A Single Man Cast
: Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, Nicholas Hoult, Ginnifer Goodwin.Director
: Tom FordGenre
: MRunning Time
: 96 minutes
Tom Ford's stunning directorial debut featuring Colin Firth's Academy Award nominated performance.
Torn apart by the shattering impact of the death of his long-time lover, college professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) experiences the most transformative day of his life, blending past and present, desire and despair, and discovering that love persists, even after the object of love is gone. Set in a sun-drenched 1960s California coastal canyon, featuring revealing performances by Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode, A Single Man marks the breakthrough directorial debut of internationally influential American fashion icon Tom Ford. Targeting indelible images of love, loss and rebirth, the film is a personal testament, filled with deep emotional resonance.Special Features
Make Of- Featurette.A Single Man
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A Single Man
It is 1962, and nuclear warfare looms imminently. Fear pervades the world. Societal values are represented in over-simplistic black and white terms, but the complexities of human relationships remain just as convoluted as they are today.
Fade to Black, in association with Depth of Field presents A Single Man starring Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult. Based on the 1964 novel of the same title by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man was written, directed and produced for the screen by Tom Ford. The screenplay was co-written by David Scearce, while Chris Weiz, Andrew Miano and Robert Salerno produced the film with Tom Ford.
Behind-the-camera talent includes Oscar nominee Arianne Phillips, costume design, Dan Bishop, production design, Eduard Grau, director of photography, Joan Sobel, editor, and Abel Korzeniowsky and Shigeru Umebayashi, composers.
Set in Los Angeles almost 50 years ago, at the height of the Cuban missile crisis, A Single Man is the story of George Falconer, a 52 year old British college professor (Colin Firth) who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner, Jim (Matthew Goode). George dwells on the past and cannot see his future as we follow him through a single day, where a series of events and encounters, ultimately leads him to decide if there is a meaning to life after Jim. George is consoled by his closest friend, Charley (Julianne Moore), a 48 year old beauty who is wrestling with her own questions about the future. A young student of George's, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who is coming to terms with his true nature, stalks George as he feels in him a kindred spirit.
A Single Man is a romantic tale of love interrupted the isolation that is an inherent part of the human condition, and ultimately, the importance of the seemingly smaller moments in life.
"I first read the book, A Single Man, in the early 1980s and was moved by the honesty and simplicity of the story," says Tom Ford, writer-director-producer of the film. "Three years ago, after searching for the right project to develop as my first film, it occurred to me that I often thought of this novel and its protagonist, 'George'."
"I picked it up and read it again and the book resonated with me in an entirely different way. It is a deeply spiritual story of one day in the life of a man who cannot see his future. It is a universal tale of coming to terms with the isolation that we all feel, and of the importance of living in the present and understanding that the small things in life are really the big things in life."
The gestation for Tom Ford's directing debut has been years in the making. As both a student and obsessive fan of motion pictures, Tom Ford was familiar with the types of films that stirred him emotionally.
His work as a creative director of still photography, advertising campaigns and commercials in the fashion industry for the past 25 years helped Tom Ford understand framing, lighting, and the importance of image in the telling of a story. Tom Ford is quick to point out; however, that image and style can also kill a film if there is not a story or message that deserves to be told and challenges the viewer. For Tom Ford the story is all: "We seem to have lost character driven films with dialogue, and these are ultimately the most rewarding films for me as a viewer and this is the type of film that I set out to make."
Ultimately for Tom Ford, A Single Man was the right story at the right time. "I have always had a kind of intuition or inner voice that has served me well. Fashion is so much about intuition because you have to anticipate what people will want a year before they want it." When A Single Man kept nudging his psyche, his intuition told him that he had found the right property.
"I've been working on this project for quite a while. I worked on the screenplay off and on for almost two years and did many drafts. When you are imagining a scene while writing it, there are no problems. Actors speak their lines perfectly. The shot is beautiful. But, that is because you aren't working in reality," muses Tom Ford.
Tom Ford optioned both the Isherwood novel and a completed screenplay written by David Scearce, but realised quickly that neither would make the film that he wanted to make and set about creating his own plot points from scratch and writing a new screenplay on his own. His final screenplay differs considerably from both the book and the previous screenplay, but his primary goal was to maintain the essence of the story. He understood that the interior monologue style of Isherwood's novel would not work visually for the film, and so he invented a variety of personal encounters throughout George's day. Most significantly, he added a vital new angle to the story - George's planned suicide at the end of his day. "George has been living in the past, he cannot see his future and cannot shake a deep depression and so decides to end his life. Thinking that he is seeing things for the last time, he begins to view the world differently and finds himself for the first time in years living in the present and confronted with the beauty of the world. This is a timely subject, I believe, as it is now more important than ever for us to all appreciate the gifts that we have in our lives."
While the hero of the story is gay, Tom Ford points out that the film transcends sexuality. "The movie is about loss and loneliness. It could be the same story if it was George's wife, instead of his partner, who had died. This is a love story and one man's search for meaning in his life. The theme is universal."
Tom Ford put an autobiographical imprint on A Single Man . The suicide that George constructs in the film is a replica of a suicide in Tom Ford's family. More importantly, Tom Ford went through his own difficult juncture, like George, a few years ago. "There is much of me in my version of George. A kind of spiritual crisis at mid life comes to many people. I achieved much in the material world at a very early age: financial security, fame, professional success, more material possessions than I knew what to do with. I had a full personal life, a wonderful life partner of 23 years, two great dogs, and lots of friends but somehow lost my way a bit. As a fashion designer, one spends one's life living in the future designing collections several years ahead of when they will actually be in stores. Our culture encourages a belief that all of our problems can be solved with material things. I had completely neglected the spiritual side of my life."
Tom Ford then reawakened himself with a new interest in philosophical matters such as the Tao Te Ching and similar introspective works. "In re-reading the Isherwood book at this point in my life, I realised that it was a book written by the true self about the false self. Christopher Isherwood was a student of Vedanta and this is very evident in the novel. It is incredibly spiritual and very much about the struggle of living in the present. I think that people who know my work as a fashion designer will be surprised by this film. It is very personal and an expression of a side of my character that most people don't know."
After he was satisfied with his script, the project came together in a relatively short period of time in film terms.
"Julianne Moore was the first actor to say 'yes'," Tom Ford recalls. "Colin Firth's part was the hardest to cast because there are very few actors in the world with the right sensitivity to play the part of George."
Firth was originally busy with another film, and suddenly became available when the shooting schedule for A Single Man changed. Tom Ford immediately flew to London and convinced Firth to take the part. Firth, a classically trained British theatre actor, has been recognised for his work with numerous award nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, Emmys and BAFTA.
Tom Ford says, "The incredible thing about Colin Firth is his ability to telegraph what he's thinking through his eyes, almost without moving his face and certainly without saying a line." He adds that Firth's subtle acting skills worked perfectly for the restrained character of George.
"Julianne Moore was amazing on the set," says Tom Ford. "She would be talking away with Colin Firth until we called 'action', and just immediately go into her British accent and her character. She did it so smoothly... but you never really know how an actor prepares in their head."
Academy Award nominated Julianne Moore portrays Charley, the Tanqueray-happy best friend to George.
"I constructed a new Charley than that of the book," explains Tom Ford, "who is a conglomeration of my female friends and, actually, my grandmother. I also created a new back-story for George and Charley to illustrate the relationship that I have with several women in my life. Mr. Isherwood's Charley was less complex and certainly less attractive," comments Tom Ford. "All three of our principal characters are going through a change of life. Charley is having a mid life crisis just as George is and she too cannot see her future."
Playing George's late partner, Jim, is Matthew Goode, best known for his roles in Matchpoint, Brideshead Revisited, and in the sci-fi epic, Watchmen. The character of Jim represents all of the good things about America for George. He is straightforward, uncomplicated, honest and sure of himself. "Matthew Goode was perfect for the part. He has a fresh quality and gave us exactly what we needed, but his acting style is entirely different than that of Colin Firth or Julianne Moore. He was much more off the cuff and loose, or at least seemed that way on set but whatever his internal process is, the end result is brilliant," says Tom Ford.
Tom Ford offers much praise for Nicholas Hoult, whose character Kenny is a student in George's class and who finds a kindred spirit in his professor. Kenny is also at a juncture in his life. He is in the process of becoming a man and coming to terms with his true nature. "Nicholas was absolutely great. He was only 18 when we were shooting. So serious and so professional which is a contrast to the wild English lad he is in real life. He's hysterically funny off camera." Hoult has been acting since he was a child, and co-starred in About a Boy with Hugh Grant and is well known as Tony on the British television drama Skins.
"Kenny is a kind of angel," says Tom Ford. "He rescues George both emotionally and literally."
Even some of the smaller parts in the motion picture take on symbolic relevance. Tom Ford describes Carlos, the hustler who George encounters and is played by Jon Kortajarena, as a "human flower
at this point in our story George is stunned by the beauty he encounters and when he spots Carlos he is mesmerised. His attraction to him is not sexual: he simply wants to gaze at Carlos's absolute beauty. In the end he has a very human conversation with Carlos and then goes on his way."
Ginnifer Goodwin portrays Mrs. Strunk, George's next-door neighbour. George, who is usually annoyed with her, sees her at the bank with his altered vision and perceives her in a new and refreshingly beautiful way. As a regular on the cable show, Big Love, she was recently seen in the hit feature film, He's Just Not That Into You. The part of Grant, a colleague of George's who embodies the fear that permeates American culture is played by Emmy nominee Lee Pace who is well known for his role on the American television series Pushing Daises.
One of Tom Ford's toughest challenges was a very abbreviated pre-production period. That added considerable pressure on production to find the right locations in the Los Angeles area. "We needed to find a completely deserted college that was correct for the period," explains Tom Ford. The company found a small school across from the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.
Even tougher was locating George's house because of Tom Ford's cinematic requirements. "The fact that Colin Firth's character is British
I wanted something that was modern, yet filled with a lot of wood... warmth and wood panelling seemed right for George."
"Also, I needed to find a house that I knew I could pull back from and get a beautiful architectural shot to show his entire world."
More stress was on Tom Ford and his costume designer, Arianne Phillips, during the short prep. "Arianne Phillips was amazing and a real support for me in many ways. She has a great eye that is not just limited to clothes. She is a brilliant costume designer and somehow managed to pull together absolutely perfect period costumes in no time and with little money," he points out. Tom Ford manufactured the wardrobes in Milan for both Colin Firth and Nicholas Hoult.
"I didn't have a DP (Eduard Grau) until a few weeks before principal photography was set to begin. I had looked at so many reels of DP's and could just not find anyone who was available and seemed right. One day a DVD appeared on my desk with the name Eduard Grau on it. I popped it in my computer and I knew that I had found the right guy. Eduard came over the next day from London, we had lunch at Musso and Frank's and talked for a few hours and I hired him. I was not sorry. He has a great eye, great technical knowledge despite his young age (he is 28) and his European sensibility fit with my own. We worked very well together and I think that he is a real talent. We were also very lucky because we had a terrific and very experienced camera crew and a great gaffer, Jim Plannette," says Tom Ford.
The look of the film was also important to Tom Ford as he saw this as a way to help the audience understand the characters and especially to understand what George is feeling as he moves through his day. "The use of colour plays an important part in the film. In the book we are inside George's head so we know what emotions he is feeling at any given time. I needed a way to help convey George's mood externally to the audience. At the beginning of the day, when George is at his lowest, our colour is desaturated and our light is flat as George is so depressed that life for him is literally colourless. As George begins to experience moments of beauty during the day the colour on our screen amps up to reflect George's heightened mood. This really begins to kick in when George encounters Jennifer Strunk in the bank. George, in his dark state of mind, usually thinks of this girl as an annoying and irritating child. When he encounters her in the bank he sees her finally for what she is: a lovely, fresh beautiful young girl and he has an engaging conversation with her. By the time we get to the evening, and the beauty of life is pulling at George he is living almost entirely in technicolour."
Tom Ford shot the film in a brisk 21-day schedule, but was ultra-organised to deal with each day's work. Discarding some early storyboards, Tom Ford, instead, made detailed shot lists of each camera angle for each scene.
The experience of his key actors as well as a concerted effort on the part of his crew helped the production move at the required quick pace. Tom Ford jokes, "I was pushing the line producer which is the opposite of how it usually is."
"I believe that you need a team of people working with you who want this to be the most important thing that they have ever done," emphasises Tom Ford.
Obviously aware of how hard people work in the fashion industry, Tom Ford gained new respect for film crews and the hours and effort that they put forth for weeks on end. He points out that even though "everything went very smoothly," he still only averaged two to three hours of sleep per night during the shooting schedule.
Tom Ford feels that his experience in the fashion world gave him a distinct advantage when it came time to direct.
"One of my greatest strengths as a director is that I'm used to working with a large group of people, trying to bring out their best while getting them to be as creative as they can possibly be while steering and guiding them through my vision," notes Tom Ford.
His biggest surprise as a first-time director was in the editing process. "I spent six months editing. If you had asked me at the beginning of the process how long it would take me I would have said half that time. I really didn't understand how one can completely change the meaning of a scene or even the story in the way that one edits. I was lucky to work with Joan Sobel, a truly inspirational editor who became one of my closest collaborators."
Tom Ford finds editing like a "Rubik's cube. I got inside the movie and turned it and twisted it in so many different directions that it really started to wear me out. Finally, I looked at the movie until everything seemed to be the only way it could be, the only way it was meant to be and the only way it should be."
One of Tom Ford's passions about films has been his love of motion picture sound tracks. He had some early ideas about what to do with the music in A Single Man .
"Usually, when we see a movie about the 1960s, it is littered with popular tunes from that period which is a little bit hokey and not at all right for a movie that is very emotional and inside someone's head," he says.
"So I tried to envision what kind of music would be inside George's head. I didn't want to be limited to classical music that would have existed in the early 1960s, but I did want it to have a certain reference to classical music and to use a real classical orchestra."
Tom Ford's first call for a composer was long distance to Japan.
"I have always loved the composer Shigeru Umebayashi and Wong Kar Wai's films, especially the theme song Ume did for In the Mood for Love. It's one of my favourite pieces of movie music."
Tom Ford contacted Umebayashi who flew to Los Angeles from Tokyo and together, they watched the film numerous times. "He wrote three themes for the film which really captured George's character and frame of mind."
Being limited by both time and budget, Tom Ford began an exhaustive search for a young composer to do the score. "I listened to everything that I could get my hands on, and I came across Abel Korzeniowski and his music really moved me. I think he is a great talent and I was lucky to find him at this stage of his career."
Tom Ford worked closely with Abel Korzeniowski in capturing the proper mood for each scene, and found this aspect of the film process particularly emotional when the orchestra was recording.
"I always knew that I wanted a big, overblown real film score," says Tom Ford. "I wanted a lush opening theme and I wanted the music to be proper, old fashioned film score music."
"A lot of places in A Single Man, there was no dialogue. We are just watching George do things. So the sound or lack of it was especially important. Silence, for me, has also been a very important element. Some of the most arresting moments that you can have on film can be silent. You really pay attention," says Tom Ford.
Tom Ford was conscious of what kind of films move him as a moviegoer while working on the project.
"A great movie haunts you," says Tom Ford. "It's both entertaining and thought provoking. In that way, I hope that A Single Man makes you question things
think about things in a way that you haven't thought about before."
He adds, "I am hopeful that it will show the audience that the small things in life are really the big things in life."