Oscar-nominated filmmaker Luca Guadagnino makes his first major leap into episodic television this September with the release of HBO’s “We Are Who We Are,” an eight-episode series starring Jack Dylan Grazer and Jordan Kristine Seamón as American kids growing up on an Italian military base circa 2016. While the series’ coming-of-age themes and exploration of sexuality, not to mention its setting, may stir comparisons to Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” the director insists, according to a recent Variety interview, that “We Are Who We Are” is not a retread of his glistening André Aciman adaptation.
“I will never complain about people’s laziness, but that sounds very lazy. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is about the past seen through the prism of a cinematic narrative and this is about the here and now. This is about the bodies and souls of now. I think they are so different,” Guadagnino said. That “here and now” he refers to is the series’ contemporary setting, which reckons with the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the director said. “Call Me By Your Name” was set in the early 1980s.
“The effects of the 2016 election are still being felt right here, right now. The seismic shift throughout America and the world of what it meant that Obama’s presidency was followed by Trump’s presidency and how people did not see it coming, are still being grappled with,” Guadagnino said. It has to be said, that just as [Silvio] Berlusconi was the autobiography of Italy, Trump can also be seen as a sad chapter in the autobiography of the United States.”
Guadagnino created the series, directed all episodes, and co-wrote with Paolo Giordano and Francesca Manier. He also serves as executive producer. On top of spitballing ideas for a possible sequel to “Call Me By Your Name,” based on Aciman’s 2019 followup book “Find Me,” and prepping an update on the AP English staple “Lord of the Flies” for Warner Bros., Guadagnino is also working on a contemporary-set remake of “Scarface.” He follows in the footsteps of Howard Hawks and Brian De Palma in bringing this mythic gangster story to life, and Guadagnino promises this will be a “very timely” take.
“People claim that I do only remakes,” said Guadagnino, who previously refashioned Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” and turned the French psychosexual classic “La Piscine” into “A Bigger Splash.” “The truth of the matter is cinema has been remaking itself throughout its existence. It’s not because it’s a lazy way of not being able to find original stories. It’s alway about looking at what certain stories say about our times. The first ‘Scarface’ from Howard Hawks was all about the prohibition era. Fifty years later, Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma make their version, which is so different from the Hawks film. Both can stand on the shelf as two wonderful pieces of sculpture. Hopefully ours, 40-plus years later, will be another worthy reflection on a character who is a paradigm for our own compulsions for excess and ambition. I think my version will be very timely.”
As we wait for “Scarface” and everything else Guadagnino has coming up, check out first footage from “We Are Who We Are.”