Luca Guadagnino talked about his love for shooting sex scenes and looking at characters in all of their “wholeness and fragility” in a conversation with fellow filmmaker John Waters this weekend at the Provincetown International Film Festival, where the Call Me By Your Name filmmaker received the 2022 Filmmaker on the Edge Award.
Discussing Guadagnino’s 2009 movie I Am Love starring Tilda Swinton, John Waters pointed out the abundance of sex scenes in the film. But to Waters’ surprise, Guadagnino doesn’t find filming sex scenes awkward — in fact, just the opposite.
“I love to film sex scenes,” Guadagnino said. “It depends if the people who are working with me doing it are comfortable. So that’s why — I don’t like to shoot them if they’re not comfortable. But at the end of the day, my motto is that shooting a sex scene is as equal as shooting a scene in which someone drinks a cup of tea. I don’t see the difference. It’s acting.”
“Yeah, but you’re not directing nude,” Waters interjected.
“I could if they asked me!” Guadagnino said with a laugh.
Next, Waters turned the conversation to another recurring theme in Guadagnino’s work: the concept of “moral rot.”
“I like to see people in their wholeness and fragility, you know? Like, who am I to judge? But it’s interesting to see the nature, the naked truth of [what] we are made of,” Guadagnino said.
On that subject, they also circled around to what Guadagnino calls his biggest hit: Call Me By Your Name starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer.
“I think that Call Me By Your Name is about this young boy, Elio, wandering reality and trying to understand himself and really exploring everything about himself and emitting the illusion of love, because it’s an illusion,” Guadagnino said. “And he is hit hard by the delusion.”
As for whether Call Me By Your Name and other films of his with sexual subject matter surrounding teenagers, like Melissa P., could be made today, Guadagnino says anything is possible when you don’t pay attention to what people are saying on social media.
“Yes, under the right circumstances,” he said. “I try not to be part of any kind of mainstream discourse, and if you’re not part of it, then you can do whatever you want.”
To that end, he also chooses not to engage with the scandal surrounding Call Me By Your Name star Armie Hammer, who was accused of rape by a previous romantic partner. Hammer has denied the accusation.
“I’m not very good at the trials on social media. As far as I’m concerned, Armie has been exposed on social media, but the law has yet to talk, if the law has anything to say about it,” he said.
Waters himself can relate, having been through a similar situation with Woody Allen — Waters acted in his 1999 movie Sweet and Lowdown — whose adopted daughter Dylan Farrow accused him of sexually abusing her as a child. Allen has repeatedly denied the accusation.
“I was in a Woody Allen movie. I didn’t give the money back,” Waters said.
Waters shared similar thoughts about Johnny Depp, who recently won a libel lawsuit against Amber Heard, and who starred in Waters’ 1990 film Cry-Baby.
“I was on this tour for my book, and everybody’s asked me about Johnny Depp because he’s on trial every minute, you know, and it’s something you don’t want to talk about,” Waters said.
Ultimately, both Waters and Guadagnino agree that no matter what happens to an actor’s reputation after a film is completed, it doesn’t have to affect the film’s legacy.
“I feel if someone has done something they’ve been convicted, they say they’re wrong, and they try to make themselves a better person than they were before, they do deserve a second chance,” Waters said.
Main Image: Luca Guadagnino in conversation with John Waters, courtesy of the Provincetown International Film Festival.