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Initially turned down offer to direct 'Call Me By Your Name': Luca Guadagnino

Based on Andre Aciman's novel of the same name, 'Call Me By Your Name' showcased Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver's (Armie Hammer) summer love story set in northern Italy in 1983.

Initially turned down offer to direct Call Me By Your Name: Luca Guadagnino

Luca Guadagnino; Poster of the film

MUMBAI: Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino on Sunday said he was unsure about directing the 2017 romantic film 'Call Me By Your Name' as he didn't want to make another movie revolving around the life of the rich.

By that time, the director had worked on films such as 'I Am Love' (2009) and 'The Bigger Splash' (2015). While the former followed a rich industrialist's wife who has an affair with a chef, the latter was about a world-famous rock singer on a holiday with her filmmaker lover.

Based on Andre Aciman's novel of the same name, 'Call Me By Your Name' showcased Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver's (Armie Hammer) summer love story set in northern Italy in 1983.

"I was in Milan back then, and a friend of mine called me and said, 'We have this book that we are going to turn into a movie. Can you read it for us? It's American, but it's set in Italy'. That book was Andre Aciman's 'Call Me By Your Name'. So, I read the book, and a few months later that version of the movie couldn't happen (then).

"The producers started to ask me, 'Would you do it?' I was, like, 'No, I don't want to do it'. I didn't want to do another movie about rich people. So, I felt like I don't want to be narrow there. So, I said, no, many, many times," Guadagnino said during a session at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2023 here.

The 52-year-old said he eventually ended up making two movies back-to-back – 'Call Me By Your Name' and 'Suspiria', the 2018 film starring Dakota Johnson.

"I said the first (yes), like, eight months after the first call happened to me. Later, I was asked to be a producer, I said sure. But when all the roads were trying to make this movie happen, and none of them was happening, I was already prepping 'Suspiria', which is another of these projects that I wanted to make forever.

"I was like why not do two movies in the same year? And that's why I did it. I was like, I'm going to do it quickly. I couldn't really predict that that movie ('Call Me By Your Name') that I was resisting so much was going to become a movie that was going to have such an impact on people. So, it was a very strong lesson to learn, which means, to not resist the process and to let the thing choose you," he added.

'Call Me By Your Name' went on to win praise as a tender and heartbreaking love story as well as the Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for veteran screenwriter James Ivory.

Talking about 'I Am Love', starring his frequent collaborator Tilda Swinton and Edoardo Gabbriellini, the director said it was one of those projects that almost didn't happen.

"It took me like six years to make it happen and many dead-ends. Many times, we lost the money, we lost the actors, we lost this, we lost that. I was stubborn but eventually we made it," he added.

He also elaborated on the recurring 'underdog' theme in his films such as 'Suspiria' and 2022's 'Bones and All', featuring Chalamet and Taylor Russell.

"The underdog is the most powerful person because they don't have the need to belong to the status quo, they can make their own status quo. (These) People can be considered utterly different.

"I'm not talking about identity necessarily, I'm talking more about being a relentless individual. Like, not wanting to be excluded but actually not wanting to be part of anything but being and feeling what they are. And, you can see that in many different shades in life, but also in the movies," he said.

To be able to tell stories in a humane way, a director must be "presumptuous" and a "realist", said Guadagnino.

"At the same time, you have to be a visionary, delusional somehow to think that you might do a movie. That someone will show up and watch what you do, that you can kind of pretend to involve a number of people to do something that is only in your mind. These are the qualities," he said.

"Be open, challenge yourself, try not to be comfortable. Also, love people, if you love people, you can be a humanist and you can tell stories. There are many filmmakers who do not love people, who are very sophisticated filmmakers and you can watch their movies in awe of brilliance. But at the end of the day, when you eventually realise that you are lacking the human world. You have seen a spectacle that might be thrilling... I will not name names, though," he added.

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