One of the buzziest films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival is “Call Me By Your Name,” a love story set in 1980s Italy between an American visitor (Armie Hammer) and a local teenager (Timothee Chalamet). But although the movie takes place in the past, it feels politically timely, given questions about LGBT rights under a Trump administration.
On Monday afternoon, director Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”) talked to Variety about showing the movie under an administration where the vice president, Mike Pence, has a record of opposition to gay rights. He zeroed in on accusations that Pence supports conversion therapy, a practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The conviction of Mr. Pence, the idea that you can revert the identity of someone, particularly the non-normative identity into a normative identity, it speaks to me of his own identity,” Guadagnino said. “I am very curious to know if anybody who is very close to Mr. Pence could tell us what really Mr. Pence thinks of himself.”
Hammer laughed. “Anybody? Anybody, please?”
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In the 12 years since “Brokeback Mountain,” there’s been considerable progress for gay rights and the representations of homosexual characters in movies and TV, from “Carol” to “Glee.” Back in 2006, Jack Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger were constantly asked about how “brave” it was to take on a gay romance. But at the Park City, Utah, premiere of “Call Me By Your Name” on Sunday night, no such questions emerged at a post-screening Q&A.
“Art is a very affecting, and hopefully can be, a change agent,” Hammer said, recalling “inflammatory” reactions to “Brokeback Mountain.” “Sociologically, I would hope we’ve evolved enough that now we can see past that and see the humanity, the truth, that is present in every moment of desire or affection.”
Guadagnino casts his lead actors without even conducting a chemistry test. He shot his lush drama near in Crema, Italy. During the first rehearsal, in a garden outside of the film’s house, he had Hammer and Chalamet go straight to a pivotal moment in the script, which was adapted from a beloved 2007 novel.
“The next thing we know, we’re lying in the grass and making out,” Hammer said, adding: “The shooting of the first kiss scene was great. It felt as organic and special as every shot we did on this movie.”
“I’ve never seen a shot like that from above, where Armie and I were splayed out on the grass,” Chalamet, 21, said. “The scenes that were intense in sexual nature on the page weren’t treated any differently.”
In fact, the hardest scene for Hammer was learning how to shimmy to ’80s music. “We had a choreographer who taught me,” he said. “The dancing was probably the thing I found the most difficult.”
“Call Me By Your Name” will be released later this year from Sony Pictures Classics.