The director and screenwriter Mary Harron is interested in people who have done terrible things.
“I’m drawn to characters on the edge of madness,” said Ms. Harron, whose movies include “I Shot Andy Warhol,” “American Psycho” and “The Notorious Bettie Page.” In her 30 years behind the camera, Ms. Harron, a native of Ontario, Canada, has also been continually inspired by New York. “It’s a visually great city, filled with great actors,” she said.
Her sixth feature film, “Dalíland,” released in June, stars Ben Kingsley as the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí. Set in New York during the 1970s — when, as she recalls, the city was “more abandoned and bohemian” — the movie follows Dalí toward the end of his career and life.
Ms. Harron, 70, and her husband, John Walsh, 61, also a director and writer, live in a landmarked, Tudor-style complex in Hudson Heights, Manhattan. Their daughters, Ruby, 26, and Ella, 23, visit often.
NEWS HABIT I get up around 9:15 a.m. John is still sleeping; he goes to bed later than I do. I have a stovetop Bialetti espresso maker, and have two or three cups of coffee, black. Then I read the news on my phone: The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Politico and Mother Jones — it’s a spectrum of sites. I’m a news junkie.
RUNNING TO CLASS I usually run late to the Pilates class that takes place in my building complex. At 9:55 I run down six flights of stairs. The women are my age. Our teacher is tough but fair. I’m not good at it, but she’s patient. When we end, we all applaud the teacher and ourselves. Afterwards, I sit in the private park behind my building, or I get more coffee from Cafe Buunni.
SAVORY OATS If John has made breakfast, I’ll eat before I take a disco nap for 20 minutes. We changed our diet a year ago and now he makes oatmeal with sautéed vegetables. People are appalled, but it’s really good. He tells me about the vivid dreams he’s had, which are surreal, comic or scary. I like to hear them because I rarely remember mine. We’ve been together 27 years. We met in 1996 at the Seattle Film Festival. Orion was releasing each of our first films. The P.R. people said, “Don’t sit them next to each other, they will have nothing to talk about.” We talked all evening and have never stopped.
If one of the girls is home — Ella lives in Ireland at the moment, but is home for the summer, and Ruby lives in Brooklyn — then I make sourdough pancakes or John bikes to Barney Greengrass for bagels.
CONTEMPLATION By 3:30 we turn to each other and realize it’s so late. Time evaporates. We haven’t really done anything, except for the Times crossword puzzle, so we try to get organized and go to a museum. The Cloisters is the nearest. Sometimes I go by myself; sometimes John comes unless he’s looping around Central Park on his bike.
I love medieval art. A lot is by anonymous artists, so you have to imagine who did it. The statue of Jesus riding on a donkey is one of the first pieces I pass when I walk in. Eventually I end up in the medieval garden, which has an open sky and lots of plants and herbs; some are poisonous, some are medicinal. There’s a pear tree. I’m not religious, but I like contemplation, and museums offer that. My mother died three years ago, and my older sister, Martha, passed away two years ago from cancer. She was a great gardener and loved visiting this place. As you get older you have a lot of ghosts of people who have gone.
ON THE HUNT If we don’t go the Cloisters, we might take the car and go upstate to the river towns, Hastings-on-Hudson or Tarrytown, to look at antique and thrift stores and walk along the river. Or we might go downtown to Housing Works because that’s where most of our furniture is from. We like the ones on West 17th Street and East 23rd Street. We got our orange couch, which is from the ’60s, lamps, table and clothes from them. New York is a rich city and people give great things away.
PICNIC AND A MOVIE During the summer we grab leftover roast chicken and red cabbage salad and some vegetables and potatoes we made, and eat that in Central Park, then walk a few blocks to the Director’s Guild at 7 p.m. for a screening. It’s one of the few single big-screen theaters left. Most theaters are multiplex. There’s also the Paris and the United Palace. Both still have a big old-fashioned, old-school movie screen experience, which is nice.
If we don’t do a movie, and we haven’t been outside enough, we take a foot bridge across the West Side Highway, then the path down to the river and find a lovely spot to picnic by the water. We look at the shining city in the distance and appreciate the romance of Manhattan. We pack up at 9 or 9:30 and walk home in the dark. If a daughter is visiting, they come with us.
STILL WATCHING By 10 p.m. we’re in the living room trying to find something we agree on. I have a wider capacity than John. We’re currently watching “The Wire,” season three, and “Call My Agent,” the French version. TV and films are a central part of our lives. We are obnoxious people to watch with because we are opinionated, and John will analyze the camera work and lighting and give commentary. We showed Ruby “Blue Velvet” last time. It sounds unsuitable for parents to show, but she was knocked out by it.
LATE TO BED At 1 a.m. I see John’s eyes shine and he gets more energetic. I’m fading. I used to read myself to sleep, so I’m trying to return to that. I’m currently reading “Say Nothing,” by Patrick Radden Keefe, which is about Northern Ireland. By 2:30 I’m out.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Mary Harron on Instagram at @therealmaryharron.