As part of Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s pre-production plan to forge deep bonds between the stars of his new film “Call Me by Your Name,” he staged getting-to-know-you dinner parties at his villa. But Timothée Chalamet, whose teenage Elio falls in love with Armie Hammer’s older grad student, Oliver, says the strategy might have been superfluous. “Luca’s a genius. He just sensed that we’d genuinely get along,” says Chalamet of his and Hammer’s intoxicating chemistry in the film, which opened last week. In the following interview, Guadagnino, Chalamet and Hammer talk about romance, a Twitter war and the price paid for a Guadagnino pasta fest. “I’d jump rope every morning for 30 minutes because I was eating so much,” says Hammer. “I was like, “Man, I do have to have my shirt off. I’d better jump rope for awhile.’”
“Name” unfolds against a backdrop of paralyzing Italian summer heat. How hot was it?
Timothée Chalamet: [laughs] It rained a lot. On those days we’d shoot inside the house until we ran out of stuff to shoot.
Armie Hammer: We got there late in the season. By the time we were almost done filming it was actually cold. We had to have heaters in the villa. That pool by the way? It was freezing. It was a massive ancient stone trough. Right before we’d go in it we would be like [steeling himself] “OK, OK.” Then you’d just jump in.
Even when Armie or Timothée aren’t on screen it feels as if they are.
Luca Guadagnino: I always found myself incredibly entertained in a good sense of the word by the unraveling of a feeling for someone. It’s one of the most thrilling experiences that we can share as human people. But then you have Timothée and Armie’s investment in these characters, the power of their presence on screen and off screen too. All these things I think deliver what you felt.
Armie, let’s talk about your dancing-with-abandon scene.
Guadagnino: [laughs] He hates it.
Hammer: It was the hardest night of shooting for me. I enjoy dancing. But normally it’s when I’m inebriated. But being sober at work and just jumping around and gyrating while the whole crew and a hundred [extras] watch and there’s no music, just a click track? Ugh. It was the worst.
Armie, describe the events that led to a dust-up on Twitter between you and James Woods, who compared the Elio-Oliver affair to pedophilia.
Hammer: I read James Woods’ tweet the same way I’d read a book review written by someone who’d never read the book. I love this project. It’s something I’m proud of. And he said something I felt was out of line, kind of asinine and totally off base.
Guadagnino: I was crushed by James Woods’ remarks. I’m a big fan of his. I often thought he could be great in [one of my movies]. So that was disappointing to me. Maybe he will be in the sequel.
Luca, what’s your response to those who say the film doesn’t feature enough nudity?
Guadagnino: What’s the point of seeing the jewels of the family of Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer? I don’t understand that from the point of view of this movie. I think a movie where there’s a portrayal of gay love that’s edgy and shows the nudity and sex, it’s almost a parody today.
What’s happening with the fabled four-hour cut of the film?
Guadagnino: It was good. But no matter what you love about this first cut, you have to be merciless. But now I’m processing in my mind how we could tell the second chapter of the story of Oliver and Elio. There's a scene that’s quite extraordinary where they discuss going to town that could be wonderful in the film . So we’re not going to put it in the extras on the DVD. We want to keep it for the sequel, maybe as a flashback.
Luca, you’ve called this the closest you’ll ever get to making a Disney movie. Explain.
Guadagnino: It’s about championing family, the tradition of knowledge and diversity. What is “Toy Story”? It’s about a strangely put-together family of people, a group of misfits who are imaginative people. The bonds that they create in Disney films are so profound, uplifting, empowering — and yet they hinge on diversity. Enchantment in a Disney movie is always there. I think there’s something about enchantment in the story of these characters. So I do believe that this is my attempt to make a Disney movie without Disney. I hope that Disney will call me to make a movie. I am serious.