Oscars: ‘Imitation Game’ Director on Why the Film Didn’t Portray an Alan Turing Gay Relationship

'Imitation Game' Director on Benedict Cumberbatch,

At Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony, the best director category will include four familiar faces — Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”), Alejandro G. Inarritu (“Birdman”), Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”) and Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”) — along with relative newcomer Morten Tyldum. The Norwegian director of “The Imitation Game” received critical praise for the 2011 Norwegian thriller “Headhunters” before he moved to Los Angeles.

Tyldum made “The Imitation Game,” which is nominated for eight Oscars and is considered a frontrunner in the adapted screenplay category, for about $15 million. After he read the script, he was taken by how much he didn’t know about World War II code breaker Alan Turing’s life, and he immediately thought of Benedict Cumberbatch for the role. On a recent afternoon in New York, he spoke to Variety about making “The Imitation Game,” addressed criticism about not giving Turing’s character a male lover and talked about his new project “Passengers,” expected to star Jennifer Lawrence.

Did you wake up early on the morning of Oscar nominations?
I was actually on a plane to Heathrow. I was the last one to find out. As soon as the wheel hit the ground, I turned on my cell and the phone exploded.

How did you celebrate?
It was kind of weird. I had a two-hour layover, and the press was calling constantly. This is the first time a Scandinavian was nominated for best picture.

How did you first get involved with “The Imitation Game”?
I had done “Headhunters,” and because of the movie’s success, everybody said I should come to Hollywood. I had been sent a lot of scripts. I was meeting on a lot of projects. My agent called and said, “You should read this.” I had always been a history lover, and I was shocked there was so much here that I didn’t know.

Are you surprised that “The Imitation Game” has become a box office success?
Not really. It’s a movie that’s really relatable. It’s about loneliness. It’s about trying to fit in.

Was there a version of the script where Turing has a male lover?
First of all, the time period we’re all focusing on, he didn’t have one. He described it in his own words as a “sexual desert” in a letter. The whole thing is his relationship with Christopher [Turing’s male crush seen in flashbacks in grade school], about unfulfilled love.

But Turing did have relationships with men.
He had people he had sex with, yes — especially in the time after the war, when he’s living in Manchester. The break-in that happens in the film is a male lover, which is discussed. It was actually someone he paid to have sex with. It was more of a hustler.

But we never see Turing in a relationship with an adult man. Don’t you think that would have enriched the character?
Not really. The whole movie, the way it’s structured, we don’t know anything about this man. The whole investigation starts because he’s hiding something, but he’s not hiding what we think. It can’t start off with him having sex. It was not because we were afraid it would offend anybody. If I did the structure and had this thing about a straight character, I would never have a sex scene to prove that he’s heterosexual. If I have a gay character in a movie, I need to have a sex scene in it — just to prove that he’s gay? I’m not shying away from it. His whole relationship, how he falls in love and the importance of him being a gay man, was all about secrecy.

Some have criticized the movie for not including that.
During his time, the relationship that was important was the relationship with Joan Clarke [played by Keira Knightley]. They were engaged for six months. It’s all about a lost love. He didn’t have a male companion. He had some random people he had sex with. He also had, this was funny, he went to Norway to have sex in a gay sauna, a secret club. He had some sexual partners, but it was few and far between. The only reason to have a sex scene in the film would be to satisfy critics who feels that every gay character needs to have a gay sex scene.

What do you think of the Cumberbitches?
Benedict has a pretty intense fanbase. I find most of them being really cool. You find some that are a little intense. We had the opening at the Toronto Film Festival, where there was a Q&A, and some of the female fans made it impossible. One asked, “Can I have your yumminess? Do you want to eat my yumminess?” The whole thing became stupid.

Did they interrupt the shoot?
Sometimes. The biggest problem is the paparazzi. Benedict is really distracted by it. I don’t think hyper-fame comes easy to him. He’s an artist. He doesn’t want to be a star.

Your next project is likely to be “Passengers.” Is Jennifer Lawrence starring in it?
She wants to. We had a long dinner together. Both Chris Pratt and Jen are phenomenal. They really want to do this together. It will be starting in mid-to-late August or early September. The schedule is just Jen’s schedule. She has some promo commitments for “The Hunger Games.”

What’s the story about?
“Passengers” is about a spaceship on its way to one of the colonies. About 5,000 people are onboard, all asleep — it takes one of the pods 110 years to get there. After only 30 years, one of the pods malfunctions, and Chris’ character wakes up. He’s all alone on a spaceship, 90 years away from arriving. He will die of old age all alone, so he malfunctions another pod, so the second pod opens up. He awakes another passenger without telling her [Lawrence’s character] that he did it. It’s this very unique love story about two people trapped on a spaceship and they will both die there.

Have you been to the Oscars before?
This is my first time. My wife hasn’t found a dress yet. She’s panicking more.

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  1. davidchester says:

    I made a mistake myself. It should have been “apostrophes.” So, you see, we are all victims of the confusing rules behind apostrophes. (Not apostrophe’s.)

  2. davidchester says:

    Is there an aversion to apostrophe’s? Just because a person’s first name ends with an “s” does not therefore mean that it is incorrect to put s’s. It’s “Chris’s character, not “Chris’ character.” But I’m sure we could spend our lives arguing about that. And also, if the director thought that adding a “relationship with an adult man” to his film would have “enriched the character,” then he would have added it. The film has been nominated for 8 Oscars. Obviously, he did his job well and made smart decisions. I agree; just because Turing was gay doesn’t mean we had to see him having sex with another man. Or indicate a relationship. The man lived in hell and could not express himself emotionally or physically the way he needed to. It’s important for people who live in a “Glee” fantasy where the Kurts and Blaines of the world are welcomed with open arms to remember (or learn, might be better) that there was a much, much harsher reality for men from Alan Turing’s generation. I say bravo to Morten on a job well done, and as of this moment, since the jury is still out, I hope his film wins best picture.

  3. cdhaskell says:

    I can understand why the producer didn’t show his gay relationship because the movie was about the fact that he broke an german secret code during the war which no one didn’t it would never was broke.

  4. Johan Stavsjö says:

    This was not the first time a Scandinavian is nominated for Best Picture! First of all I do not know what he meant by that. Did he mean first time a film with a Scandinavian director is nominated for “Best Picture”, or did he mean a first time a Scandinavian director was nominated for “Best Director”. Nonetheless, both are false. Just two examples: Firstly, Ingmar Bergman have nominated 4 times for “Best Director” and won Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, furthermore his film “Cries & Whispers” (1972) was nominated for best picture. Secondly, Lasse Hallström have been nominated for “Best Director” twice and one of these films “The Cider House Rules” was nominated for “Best Picture”. Both of these directors are Scandinavians and there are more. However, Morten Tyldum is the first Non-Swedish Scandinavian Director to be nominated for “Best Director”, but not the first Scandinavian.

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