×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

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.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Beyonce Knowles'The Lion King' film premiere,

    ABC Announces Behind-the-Scenes Special for Beyoncé's 'Lion King' LP

    ABC has announced a new behind-the-scenes look into the making of Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift” LP, which is set to air September 16 on ABC at 10 p.m. EST. Titled “Beyoncé Presents: Making the Gift,” the new hour-long special will allow viewers to “experience the process” behind the “Lion King” companion album, according [...]

  • Jason Lei Howden, Samara Weaving and

    Daniel Radcliffe On Acting With Weapons Nailed To Your Hands

    How did “Guns Akimbo” director and writer Jason Lei Howden convince Daniel Radcliffe to play a character with guns nailed to his hands? Easy, he sent him the script. Radcliffe joined Howden and “Ready or Not’s” breakout star Samara Weaving in the Variety’s Toronto Film Festival studio, presented by AT&T to talk the limits of [...]

  • Box Office: It Chapter Two Maintains

    Box Office: 'It: Chapter Two' Continues International Reign With $47 Million

    Pennywise’s reign of terror hasn’t wavered: Warner Bros.’ “It Chapter Two” maintained first place on box office charts, led by another strong showing overseas. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s horror novel, generated another $47 million at the international box office for a foreign tally of $169 million. After two weeks of release, “It Chapter [...]

  • First still from the set of

    Taika Waititi’s 'Jojo Rabbit' Wins Top Prize at Toronto Film Festival Awards

    Taika Waititi’s “Jojo Rabbit” has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. The honor positions the film for a potential Oscar run and bolsters its awards chances. That’s good news for Fox Searchlight, which must have been disappointed by the lackluster critical reception for the movie, a dark comedy [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Racks Up Solid $33 Million Debut, 'Goldfinch' Bombs

    “Hustlers” rolled in the Benjamins this weekend, collecting $33.2 million when it debuted in 3,250 North American theaters. Boosted by rave reviews and stellar word of mouth, “Hustlers” beat expectations and now ranks as the best start for an STX film, along with the biggest live-action opening weekend for stars Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. [...]

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content