Call Me By Your Name: “I’m sure Timothée is a better kisser than Elio”
The mainstream appeal of Call Me By Your Name was officially cemented with a 2018 Oscar win.
The movie won Best Adapted Screenplay and rightly so. The heartbreaking love story of Elio and Oliver, set in early 80s Italy, has become an LGBTQ+ cinema phenomenon. There’s even a sequel in the pipeline.
But there’s one other thing, apart from awards, that will forever be associated with Call Me By Your Name – and in particular, its lead star Timothée Chalamet.
So how does Timothée feel to now always be associated with a peach?
“Fucking awesome!” he shouts, without missing a beat.
“How can we do this truthfully?”
“The peach scene felt risqué certainly in the physical reality of the scene. But it felt more risqué in the idea of like, how can we do this truthfully? How are we gonna get this across without it feeling disingenuous?
“And even worse without it feeling underplayed or something?
“I feel like the reason any of these things came on at all is all thanks to Luca [Guadagnino, director]. He was just such a common presence on set. He treated that scene the way every other scene was treated.”
Of course, that scene aside, there have been other ‘hot takes’ since Call Me By Your Name was released. Many outlets sought to highlight the lack of queer actors in lead roles, or trying to spin that, somehow, either actor didn’t want to play gay.
“I didn’t know if I would actually be able to perform this”
“This movie is, for some people, a really incendiary topic,” fellow star Armie Hammer, who plays Oliver, suggests.
“There are so many quotes that are so easy to take out of context. Whether it be me saying that I was ‘hesitant’ to take this role because I didn’t know if I would actually be able to perform this. As an actor I didn’t know if I could make myself that raw, open and exposed. Because this is so much about the subtlety. And that can easily be taken into ‘he was hesitant to take a gay role’. This is not the first time I’ve done this!
Armie is straight has previously played gay characters in movies J. Edgar and Final Portrait.
“But at the end of the day, people have to make clickbait,” he says. “I get it, I understand the nature of the beast.”
But despite any criticism over casting straight actors in gay roles, both Timothée and Armie agree that no-one advised them not to take these roles.
“Growing up in the arts, the arts welcomes everyone,” Timothée explains. “Fortunately I didn’t grow up with a stigma, or these stereotypes.
“I didn’t and don’t have the mechanism to really judge sexuality or gender identity, or things of that nature in a positive or negative fashion.”
“I was blown away at how beautiful this story was. Just this story of two human beings falling in love in the most raw, honest way”
Armie laughs at the suggestion. He states he didn’t feel he was good enough to play such an important, raw role.
“No, that didn’t come from any sort of place of homophobia or anything like that. This is a more extreme film, in the sense of, someone fucks a piece of fruit in the movie! This is a more intense film than anything I’ve ever done.
“I was blown away at how beautiful this story was. Just this story of two human beings falling in love in the most raw, honest way. It was just incredible, I don’t think I’d ever read a script like this.”
He considers the debate further. “If there are people that are upset about it, I apologise. I’m just an actor trying to push myself and trying to see what I can do as a performer.”
And push they did. There are, as you will have noticed, some rather intimate scenes in Call Me By Your Name between the pair. The character of Elio, in particular, doesn’t hold back when it comes to grabbing hold.
“Women have been groped on film for a long time. No one ever asks them how they do it”
“It’s all acting,” Armie shrugs.
“And if we’re going to be fair, I think women have been groped on film for a long time. No one ever asks them how they do it, or how they get away with it,” he says, chuckling.
“In these moments, what it felt like was a completely organic and natural part of what these two characters were going through. It wasn’t like I was thinking about as Armie in the situation, it’s sort of like trying to lose yourself in that situation.”
Timothée agrees. “I think experience is the best teacher. Luc had the brilliant idea to have us in Italy a month early, so when it did come time to do those scenes we had been around each other for two months at that point.
“So any sort of artificial awkwardness that would come with shooting a movie on a stage, or shooting a movie in LA, to be sequestered in a small town in Italy for two months, and then to be shooting on one lens, it takes away a lot of the nerves around that kind of stuff.”
So how did Armie measure up as a kisser? Timothée laughs. “Couldn’t tell you, couldn’t tell you. That’s uh, there isn’t an answer to that, there isn’t an answer to that…”
Fortunately Armie does have an answer, of sorts.
“We never actually kissed outside of rehearsals and making the movie,” he says, potentially breaking hearts in the process, “so I couldn’t tell you how Timmy actually kisses.
“But I can tell you that Elio as a kisser is so much about sort of unbridled and borderline unexperienced passion. Not Timmy, but it’s very much Elio. I’m sure Timmy is a better kisser than Elio!”
“I can maybe get to be another cog in the mission to move this cause forward”
Call Me By Your Name has awards still stacking up and a fanbase bordering on beautifully obsessive. With a sequel on the cards, how do they feel about having played a part in such an enormous moment for gay cinema?
“In an ensemble sense,” Timothée ventures, ever humble, “I can maybe get to be another cog in the mission to move this cause forward. It’s really moving, a little overwhelming but ultimately very gratifying to think about.”
Armie agrees. “This is a movie that, hopefully, can affect change or maybe change one person’s perspective, or make somebody truly look at themselves and go ‘no wait, is there something that I’m not being honest to myself about? Is there something that I need to acknowledge? Is there something that I really need to really look inside myself and see if I’m happy and see if there’s anything I can do to change that?’ And I think that’s a beautiful thing.”