While there has been a lot of controversy about casting cisgender actors in transgender roles, there’s generally less talk about whether straight actors should play gay roles. However, there are certainly some out there who think it would be better to cast gay actors (although at least we seem to have gotten past the time when straight actors are described as ‘brave’ for playing a gay part).
The gay-themed Call Me By Your Name found much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival, although the two main actors, Armie Hammer and TImothee Chalamet, are both straight. In the film, Hammer plays a 24-year old American scholar spending the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy, where he attracts the attention of a 17-year-old Jewish-American boy (Chalamet).
Now the movie’s director, Luca Guadagnino, has been chatting to THR about why he didn’t specifically look for gay men to play those roles. He says, “This film is about the blossoming of love and desire, no matter where it comes from and toward what. So I couldn’t have ever thought of casting with any sort of gender agenda. I think people are so beautiful and complex as creatures that as much as I am fascinated with gender theory — I’ve studied [American gender theorist] Judith Butler for so long — I prefer much more never to investigate or label my performers in any way. I only cast the actors and actresses I fall in love with — truly having an emotion for them, an anticipation and enthusiasm when seeing them — and I believe that my emotional confidence in them blends into chemistry. It’s always been like that, and I hope I won’t be wrong in the future.”
He also spoke about why he didn’t include explicit sex in the movie, saying, “I wasn’t interested at all. The tone would’ve been very different from what I was looking for. I wanted the audience to completely rely on the emotional travel of these people and feel first love. I didn’t want the audience to find any difference or discrimination toward these characters. It was important to me to create this powerful universality, because the whole idea of the movie is that the other person makes you beautiful – enlightens you, elevates you. The other is often confronted with rejection, fear or a sense of dread, but the welcoming of the other is a fantastic thing to do, particularly in this historical moment.”
Call Me By You Name will be in cinemas later this year.