VOGUE – André Aciman’s novel Call Me by Your Name tells the story of Elio, a musically inclined Italian-American/French teenager, and Oliver, a rakish graduate student visiting Elio’s family’s home. Elio’s initial annoyance with his houseguest gives way to curiosity, then cryptic flirtation, and eventually a furtive, passionate affair. The book has been considered a modern classic of queer literature since its publication in 2007, but for Timothée Chalamet, the actor who plays Elio in the new film adaptation, it was also quite an investment. “I got a copy through the library at Columbia,” says the half-French New York City native over coffee in the East Village. “But I forgot to give it back for a year, so it was a $100 read. I still have that copy.”
The atmospheric intensity of the novel was a natural subject for Luca Guadagnino, the I Am Love director and longtime Tilda Swinton collaborator. He cast Armie Hammer opposite Chalamet, enlisted Sufjan Stevens to contribute to the sound track of the film, and relocated the setting to Lombardy. He also allowed Chalamet to integrate some French into the Italian and English script, giving the film a seductive, borderless feel. As Chalamet puts it, “The lingual freedom fed the intellectual foreplay.” (Chalamet looks even younger than his 21 years, but he’s sharper than actors twice his age. “He is exactly what I imagined,” Aciman says of the casting choice. “Lankish, a bit brooding, bookish—the whole thing.”)
Other directors are equally keen to capture “the whole thing”: Chalamet, whose first break was as the bad-news boyfriend on the second season of Homeland, has also landed roles in Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird; Christian Bale’s latest film, Hostiles; and an upcoming Woody Allen project. As we pay the bill, I ask what he’s planning to wear to the Toronto International Film Festival, and he shows me a caramel double-breasted Berluti. I mention he looks like Gianni Agnelli in his 20s. “Who?” Chalamet asks. It’s safe to say he’s still more French than Italian.