There are perhaps few feats more fraught with peril for a first-time filmmaker than to attempt to adapt a beloved novel: the vicissitudes of classic literature are often deceptively difficult to translate to the screen, and if one fails, the effort will likely not be shrugged off as a learning experience for a novice, but rather as an act of sacrilege.
Yet that is exactly the risk being run by Tom Ford, debutante director, screenwriter (with fellow first-timer David Scearce) and producer of “A Single Man,” adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s 1964 novel, starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Lee Pace and Ginnifer Goodwin. Screening at Venice in competition, the film is the first completed project from Ford’s newly minted production company, Fade to Black
Ford, of course, is perhaps best-known as the guiding force behind his eponymous fashion house, which he founded in 2004 after a decade as creative director of Gucci. Largely credited with reviving the once-moribund label, Ford also made waves working with Yves Saint-Laurent, spearheading a number of the designer’s most audacious ad campaigns.
As a designer, Ford has rarely lacked for Hollywood connections, dressing James Bond for “Quantum of Solace,” featuring Brad Pitt in advertising campaigns and appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair flanked by actresses Scarlet Johansson and Keira Knightley. Though in making the jump from designer to fashion, however, Ford seems to be straying far from his comfort zone.
Often considered a landmark in gay identity literature, Isherwood’s novel is a masterpiece of empathy and observation, delineating a single, generally average day in the life of a Southern California English professor as he deals with the recent death of his longtime partner. Deliberately paced and filled with interior monologue, the novel is heavy on detail and subtly revealing turns of conversation, though it is light on obvious plot, something which could prove difficult for the first time director.
Ford has been playing the pic close to the vest in advance of its Venice premiere, forgoing interviews, press screenings and, perhaps most notable of all, advance sales.
“Interest is huge for the film,” says Stuart Ford, CEO of IM Global, which is handling sales for “A Single Man.” “We made a decision not to do pre-sales, the principal reason being that we want the film’s eventual distributor to make a decision based on the film itself, after seeing it,” rather than gambling on the curiosity factor inherent with the director.
“Even though Tom is an unproven quantity as a director, the film will play for itself — it’s a high-class piece of filmmaking,” Stuart Ford insists.