WINNER: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME – Screenplay by James Ivory
JAMES IVORY: Well, I’ll try and keep it — I’ll make it as fast I can, before the music plays. My rule number one for a screenwriter who adapts a novel, is first thank the author. Andre Aciman, who wrote the story about first love, and who’s here tonight. A story familiar to most of us, whether we’re straight or gay, or somewhere in between, we’ve all gone through first love, I hope, and come out the other side mostly intact. Though maybe not without the benefit of loving parents, like the Perlman’s in this film. I want to thank our sensitive and sensible director, Luca Guadagnino, as well as my neighbors in Upstate New York, Peter Spears and Brian Swardstrom who offered me this job. Of course, I want to thank the film’s wonderful emotion-filled actors, I wouldn’t be standing up here tonight without their inspired help. And I wouldn’t be standing up here without the inspired help I received from my life’s partners who are gone, our writer Ruth Jhabvala, who received this award twice, and our fearless producer Ismail Merchant. Working with them for close to fifty years at Merchant/Ivory led me to this award. And my profound thanks to the members of the Academy. In voting for me, you are remembering them. And finally, my thanks to Sony Classics, to Michael Barker and to Tom Bernard for getting behind this film in such a princely way. Thank you very much, everyone.
Q. Congratulations on not only being the oldest Oscar male winner, but also the winner ‑‑ the oldest winner overall in Academy’s history. So how does it feel?
A. Well, imagine how it would feel. I mean, being 90 years for anything that you would do is extraordinary. But to be here having won the Oscar at that age, this seems as like a hiccup in nature, possibly, something like that. But it feels great, and it certainly feels good ‑‑ it feels good to be holding on to that Oscar ‑‑ it’s my Oscar ‑‑ for the first time. I’ve been nominated before, but never won. I once had ‑‑ received an Oscar for Ruth Jhabvala, and I walked around with hers, but it was not mine. So, it’s a very good feeling. And I’m glad it was ‑‑ particularly, I’m glad it was an Oscar for writing. I’m not exactly new to that. I mean, I worked on many of our film scripts. I’ve co‑written scripts before, films of ours that were produced, but I’d never written one from ‑‑ you know, right from the first lines up to the end and seeing it produced.
Q. You say thank you to Luca Guadagnino, and I’m wondering what was in that book that made you feel like you wanted to adapt this particular book? And what was it like working with Luca Guadagnino?
A. Well, the first interest for me was the fact that the film was going to be made in Italy, because Italy is a country that I love, and as you know, I made A ROOM WITH A VIEW THERE, and I’ve also made ‑‑ worked on other films there. I loved the idea of going to Italy and making a film. And ‑‑ so ‑‑ and then the story naturally had a good amount of personal relevance for me. And so that was ‑‑ that was interesting, of course. But it just generally was a project that I liked, and I liked the people that were involved in it.
And as for Luca, I never ‑‑ and I never was around on the set while he was working because I stayed in New York while they shot, but we had many, many meetings about what we were going to do, or what I wanted to do, in many cases, I mean there were certain things ‑‑ big things I wanted to do with the novel. I wanted to cut off the ending of it and drop a chunk of it later on and all this other thing. So, he was always very agreeable and reasonable about what I wanted to do and he had some good ideas of his own. And those have come into the script. So it was ‑‑ you know, it was good working with him, and good being in Crema where he lives, in that part of Italy, which I don’t know too well. It’s fairly near Milan.
Q. This is obviously such a specific LBGTQ story, but there’s a sort of universality to it, too. I think everyone can kind of see themselves in it a little bit. And what do you think makes the love story so universal, and then how do you think everyone is able to connect to it so powerfully?
A. Well, I think it’s ‑‑ it’s the whole idea of a first love, one’s first strong love, which may have gone badly, that has gone badly for many people, but you survive and you go on to other loves, hopefully. I think that’s what’s ‑‑ it’s a universal situation, first love and how ‑‑ how we feel about it, whether it ‑‑ it’s made us unhappy or joyous, whatever, that is universal and a subject matter that everyone everywhere can, you know, identify with.
Q. People keep talking about your age. Was it fun to write from that young man’s first love point of view? It’s awhile since you had first love. So was it exciting? Was it easy? Was it thrilling to write, to ‑‑ you know, [inaudible] that atmosphere?
A. Yeah. I think that’s why I’m here. I think it was, in fact, a rejuvenating experience somehow. It wouldn’t be like ‑‑ there are other kinds of books you might adapt. It wouldn’t ‑‑ it wouldn’t be like that. I think, one, in a sense emotionally, and in your memories you do relive your own ‑‑ your own life at that time, late teenage. I think about it ‑‑ I still think about it all the time. I don’t have to be writing a script to think about when I was a teenager.