Luca Guadagnino couldn’t escape the Armie Hammer question at the Zurich Film Festival, where he was celebrated with the “A Tribute To…” award.
“David Kajganich and Theresa Park, the writer and one of our producers, have been working on ‘Bones and All’ since the book was released. Many years ago, probably around the time when we were shooting ‘Call Me by Your Name’,” he said during his masterclass when asked about the recent “cannibal” scandal.
“It was to be directed by my great colleague Antonio Campos, but he decided not to go for it. That’s when they gave me the script. Any correlation with this kind of innuendo and silliness is preposterous.”
Guadagnino’s Zurich trophy is just the latest in a slew of awards for the helmer, recently feted in Venice and in Göteborg earlier this year.
“After I turned 50, I started to accept honorary awards. They offered me some before, but I thought it was strange, being honored for something you are still doing,” he said.
“I am practical. I like awards, because it’s a recognition and everyone wants to be recognized. I don’t look at them, though. They are all in my closet.”
The Italian director opened up about his childhood spent in Ethiopia and then Sicily, crediting the first with his “sense of space and light.” But it took him a while to reconcile with the latter.
“When I left, I must have been 22. I felt I was stuck there. I never had an accent, so I was treated in a suspicious way even back then. Now, I feel very connected to it.”
Still, he keeps on moving, with the Timothée Chalamet starrer marking his first shoot in the U.S.
“The idea the U.S. wants to give to the world has a lot to do with the imagery they create about themselves. We have been sold this imagery like dope. I tried to go there and do what the great foreign filmmakers of the 1930 and 40s did. They immersed themselves into it.”
He also wanted to adapt his gaze to the gaze of his characters, a pair of young cannibals on the run from themselves.
“When Maren [played by Taylor Russell] reaches Indiana, I think, she sees this boy, Lee, for the first time. She smells something powerful, another eater, and she is framed by the vastness of the American landscape. (…) When they go to Nebraska, it makes Lee finally spurt out the pain of his being. It’s the most graphic, horror-like moment of the film, but also the most tender and romantic.”
The dark urges of his protagonists weren’t what he was most interested in, he stated.
“We never talked about that.”
“When it came to the topic of cannibalism, we took it very matter-of-factly. Several pathologists provided us with answers on how you perform a bite on the body of someone who just died, for example. We learnt practical stuff. It takes a lot of effort to bite through the skin. Someone was wondering if we would need [more defined] jaw muscles, but Americans are like that anyway. It’s from chewing gum.”
Guadagnino went on to praise his cast, including the “incredible” Mark Rylance.
“When actors abandon themselves and don’t self-guard, it’s a beautiful experience. It’s a saving grace of the annoyance of shooting movies, which is such an unnatural thing to do. I was on a jury with Quentin Tarantino and he told me that choosing the actors is the actual act of authorship.”
He doesn’t believe in looking for chemistry between the performers, however, calling it “American stupidity.”
“It’s so ridiculous. The only chemistry has to be in the mind of a director towards his actors.”
Teasing his upcoming tennis movie “Challengers” and “An Even Bigger Splash,” now clocking in at over three hours, Guadagnino wondered if his characters are always driven by passion, not reason.
“I like ‘Election’ by Alexander Payne. [Tracy Flick] is stubborn and knows what she wants, which is fantastic, but I don’t know if I could make a movie like that or be with a character like that,” he said.
Also noting that while the shooting proves taxing, he does enjoy editing, collaborating with Walter Fasano and “wunderkind” Marco Costa.
“He is very young and funny, and someone you can call, saying: ‘I need you now, at 2 a.m. in the morning.’ And he comes. Devotion – I like that. To the movie, not to me.”
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