Luca Guadagnino on the 10-Year Journey Behind 'Call Me by Your Name'

By Grater, Tom | Screen International, December 25, 2017 | Go to article overview

Luca Guadagnino on the 10-Year Journey Behind 'Call Me by Your Name'


Grater, Tom, Screen International


First optioned 10 years ago, André Aciman’s romantic novel Call Me By Your Name had a bumpy journey to the screen before being triumphantly realised by filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.

Call Me By Your Name

He now seems a perfect fit, with the benefit of hindsight, but it was not Luca Guadagnino’s directing talent that got him involved in Call Me By Your Name. The Italian helmer of sun-drenched Lampedusa-set romantic drama A Bigger Splash and the simmering Milanese high-society story I Am Love originally boarded the project as a location consultant.

US producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman had optioned André Aciman’s well-received debut novel - which chronicles a 17-year-old’s sexual awakening after he meets a 24-year-old student at his family’s Italian holiday home - prior to its publication in 2007. After several failed attempts to get the project off the ground with a variety of directors, the producers enlisted James Ivory - the three-time Oscar-nominated US director of The Remains Of The Day and A Room With A View - to work on the development of the film.

By this point, Guadagnino was also involved on the project as a producer, and he invited Ivory, whom he refers to as “the godfather” of the film, to his home in Crema, Lombardy, to develop the script and brainstorm ideas. After a long discussion over several evenings, the pair concluded that together they could produce a new version of the script that would match their “version of the book”. After a year of moonlighting, working between Italy and New York, they delivered a screenplay to the producers, who in turn asked Ivory if he would now consider directing the film.

“The kind of movie James would have directed would have been amazing, I’m sure, but it didn’t get to the finish line because we couldn’t get it financed,” recalls Guadagnino, who was then asked if he would co-direct the project with Ivory. “We tried and tried,” says the Italian. “Eventually, people were saying, ‘If Luca does it, we can do it.’”

This was in 2015 and Guadagnino was riding high after premiering A Bigger Splash - starring regular collaborator Tilda Swinton alongside Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts - in competition at Venice Film Festival. While Ivory may have had the pedigree, his star had faded somewhat and he had only directed one feature in the previous decade (2009’s The City Of Your Final Destination). In contrast, Guadagnino was a hot property in Europe, and it had become apparent that his name would need to have top billing in order to attract finance. …

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