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Tom Ford on directing, being ‘nocturnal animal’

Los Angeles – We expected nothing but impeccable sharpness and glamour when fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford walked into the room of the Shangri-La hotel in Toronto. He did not disappoint.

Wearing a crisp white shirt, black suit and tinted glasses, the 55-year-old fashionista-turned cineaste met with us to talk about his second venture into filmmaking, the psychological thriller “Nocturnal Animals.” The movie is based on the 1993 novel “Tony And Susan” by Austin Wright.

TOM FORD (Photo courtesy of Janet R. Nepales/HFPA)

TOM FORD (Photo courtesy of Janet R. Nepales/HFPA)

“When I’m writing, I usually write almost by shot,” Tom explained his style of approach with the film. “Every single thing whether it’s the way a shot looks, whether it’s the way someone is dressed, whether it’s the atmosphere in the film, it has to be a part of the story and it has to convey something important.”

He later added: “You have to keep an open mind. You have to have a vision.”

So what was it about the book that ignited that creative spark in him, we asked.

“What drew me to this book was the story,” he revealed. ”When you find people in your life who you care about – who you love – you hang onto them and this is a cautionary tale of what can happen to you if you don’t.

“It’s also about self-doubt. This is a woman whom we shouldn’t hate. We should empathize with her. She’s a victim of her upbringing. She’s a victim of our culture. She doesn’t have self-confidence so she didn’t have the confidence to fulfill her dream.”

Tom told us how he decided to become a director.

“When I started out in New York as a teenager, I was an actor. I was not a great actor although I had a very successful career in television commercials. I hated acting. I hated being in front of the camera. I was quite naturally shy. I took lots and lots of acting classes. I studied in New York at this place called HB Studios which wasn’t necessarily the best but it was where I spent a lot of time. I did a lot of scene study classes so I understood what actors go through.

“If you talk to most of the actors in this film, I do believe that I helped create an environment which is what I should do as a director. Good actors want to give a great performance so part of my job is to inspire them and to create an environment where they feel comfortable, where they can give their best performance.

“The other side of that question is I am a good storyteller. If you were at a dinner party with me and I could sense that you were getting bored, I’d spice up the story with maybe something that wasn’t even true just to try to get you back.”

On the stellar cast of his film that includes Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen, the director said, “First of all, you have to cast the right people for the right roles. I don’t know what director said that but so much of directing is about casting and then meet, talk about the role, and talk about the character. I’m there for their support but then as I said you have to give them space. I’m there if I can sense if an actor is struggling with a scene. You have to listen to them and you have to try to help them.”

So is he a nocturnal animal himself?

“Yes I am,” he admitted. “It has plagued me my entire life and yes, I take sleeping pills to go to sleep. I just work. I get a lot of work done because it’s nice. It’s peaceful. It’s quiet. I can concentrate. Usually emails aren’t coming in. I can just be sending them out. I do a lot of things at night. But I get frustrated when another nocturnal animal answers me back.”