“Call Me by Your Name” doesn’t open in select theaters until November 24, and yet it already features the year’s most talked-about sex scene. Anyone who has read André Aciman’s novel knows the scene in question, in which Elio (Timothée Chalamet) carves out the center of a peach and uses it to help him masturbate. As director Luca Guadagnino tells Vulture, it was one of the scenes from the novel he struggled with most bringing to the big screen.
“I thought it was a scene that can only play in a book, because you could go into your imagination,” Guadagnino said. “I also thought it was a metaphor for sexual impulses and energy. I didn’t believe in the actual physical possibilities of masturbating yourself with a peach. In translating this into a movie, I was both admiring Aciman’s work and dreading Aciman’s work…many times I said, ‘We have to remove this from the script.’ I didn’t want something that could be exploitative, sensationalist, or even involuntarily ridiculous. So it was a process, a long process.”
So what finally convinced Guadagnino that the scene belonged in the film? The answer is simple and rather hilarious: Guadagnino tried the scene out for himself. Yes, the director of “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash” took out the core of a peach and used it masturbate with. That’s just how committed Guadagnino is to making sure every scene he decides to direct rings true. Are you listening, Academy voters?
Ironically, the director attempted the act because he thought it would be impossible to experience pleasure using a peach, and therefore he wouldn’t have to film the moment at all and he could remove it from the script. Clearly, the results were not what Guadagnino was expecting. Here’s what the director had to say about the moment:
One day I tried, physically, to masturbate myself with a peach because I was asking Timothée to do it as a character, and I wanted to prove to myself that it was not doable so we would not have to do it. And actually, when I got the fruit and put my finger in the fruit and started to debone it, already that act gave me a cinephile memory, reminding me of a great moment in this version of Madame Bovary [called Abraham’s Valley] by Manoel de Oliveira, the great Portuguese filmmaker. In it, the Bovary character is young and full of lust, she wants to fuck this guy. She sees a flower, she grabs this flower, and she puts her finger into the flower. It’s an incredible scene about the sensuality in all things. So I thought, “Finally, we have a lead here that can make this scene doable.” Then I tried to put the deboned peach on me and it actually worked, it wasn’t just a metaphor! So I threw the peach away, composed myself, and went to Timothée and told him, “Timmy, I tried the peach myself, and it works. We can film the scene.” And he goes, “Of course it works! I tried it myself as well.”
“Call Me by Your Name” opens November 24. Head over to Vulture for more of Guadagnino’s interview, including his reveal that he wants to make five “Call Me by Your Name” sequels.