Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are racking up accolades and early awards for playing lovers in “Call Me by Your Name,” but director Luca Guadagnino insists he didn’t cast them as a a pair or because he sensed they would work well together.
“I felt that if I loved them and wanted them, they were going to want and love one another,” said Guadagnino when he was a guest on IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit podcast. “It was a bet, but you always have to make a bet. Filmmakers are all charlatans, you have to pretend you know what you are doing and you have to pretend that you are doing something very deep, but sometimes you are just improvising.”
Guadagnino also did not spend much time rehearsing with the two actors beforehand. Shooting the film largely in chronological order, the director said he and his leads just “figured it out” as the shoot and story progressed. What he did do was spend time talking with the actors individually, getting to know them before production — something he said was vital.
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“I wanted to make sure that I could have access to them in a way that I could understand them,” said Guadagnino. “[Director Bernardo] Bertolucci says all the time that a movie is not just the story you tell and the characters you are portraying, but it is also a sort of an x-ray of the actors that are embodied in those characters and your x-ray machine is the camera… So for me it’s important to know my actors, [that] their trust in me is such that they will be naked in front of the camera for me, but not literally. Sometimes, maybe.”
For Guadagnino, who believes the best films feel like both fiction and documentary, the gravest sin actors can commit is hiding or shielding themselves by acting.
“Many times actors act and they use that as a way to protect themselves, that’s something I really don’t like at all,” said Guadagnino. “When I see a movie and see an actor acting, an actress — when they say, ‘Oh, she acts so well,’ it’s really almost unbearable for me. It’s pornographic. I’m really merciless when it comes to that.”
While on the podcast, Guadagnino, a former film critic, talked about the great directors who have profoundly influenced his filmmaking, how he built “Call Me by Your Name” from the landscape and architecture of his small Italian town, and his lifelong passion for Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and what inspired him to remake it.
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The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.