Luca Guadagnino is back in “Call Me by Your Name” mode with his new HBO series “We Are Who We Are” (read IndieWire’s A- review), which explains why The Independent recently asked the director to weigh in on some of the controversies that greeted the release of his 2017 Oscar-winning drama. Not that Guadagnino entertains any of the backlash. One point of contention over the film was the lack of full frontal male nudity, which “Call Me By Your Name” writer James Ivory accused Guadagnino of removing.
“Nobody who knows my work can say to me with a straight face that I’m shy about male or female or other gendered nudity,” Guadagnino said. “So, the critique or note that James gave was, in a way, devoid of pragmatism or a relationship with the movie itself. My question to him is does this movie need full frontal male nudity? I don’t think so. It doesn’t.”
Guadagnino added, “Maybe the script which he wrote — which was a draft which then I reworked with my editor — was compelled to tell this story through the perspective of a very exposition-ary kind of nudity. But that would have been his idea of the movie which, unfortunately, we haven’t seen. So I don’t know. I think James was a little tone deaf about the situation.”
Ivory, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for “Call Me by Your Name,” revealed in October 2017 that “there was all sorts of nudity” in his original screenplay. The nudity was nixed after Guadagnino polished the script and actors Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet signed on with no frontal nudity clauses in their contracts. Ivory was critical about removing the nudity from the film, telling Variety, “When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they’re decorously covered with sheets, it’s always seemed phony to me. I never liked doing that.” Guadagnino has called his decision not to show nudity an artistic choice.
As for the criticisms against casting straight actors such as Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer in gay roles, Guadagnino rejected the idea that he should project sexuality onto his actors. The director told The Independent, “I honestly don’t believe I have the right to decide whether an actor is straight or not. Who am I to know what somebody is thinking of himself or herself within themselves? Yes, Armie is a straight man with a wife and children and the same can be said of Timothée. But do I ask them to swear on their sexuality, on their identities, on their desires, before I cast them? I don’t.”
Guadagnino continued, “If I have to cast what people think is the real thing for a role, I wouldn’t be able to cast. I cannot cast a gay man to play Oliver. I have to cast Oliver to play Oliver because the identities of gay men are as multiple as the flowers in the realm of earth. So, there is not a gay identity. One person who is gay is completely different to another person who is gay.”
“So, if I have to be accurate to this kind of dull remark, I could cast Oliver but Oliver doesn’t exist,” the filmmaker concluded. “He’s a creature of [writer] André Aciman. We go back to the last point I want to make which is that the beauty of acting is the possibility of the creation and embodiment of new selves through the art of acting.”
Similar to “Call Me by Your Name,” Guadagnino’s “We Are Who We Are” explores the burgeoning sexual desires and sexual orientations of teenage characters as they come of age. The series airs Monday nights at 10pm ET.