It was both your first times working with Italian director Luca Guadagnino. How was the experience?
Armie Hammer: We had a lot of work with Luca beforehand. Timothee was out there before I was, but I came out about three weeks early, and we spent quite a bit of time rehearsing in Luca’s apartment. We spent a lot of time rehearsing on the sets and locations. We spent dinners discussing the script, discussing the characters, discussing life, discussing art, discussing the nature of desire, discussing epicurean cravings. Everything that played into the movie we just discussed ad nauseam. It was like going to school. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a pre-production context.
And yet the film feels so natural, it doesn’t feel like you’ve discussed things beforehand…
AH: It’s because it’s dealing with the base of all human emotions, like craving and desire, so it’s incredibly natural. Having all these discussions only really – personally speaking – opened my eyes to how ubiquitous all of these feelings are for everybody. In this case it’s between these two characters, but whether it’s for a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man, everybody understands this on some core level and that’s what we were trying to get to the bottom of.
Armie, your character is very conscious of not taking advantage of the situation. Did you have any concerns about that aspect of it, in terms of audiences misinterpreting the character’s intentions as predatory?
AH: Nothing about the relationship to us was predatory in nature. It was always something that was a feeling, this spark, this unexplainable desire between these two characters that seemed to grow. And these two guys, while at different stages in their life, with Oliver being someone who may or may not have done something like this before and is conflicted about it and doesn’t know how he feels, or Elio who’s like youth and innocence and has an open-mindedness to the entire situation. It didn’t feel to us at any point, and hopefully it doesn’t feel at any point to the audience, like Oliver is this lascivious character going after Elio. It’s this mutual attraction and acceptance of what they feel for each other that is the beauty of this.
Do you guys think this film is an invitation for an audience to expand their minds when it comes to thinking about love, attraction, and seduction?
Timothee Chalamet: That’s certainly my experience from reading the book. This isn’t a story about the oppressive nature present in the culture politically, especially in the ‘80s where it was a time that wasn’t as accepting as it is today, in as much as a story about love and first love, and a celebration of that love. It’s certainly in the book, and in the film it’s something that comes across that by the end of the movie that however the viewer identifies, they see a natural, visceral expression of love on screen, as opposed to something that is fraught with labels, preconceptions, or things of that nature.
Did you get the impression that the setting and time period of the film is autobiographical to Luca somehow?
AH: I think, more than anything, this film captures a very specific time in Italy in the ‘80s. Business was prospering, the culture was thriving. Everything was going so well, and it’s like a modern golden era for Italy. I think this movie captures that so well, but without seeming like it’s trying to just be La Dolce Vita all over again.
Timothee, was it daunting for you from the outset knowing that you’d be carrying the weight of this film on your shoulders, and did Luca do much to prepare you for that?
TC: It was really daunting. More daunting than that was that it was based on a book that really holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of people. I just never wanted to finish the film feeling like we did the book and its author, Andre Aciman, injustice. But it’s a testament to Luca I felt totally safe in his hands at all times, from a risk standpoint. Now, as the story goes, it was a no-brainer to do because A Bigger Splash and I Am Love are two of my favourite films, and I think Luca’s one of the most important and most talented directors working today. The last thing I’ll add on to that is Luca did everything he could to make me feel safe as possible in these vulnerable scenes, but then it comes down to your dance partner, too. I’m not saying this just because he’s sitting right next to me, I could not have been in better hands with Armie, both as a person and an actor. I felt totally in sync with him at all times. Like I said, it felt like having a dance partner.
Speaking of dance, you’re dancing and constantly moving throughout the film. How did you work with Luca on that?
TC: You come across so few things that have risk or have depth. So, these opportunities are gifts. As far as the physicality goes, we had long takes and very few over-the-shoulder shots that would cut back-and-forth, which allowed us to be natural and act with our bodies in a natural manner. It sounds clichéd, but that’s just the truth of what it was. The biggest thing I took away from the experience was to follow my instincts with acting because Luca was so open to letting us bring whatever we brought to the table. It wasn’t a conscious thing, but it certainly enhanced it.
Were there certain personal boundaries you needed to maintain while playing this part or getting to know each other?
TC: No, because I watched A Bigger Splash and I Am Love, and knew I’d be fine. There’s nothing salacious or gratuitous about it. It’s all in service to the love story. It’s not there for the shock-value like you see in other stories. It’s all in service to the celebration of love. It’s only to accentuate the sensuality and the visceral physicality of those moments. For me, it was almost an out-of-body experience.
AH: It was less about personal boundaries being pushed, but more about broadening and expanding my own idea of sensuality and how it can apply. There is such a sensual nature to not only this film, but to Luca. In my mind now, the entire experience is imprinted with, more than anything else, the sensuality of how food was enjoyed, how the beauty of the landscape was enjoyed, how each other’s bodies were enjoyed. It all seemed like one form of sensual enjoyment. So, I guess there’s almost not a possibility of boundaries there within.
Call Me By Your Name is in cinemas December 26, 2017