Call Me by Your Name: Luca Guadagnino on his Acclaimed Movie

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, one of the highlights of the 2017 Sundance Film Fest, had its European premiere at the Berlin Film Fest.

The film features Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet.

Guadagnino spoke to Variety about his powerful summer love story.

Most personal work?

The reason this film is striking deep chords is probably due to the way I approached it–with absolute simplicity. I asked myself if I wanted to create a piece that was a sort of conversation between the storyline, the characters, and the medium, or if I just wanted the characters and the story to flow. And I said to myself: ‘Step back! Have faith in these people and this setting.’ So I chose to make the movie in the most lighthearted and simple way. It’s probably the movie I made with the most calmness, applying in a very specific and literal way my motto, that we should live with a sense of joie de vivre.

Origins of Call Me by Your Name

Everything started with producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman. They bought the book and wanted to make it with another director, in another incarnation. Because the book is set in Italy, I was helping put the movie together from the Italian side, including executive production. That was 10 years ago. James Ivory was part of the film as a godfather. Then we went into a place where that version of the movie didn’t happen.

James and I, who have a friendship, we started to think: “Why don’t we try to make our version?” There was no contract; we weren’t paid to make it. Then I invited Walter Fasano to work on the script more and to really fine-tune it. After that, I decided I was going to direct the movie myself.  It became this Italian, French, Brazilian co-production and everything came effortlessly, just for the pleasure of doing it. We shot this movie in May, near where I live in Crema, Northern Italy.

Timothée Chalamet got involved three years ago

Brian Swardstrom, the great agent who is Peter Spears’s husband, brought this young actor – who was 17 at the time. He had just made “Homeland.” I said: “I think it’s a wonderful idea.” We got Timmy at this moment in which he’s never going to be like that, ever again. He knows he’s going to be a big star. .

Casting Armie?

I saw him in “The Social Network,” and then cultivated my passion for Armie with the movies he made afterwards. I always found him very sophisticated actor, with great range. So when I came to think of Oliver, because everybody swoons for this boy in the movie, I thought we could use that quality, his incredible charm. But also we could play with it. Not just have the beautiful boy but someone who could create irony and have plenty of range.

How did you get him?

He’s very well-mannered. When I asked him through his agent, he was going to pass. But then we spoke, and at the end of the conversation, he said to me: “I’m in!” Then the agent called him and Armie said: “Well, the conversation was too good. I couldn’t pass.”

Northern Italian summer atmosphere

Unlike the previous DPs I’ve worked with, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom works with light as a character. The way he works with light is sculptural. He’s not just interested in creating a look. He needs the light to be engaged with the characters, as a character itself. And also he’s a very spiritual person.  It’s important when you have a DP on set who connects with the actors. We were shooting the peach scene, and when we shot the first take of the confrontation between Oliver and Elio and we said, ‘Cut,’ he was in a corner of the room, crying.

Working with him on Suspiria  

I wanted to make two movies in year.  I shot this movie in May-June, and then I shot Suspiria in October-December, even though I still need to keep shooting a few more days this year.

Suspiria’?

It’s set in Berlin in 1977, when it was divided into East and West. It’s a movie about guilt, and it’s about motherhood. It has no primary colors in its color palette.  Call Me” is light, warm, and summer-ish, and Suspiria is winter-ish, evil, and really dark.

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