Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals offers no easy story to explain in a sentence, but its inventive tale is part drama, part thriller, and tells of a woman reminiscing about a lost love as she reads the proof of his new revenge novel, which appears to be a thinly-veiled metaphor for their time together. It already wowed on the Lido, winning the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival, and its cast came to Deadline’s Toronto Film Festival studio without their director, who had to rush back to the Italian city to collect his prize.
Amy Adams – riding high at TIFF off the back of stellar notices for her turn in Arrival – told me she responded to the way Ford framed the story. “It seemed nearly impossible, which then became very attractive to me. Tom explained in such a beautiful way how he would use music, sound and light to pull us in and out of story and time and space.”
There must surely be a Supporting Actor nod in Michael Shannon’s future for his role here as a grizzled Texas sheriff who helps Jake Gyllenhaal’s character seek retribution. The actor has no fewer than three films in this year’s selection, as he bounces between Downtown premieres and the set of Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which is filming in the city. But he nevertheless joined his cast-mates at the Deadline studio, noting Ford’s particular attention to detail. “I’ll never forget, being in the make-up trailer, and I was getting my hair cut and Tom walked in,” he recalled. “He took the clippers out of [the hairstylist’s] hand and said, ‘No, you’re doing a wonderful job. I just know exactly how I want it to be.’ I’ve never had a director do this before, but it’s almost like he’s lived the whole movie in his imagination.”
Shannon’s character exists in a fictional world alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Ray, the psychopathic antagonist of the thriller novel. The fictional construct allowed for a heightened interpretation, Taylor-Johnson told me. “It gave us somewhere to be able to play,” he said, “and me and Tom really went for it. It’s pretty wild, but I needed to root that character in some kind of reality, and that’s why I researched serial killers and psychopaths. People that would come across very charismatic and charming, yet have no empathy behind the eyes and be slightly unpredictable and dangerous. There’s a fine line there for sure.”
For more from the cast, check out the video above.