Randa Haines began working in television in the ‘70s, starting as a script supervisor, then breaking into directing in a time when there weren’t many female director. In 1984, she directed “Something About Amelia,” which won multiple Emmy awards. This led to her first theatrical film, “Children of a Lesser God.” Released in 1986, it was a critical and financial success. It also has the distinction of being the first film directed by a woman to receive an Oscar nomination for best film. It was also nominated for best actor (William Hurt), supporting actress (Piper Laurie), adapted screenplay (Hesper Anderson and Mark Medoff), and won for best actress (Marlee Matlin). Haines was not even nominated.
In 1991, Haines directed her second feature, “The Doctor,” also starring William Hurt. It was well received and a modest financial success. Unfortunately, her third film, “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway” (1993), starring Robert Duvall and Richard Harris, barely received a theatrical release. She did one more theatrical film after that, “Dance with Me” in 1998, also a failure. And as we know, Hollywood doesn’t like failure, even if the movie is good. After that, Haines directed two TV movies, “The Outsider” (2002) and “the Ron Clark Story” (2006). The latter was well-regarded and received Emmy nominations. Then, nothing.
As a movie fan, I find it sad that a groundbreaking director like Haines isn’t working and isn’t talked about, especially in this supposed age of female empowerment. I recently watched the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of “The Doctor.” It has a commentary track featuring Haines. It’s clear that, even though she’s not youthful by Hollywood standards, she is still very much with it. So why isn’t she directing? Perhaps it’s a decision on her part. It’s also possible that she’s been trying to get projects off the ground all this time. If it’s the latter, she really should be working. And if she has retired, she’s someone who should be talked about and celebrated.