Call Me By Your Name: Interview with Producer and Writer James Ivory (Room with a View)

Oscar-nominated director-writer James Ivory was honored this week with its Fiorino d’Oro prize and celebration for the 30th anniversary of “A Room With a View,” the 1986 Oscar-winning film which was a game-changer for Ivory and his longtime producer and life partner, the late Ismail Merchant.

“A Room With a View” paved the way for their work on Hollywood pics such as “The Remains of the Day,” and was groundbreaking in its depiction of male nudity. Ivory, who wrote the screenplay for new gay coming-of-age film “Call Me by Your Name,” directed by Luca Guadagnino, has strong feelings about sexuality in this picture.

Ivory, 89, spoke with Variety from Florence. Here are excerpts from the interview, edited for clarity.

In “Room” there is nudity in the scene when three men strip naked, jump in a lake, and start splashing and wrestling. It’s a carefree male nudity which you recently said hadn’t been seen onscreen before, and hasn’t been seen since.

JI: I just figured, “Let it be.” I’ve always thought that about nudity. There are moments when I think the story demands it, and if you don’t get it you feel sort of short-changed. And I’ve felt that way about some other films as well, particularly “Maurice” That said, I’m glad we broke some sort of barrier. But it all depends on nationalities. For instance, if you were to make that film today and you had American actors, it would be in their contract that they could not be shown nude. But in those days — in the ’80’s and these were all British actors — they didn’t give a damn!

Armie Hammer said he was nervous about the nudity that was originally in the script.

Certainly in my screenplay there was all sorts of nudity. But according to Luca, both actors had it in their contract that there would be no frontal nudity, and there isn’t, which I think is kind of a pity. Again, it’s just this American attitude. Nobody seems to care that much, or be shocked, about a totally naked woman. It’s the men. This is something that must be so deeply cultural that one should ask: “Why?”

Can you talk about the part you played in the long journey of “Call Me by Your Name”?

Some friends of mine [producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman] bought the screen rights to the novel by Andre Aciman, and were trying in various ways to make it into a film. They couldn’t find a director and eventually they picked Luca, who then apparently said: “Let me co-direct it with James Ivory.” So they came and asked me and I said OK, but I also said: “If I’m going to direct it, then I want to write a screenplay.” That took several months, and that’s the screenplay that they then raised money on to finally make the film. Then at a certain point it was decided that they wanted just one director, and it was going to be Luca. I didn’t mind that much. I was still very much involved. We were working together right up to the point of the shoot.

You’ve often said that after “A Room With a View” you could have done anything. You chose to make “Maurice,” a gay themed passion project 

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