The direc­tor

Gay Times Magazine - - Culture -

Cin­ema royalty, he went from ad­vis­ing, to pro­duc­ing to ul­ti­mately di­rect­ing Call Me By Your Name...

How and why were you first at­tracted to the pro­ject? It’s a strange thing. I was in­volved with the pro­ject but was never

‘at­tracted’ to the pro­ject in the first place. I’d been asked by one of the pro­duc­ers to read the book while I was prep­ping for I Am Love be­cause I’m Ital­ian, the book is set in Italy, and he wanted me to ad­vise them on where Aci­man had set the story, be­cause it never says in the book.

I read the book, loved it, and I said that if they would have more need of me, I would help them. Later, they asked me to do scout­ing with them, and we did so. One thing led to an­other. Dur­ing these past eight years, I started to be more and more in­volved with the pro­ject. At first I was a con­sul­tant, then an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, then I be­came a pro­ducer, and then, as many peo­ple passed by in the search for a direc­tor, with­out me even re­al­is­ing what was hap­pen­ing, I’d been asked to di­rect. I was at­tracted by the pos­si­bil­ity of giv­ing life to characters that I knew from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of hav­ing pro­duced the film, but not hav­ing thought about di­rect­ing it.

Was ev­ery­one cast by the time you

be­came in­volved as a direc­tor? There is not a world in which I will not be in ab­so­lute charge of the cast­ing of my movies. So I would never make a movie if I could not cast the film. When I was pro­duc­ing the film I’d been in­tro­duced to Ti­mothée, who was so clever and smart and so elab­o­rate that I per­son­ally liked the choice. I said, ‘Who­ever should make this movie should re­ally con­sider him be­cause he’s great.’ So when I be­came the direc­tor, I was re­ally in­ter­ested in Ti­mothée. Michael Stuhlbarg was super, and the rest of the cast were choices made out of my pas­sion for each of them start­ing with my ab­so­lute en­am­our­ment with Ar­mie and his ex­tremely so­phis­ti­cated way of per­form­ing.

The chem­istry be­tween Ti­mothée and Ar­mie is in­cred­i­ble. What do you think those two in par­tic­u­lar bring to their

roles? I think Ti­mothée brings a kind of fever­ish rest­less­ness and gi­gan­tic in­sight of hu­man na­ture, for be­ing so young. Ar­mie brings an in­ter­nal tur­moil that he’s not scared to bring out to the sur­face. To­gether, they have a bril­liant in­vis­i­ble chem­istry that is in­valu­able.

Did you have any reser­va­tions about trans­lat­ing any of the scenes from the

book? For ex­am­ple, the peach scene...

I was con­cerned about the peach scene. I per­son­ally doubted the pos­si­bil­ity that what I felt was a lit­er­ary cre­ation could be­come some­thing that you could rep­re­sent into the bru­tal­ity of an im­age. I was doubt­ing the ac­tual me­chanic of the mas­tur­ba­tion with the peach, un­til I faced the fact that if I wasn’t con­vinced about it, it would never work. So I tried it my­self and it worked, and then I de­cided that be­cause it worked, it would work on screen. So that was my lit­eral story about how to adapt a book into a movie.

Did you feel you had to tone down any of the nu­dity or in­ti­macy in the love

scenes? No. It’s for­eign, this line of rea­son­ing. Be­cause per­son­ally, that’s not how I ap­proach my work. Ev­ery­thing you see in the film is ex­actly what I wanted it to be. There was no third de­gree of think­ing – like ‘more nu­dity’ or ‘less nu­dity’. This movie was more about in­ti­macy, with­out any kind of in­ten­tional de­ci­sions re­gard­ing nu­dity or not.

The ac­tors seem very com­fort­able. I can say that I just don’t care if they’re com­fort­able or not, be­cause I don’t give spe­cific grav­i­tas to a scene in which there is nu­dity com­pared to a scene when they are dressed. To me, a scene is a scene. I just don’t care. You get to do the scene the best way you can, that’s it.

Ti­mothée’s re­ac­tions and his per­for­mance – how much of that was scripted or directed? In the book a lot

of that is left un­said… When a direc­tor di­rects, he di­rects con­stantly. He di­rects with­out stop­ping. He does so in many dif­fer­ent ways. By an act of di­a­logue, by an act of be­hav­iour, by an act of en­ter­tain­ment – he di­rects peo­ple by many means. They can be bor­der­line ma­nip­u­la­tive or they can be out­spo­ken and frank.

I think that the good news is that Ti­mothée has an in­cred­i­ble, mar­vel­lous in­tu­ition of hu­man na­ture, to a de­gree that is as­ton­ish­ing for his young age. So it was a beau­ti­ful dance for me to see and wit­ness – the one be­tween him, the cam­era, my­self, the rest of the cast and his own in­tel­li­gence of a young man. The same can be said about ev­ery­body in dif­fer­ent and dis­tinc­tive ways.

A se­quel to the book was never writ­ten… No it has not, but the characters of the book and the characters of the film can now go into dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions if they want. These characters are great – I wouldn’t be sur­prised to see more movies about Oliver and Elio.

Stupid peo­ple are crit­i­cis­ing the age gap. Was that ever some­thing that

crossed your mind? I would say that the father and mother of stu­pid­ity are al­ways in ac­tiv­ity to cre­ate more chil­dren.

I don’t care. I think that I can’t think of deal­ing with ad­dress­ing pol­i­tics that are com­pletely ir­rel­e­vant, hy­per­crit­i­cal, and not linked to the movie. Life is too short, there are many more in­ter­est­ing things out there and I think that to even step into ad­dress­ing those top­ics is giv­ing and un­leash­ing these kinds of ar­gu­ments that are com­pletely out of the blue and out of re­al­ity.

I live in Italy. We’ve seen the ris­ing of a dif­fer­ent sense of pub­lic ethics with Ber­lus­coni for years, and like a slow poi­son­ing, we started to ac­cept the qual­ity of the dis­course from that side of the world, where you should refuse. By ac­knowl­edg­ing it, you start to give worth to this re­al­ity, and now the re­al­ity is ev­ery­where. And now you have Don­ald Trump in the White House.

I’m not par­tic­u­larly keen to ex­or­cise prob­lems by in­dict­ing a sin­gu­lar peo­ple, but yes – the sym­bols they rep­re­sent, in a way, is such that they can be sum­maris­ing a gen­eral ill­ness of the im­agery and the pub­lic dis­course. So for me to ad­dress top­ics like ‘there’s an age gap’ are ridicu­lous. Some­one told me… ‘You re­mem­ber Dirty Danc­ing? She was 17. He was 25. Who cares that Elio and Oliver have the same ages?’.

It’s ridicu­lous.

How does it feel know­ing that you’re go­ing to have an im­pact on a whole gen­er­a­tion of LGBT+ who see it, and that this could go down as a classic in

queer cin­ema? I like that and I’m proud of that. I like the word queer, be­cause the word queer means ev­ery­thing that is strange and ev­ery­thing that is dif­fer­ent. It’s a sort of idea of the parts of the whole liv­ing in its own oth­er­ness, and I like that a lot. So ide­ally it would be em­braced by any kind of queer peo­ple, not just the LGBT+ peo­ple.

Your orig­i­nal edit was four hours long.

Will this be re­leased? We’re not go­ing to do any dif­fer­ent cut of the movie, be­cause the movie I made is the one I wanted to make.

For me, prob­a­bly we will make some deleted scenes. I re­mem­ber there was a lovely scene in which Elio and Oliver meet the two girls in the cor­ri­dor of the house and they de­cide to go down to the lake. I’m sorry that was left out It was very nice, and had a lovely per­for­mance by Vic­toire Du Bois who plays Chiara in the movie. I hope that will see the light of day in the fu­ture.

Did you ever have con­cerns that you were cast­ing straight ac­tors, or that you’d get a back­lash for not cast­ing gay

ac­tors? I can tell you that the ways of de­sire are so deep and so un­ex­pected that I have never ever in my life cat­e­gorised any­one by their sex­ual iden­tity in a way that you can de­fine some­one by say­ing they’re straight, gay, les­bian, etc.

I am ev­ery day more sur­prised by the im­mense va­ri­ety of how the in­di­vid­ual ex­presses their own iden­tity. In par­tic­u­lar, sex­ual iden­tity. For me, there is not so much a con­cept of a ‘gay’ man, or of a ‘straight’ man or any­thing like that. I’m more in­ter­ested in know­ing the per­son and see­ing what hap­pens to that per­son. I think that the idea of cat­e­gori­sa­tion of peo­ple into boxes is quite for­eign.

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