeply with classical music, which, thank God for that. But yes, I feel as close as I can to humbled by it all.

So, your publicist has been helping you with your Twitter account?

Yes. I mean, certainly everything that comes through is Lydia Tár, as in myself and my publicist. She purely takes a look now and then.

Do you want to give her a shout-out?

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Well, here’s a funny thing about my publicist. As you can imagine, after everything that happened recently, I felt it was time I shook up my team a little bit. And I went in an unconventional direction. I went with this comedian in Chicago. She’s actually here with me today, Daniella—oh, what’s your last name? It’s something Italian. But I went with a comedian because I thought, who else might know how to navigate these murky, uncertain waters of public outrage?

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Was it her idea to secure your website, lydiatar.com, before the film was able to snatch it from you?

Yes. But I wouldn’t say “before they could snatch it” from us. Of course, it’s always been mine to have, but we kept it quiet for a while. The internet can be such a treacherous place to be at times that we weren’t sure that the website was going to be very productive for a while. But again, once we saw the success of the film, we got the website back up and running—lydiatar.com—and we figured it was a great place to really remind people about my work separate from the film. And of course, my book, Tár on Tár, is forthcoming.

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Is your Wikipedia page also on your and your publicist’s agenda?

Yes, that’s certainly something we’ve been looking at. We had to shut my Wikipedia page down because unfortunately, folks just kept adding reckless misinformation to the page. We’ve been discussing reinstating it.

What’s it like to interact with people on Twitter? What do you make of film Twitter, if you’ve waded into that?

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Oh, well, it’s been a hoot. I used to have a very negative opinion of those sorts of interactions. I think it can be troublesome to be unfiltered or to have unilateral access to folks who support or deride you on the internet. But I’ve received quite a bit of support on there. As for “film Twitter,” I’d have to ask my publicist more about what that even means. But I’ve certainly noticed a lot of cinephiles and film buffs who’ve really taken to me and my work. I’ve seen some of the opinions of the film, and I’ve seen some of the … is it memes? Yes, I’ve seen some of the memes, and they’ve elicited a chuckle now and then. I’ve even L-O-L-ed once or twice, which is not … my publicist is confirming … it’s not a frequency with me. But I’ve really enjoyed it.

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I’ve gotten some interesting responses from what I’ve been informed is called “stan Twitter,” which I still only have sort of the faintest of grasps around, but some folks who have started to call me “mother,” or even at times “father,” and I’m not quite sure why. But I’ve been told it’s a compliment.

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Is Elon Musk someone you know socially? Have you spoken to him about Twitter at all?

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Oh, well, Elon and I, we used to run in similar circles way back when. I’ve certainly been at a party or two where we’ve made conversation, and I’m a Tesla driver now and then. But what can I say? Sometimes things are just flat-out embarrassing, and I think folks should feel embarrassed when they behave in such a way in the public forum.

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That said, I’d be willing to speak to him if he ever wanted to talk about the Twitter account. I think it’s very problematic that I haven’t been verified yet, despite my longstanding history. He knows me. We’ve spoken. And I’m certainly not going to pay for Twitter Blue to prove that I am who I am.

You do have some controversial friends and associates. I think there are pictures of you out there with Ghislaine Maxwell.

Oh, well, there might be. I mean, when you’re out in a gathering, who knows what sort of people you might be in the presence of? Certainly, a camera can make it look like you’re in frame with anyone being chummy. I wouldn’t say we ever knew each other that closely, and I certainly didn’t know much about what she was up to or what others in her orbit were up to. We’ve had a couple of meetings before, but it was purely business. Oh, no, my publicist is making a look. No need to include all of that. Shall we move on?

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You have some well-known followers on Twitter. Any favorites?

I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the director Rian Johnson in person yet, but I’ve been quite charmed by his Knives Out pictures. And when I saw the most recent one, I thought, you know what would be fun? As I think about new directions for my career, it would be fun if we could somehow make a collaboration come together, whether it be in the next Knives Out film, or perhaps a cameo. We actually shot a little something for his upcoming show Poker Face with Natasha Lyonne. Somehow we weren’t on set at the same time, but I shot a little cameo, though I’ve gotten word it might have not made it in. I’m hoping we can work together sometime soon. We’ve had a few Twitter interactions, and I’m just glad to hear that such a charming man is a fan.

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Back to the nominations. Were there any categories that were particularly interesting to you?

Well, I will say for all the qualms that I have about the film, I do find it surprising that the parts that I thought were the greatest strengths of the film, like its technical elements, were otherwise left out, save cinematography and editing. I mean, the re-creation of my various dwellings, my home, my apartment—the attention to detail was really outstanding. And of course, for sound and score to be left out when that’s the crux of who I am; of my work … I found that really, really interesting. I suppose it would’ve been more impressive should my counterpart, Ms. Blanchett, have painted herself blue or something like that. But we’re still really quite pleased.

Will you be attending the ceremony?

Of course. I will be there, though I’m sure I will be sat towards the back. We can’t have any confusion with Ms. Blanchett.

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