Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 13 News List

James Ivory may set an Oscar record; he’d rather work

The filmmaker, 89, is widely expected to take home an Oscar for ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ which would make him the oldest winner ever

By Jake Coyle  /  AP, NEW YORK

“No! I still don’t,” Ivory says. “In fact, I’m working on a new screenplay. Maybe it’s absurd to imagine that I would actually get to direct it at my age. But I don’t know why. I’m much healthier than other people who are doing movies. And I’m in great shape. It’s always a matter of convincing the insurance people. They seem to think that after a certain age, you’re just going to fall over or something.”


For the past several years, Ivory has been trying to mount a Richard II film, with a script penned by Chris Terrio Argo, Justice League) and potentially Tom Hiddleston and Damian Lewis starring. “A Shakespeare film does not grab the hearts of financiers, I can tell you,” he says.

Concerns over Ivory’s age also fed into his experience on Call Me By Your Name. The rights to Aciman’s novel were acquired by Ivory’s neighbors, Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman. They asked Ivory to be an executive producer, and Ivory accepted.

After some difficulty finding a director or financing, the producers met with Luca Guadagnino, who suggested he co-direct with Ivory. Ivory again accepted but he wanted to write the screenplay. Ivory spent a year on the script but the co-directing framework was less appealing to investors.

“We wanted to make it with him as the director, but we were disappointed by the market,’’ says Guadagnino. “When we realized that could have been made was a teenie, teenie tiny movie in a very small amount of time, and that there was some interest in me doing it, we said, ‘OK.’ He was very generous. He said, ‘I bless this project if you do it.’”

“James is as the peak of his career,” added Guadagnino. “I can’t explain how full of life is James. It’s extraordinary. His wonderment and love of discovery. I am 46 and he’s almost 90, and the energy in his body is really more than mine.”

Ivory’s script, which he typed on a typewriter, begins with a description of the villa owned by Ellio’s family and an atmosphere “of upper-middle class comfort but nothing princely, or run-down aristocratic.”

As is commonplace, there were changes along the way. To save money, the film was uprooted from Sicily and re-set around Guadagnino’s town of Crema. The film’s beloved final close-up — which even Aciman has praised as superior to his ending — was originally located not by a fire but while Elio was hanging a candle on a Christmas tree.

The collaboration wasn’t without issues. Ivory went to arbitration with the Writers Guild over whether Guadagnino deserved a co-writer credit. The WGA ruled he didn’t. Ivory has also previously suggested disappointment that the film didn’t feature more of the nudity in the script. (Both Chalamet and Hammer had contract clauses against frontal nudity.) But Ivory has walked back those comments.

“I think it has to do with nationalities,” he says. “In A Room With a View, you have three young Englishmen running around naked and laughing and whooping and jumping in the water. It’s something the English don’t apparently find troublesome. They like that. But you would never get three American actors to do that. It’s just not in our nature, somehow, to expose ourselves like that. It’s a cultural thing.”

Call Me By Your Name is a kind of bookend to Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice, a restoration of which was released last summer. Now regarded as a landmark in gay cinema, Ivory’s adaptation of E.M. Forster’s posthumously published novel is about two Cambridge students (James Wilby, Hugh Grant) who fall in love in Edwardian England. Released at the height of the AIDS epidemic, it dared something groundbreaking: a happy ending.

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