Mar 18, 2016 6:41PM

Director of 'A Bigger Splash' On Tilda Swinton, Raf Simons And His Dream Cast

"I am always fascinated to see someone breaking the mould."
Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson in 'A Bigger Splash'.

Luca Guadagnino's latest film A Bigger Splash tells a story of excess and restraint, sun and sex, music and style. A superficial reading might say it's all surface, but the enveloping sense of dread threaded throughout literally every moment on screen is so unnerving and thrilling that it will stay with you long after you've finished watching.

Set on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria, rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton being the ultimate Tilda Swinton version of a parallel-universe female Bowie) and her lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) are holidaying on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria. It is heaven with a dark underbelly. Marianne is recovering from throat surgery, voiceless, and the couple's retreat is interrupted by her frantically kinetic former lover (Ralph Fiennes) and his maybe-daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). The result is high tension, high sensuality and major FOMO-inducing visuals.

"There are no other people that could have made that movie," says the film's director Luca Guadagnino. "They really are the real things." Luca has incredible taste, we love a lot of the same people too: Tilda, Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Gene Hackman and Raf Simons to name a few. We caught up with Luca to talk A Bigger Splash, fashion and the 1969 Jacques Deray-directed La Piscine. Here's what he had to say.

On fashion:

I hired this really dear friend of mine Giulia Piersanti to make the wardrobe of the film, the costumes. Giulia herself is a designer, [moreover] she’s a knitwear designer — she works for Lanvin, she works for Balenciaga, she works for Dior Homme and she works also for Missoni. We share a common idea of what we like, and how to create an iconic image, but at the same time how to be truthful to the person you are describing. And when we started thinking of Marianne Lane, this rock star who wants to be retiring herself into private… she wants to, in a way to go back to an idea: an image of her childhood, the mother, that kind of classical, temporal leisure-ness.

On working with Raf Simons and Dior:

We were working on a lot of references and Ingrid Bergman during the Italian years was a very big thing for us. And then I said to Giulia, "I think we could nurture this relationship that I started having with Raf Simons when I did I Am Love." I also had these great conversations with Olivia Simonetti at Dior, who is the head of communication, so everything became very organic. All these personalities became in a way involved in the project, and we all participated to make sure that we could create an icon made of the most organic attitude you could ever have for a character to be described, through clothes.

On casting:

There are no other people that could have made that movie. They are fantastic, they are organic, and they really are the real things. I want to see them, I want to follow them and I am into them.

On whether Tilda and Dakota will star in his next film, Suspiria:

Most probably, yes.

On Australian press/people:

I love them! My sister lives in Sydney; I am partially Australian myself because I have a sister who is Australian!

On the similarities between Tilda Swinton and her character:

The similarity is a compliment, and a testament to Tilda’s capacity to be truthful in her performance. You don’t see the acting… it has to play as a documentary of the people in front of the camera, as much as it is about representation. Having said that you should ask Tilda if she is like Marianne Lane because all I can really tell you is that we made Marianne Lane.

On bringing the adaption to the modern day:

I worked on the script with Dave Kajganich, the writer. We created the script from scratch together and we brought this element of the reality of Pantelleria and the people going to Pantelleria, we changed Penelope to an American character, and so on.

On filming A Bigger Splash:

[It was] hard work. A lot of wind, a lot of dust, a lot of heat, a lot of things you did not, had not programmed that you might have to deal with, until last minute. Those are the best things though.

On his favourite contemporary filmmakers:

There are many, many, many! The great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is one, and the great Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is another. I would say that Athina Tsangari is a director I am really interested in too. I am also a bit fascinated by Ryan Cooper’s Creed, it’s a good movie. George Miller is a master; Christopher Petzold is a great director from Germany. I am always fascinated to see someone breaking the mould and doing something personal.

On his dream cast:

Well, I would love to work with Gene Hackman but he retired. So, I would say Gene Hackman, as a dream! Maybe one day soon I will have a role that Gene Hackman would feel compelled to come back in front of the camera for. I think in The Conversation he is just amazing as much as he is in the Unforgiven and The French Connection of course. He is sublime in Another Woman… just fantastic, like wow!

A Bigger Splash is showing now in selected cinemas.

Emily Royal