Six years after launching “I Am Love” from Venice, Luca Guadagnino is back on the Lido with the more ambitious “A Bigger Splash,” a psychological drama about a rock star and a photographer (Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts, respectively) whose vacation on the sun-drenched Sicilian island of Pantelleria takes an unexpected turn when a record producer (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter (Dakota Johnson) burst on the scene. Guadagnino spoke about the process that led to making “Splash,” which Fox Searchlight has set for a May 13, 2016, U.S. release.
“I am Love” took your career to the next level, after “The Protagonists” and “Melissa P.” Now comes “A Bigger Splash.” What took you so long?
Last month I counted how many scripts I’ve read since “I am Love,” and it’s more or less 500. It gave me a fantastic read of the business. Many things I was reading six years ago seemed to be very much the thing to be done then, and then the effect evaporated immediately. I got the feeling that even if I had great stars, a great studio, I knew there was something false, like a trompe l’oeil, so I ran away from trompe l’oeils. Having said that, I truly would love to be making films at a brisker pace, and I’m dedicating myself to that. But I am a control freak. I need to have a great deal of control and the ability to share my control with my collaborators and grant them the freedom and the quality of work I think these people deserve. If I don’t have those elements, I walk away.
StudioCanal, which asked you to direct this remake of Jacques Deray’s “La piscine,” seem to have been instrumental in creating the conditions to get “Splash” done.
I think that StudioCanal — and I’m not saying this to be unctuous — these people are the real thing. I grew up with a concept of cinema as a directorial thing, meaning the director is allowed to sail the ship. Not a dictatorial thing. Studiocanal believes in this. The inspiring quality of the collaboration that came out between me and them, Olivier Courson and Ron Halpern, and the rest of the team, it’s really remarkable.
On “Splash,” you worked with writer David Kajganich. How did this film come together creatively?
I think a script is great when it starts with the structure and works with the structure without falling into the typical three-act system in which the audience is ahead of the movie. I hate that; but that is like 99% of what I read. I like the idea that you do not precede the narration, and that’s what we tried with David.
The actors, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, really gave you a lot. Tell me about working with them.
I am glad that they were so generous. Moviemaking is a dirty, tiring affair. The joy comes from the possibility to be free on set and really let loose.
The music obviously plays a very important part. Can you tell me about your relationship with the Rolling Stones? Did they know that you were going to have a character (Harry) who had been their manager?
From day one the Rolling Stones were the spirit of the film, not just the soundtrack. We gave them the script and they gave a tip: they said: ‘Change that thing you had in Ralph Fiennes’ monologue to this.’ That was a great moment.
What’s on the horizon?
I’m going to direct a remake of Dario Argento’s “Suspiria.” I’m going to shoot the movie this winter. I think my friends at StudioCanal will be part of it.