Published Dec 20, 2017With awards season mere weeks away, Call Me By Your Name — the latest drama by director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) — has firmly shoved its way into the conversation for many good reasons, including stunning cinematography of the Italian countryside, a slow-burning script by James Ivory and Sufjan Stevens' score.
But the film, which depicts a passionate summer romance between swaggering grad student Oliver and his supervisor's precocious son Elio, would be nothing without the chemistry between the two leads, portrayed flawlessly by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet respectively. Depicting both the physical passion and emotional tension of the relationship, it's the latter that gives the film its edge.
"There's a lot of intimacy in this movie, but the intimacy that seemed harder or more challenging wasn't the physical intimacy — it was the emotionally intimate stuff," explains Hammer at a roundtable during the Toronto International Film Festival, with Chalamet and Guadagnino by his side. "It was being face-to-face with someone on camera with the camera extremely close and feeling like you are in a place where you can be vulnerable."
That vulnerability between Hammer and Chalamet not only drives the film, but has remained long after the cameras stopped rolling. Speaking with the pair together, it's clear that their relationship is every bit as playful and sweet in real life as it is between their characters in the film, and that their off-screen bonding informed their on-screen performances.
"The way [Armie] carries himself as a man, the way he carries himself as a father, the way he carries himself as a husband, it's been such a crucial roadmap for me," reveals Chalamet.
"There's such a love in this marriage between Armie and [his wife] Elizabeth, and there's love between Armie and his daughter, Harper. It's very inspiring for me, gives me hope for myself, that love. Being in love, marriage — these things don't necessarily have bad or tragic or sterile endings. These things can blossom beautifully, the way they do in Call Me By Your Name."
The praise goes both ways. Says Hammer about Chalamet, "[His] openness and honesty is really great. I feel like maybe sometimes, the tendency might be to try and guard yourself or protect yourself or hide yourself. And I think watching Tim live in the scenes and watch him perfect them was almost like an acting exercise."
As for the still-fertile relationship between the actors, director Guadagnino happily takes all the credit. On selecting the pair, he says he picked them "because I had great chemistry with them. I'm arrogant enough to think that if I have great chemistry, they will have great chemistry between them."
His hunch was right: Thanks to Hammer and Chalamet's potent bond both on- and off-screen, Call Me By Your Name is one of 2017's best films, and is poised to be one of 2018's biggest winners.