In what has been a year long journey since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics’ Call Me by Your Name counted four Oscar nominations today for best picture, lead actor Timothee Chalamet, Sufjan Steven’s original song “Mystery of Love” and James Ivory’s adapted screenplay.
And though SPC co-head Michael Barker calls it “a bittersweet morning” given the Academy overlooking Call Me by Your Name director Luca Guadagnino and supporting actors Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg, as well as Annette Bening and Jamie Bell’s turns in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, the executive takes pride in the fact that Sony Pictures Classics’ solid filmmaking relationships were given Oscar love this morning.
In the case of Oscar-nominated screenwriter James Ivory, he’s a filmmaker that Barker has known since 1982, and the executive is over the moon that the Howard’s End director is being lauded just prior to his 90th birthday. Sony Pictures Classics launched in 1992, and Howard’s End was one of their first releases that year, racking up nine Oscar nominations, including director for Ivory, and three wins.
Barker says that along with Sony Pictures Classics co-head Tom Bernard, they have been fans of Andre Aciman’s novel for Call Me by Your Name since 2007.
“When it was realized as a film, we kept tracking it. We always wanted to be in business with Luca; he’s one of the great directors. After it was shot, during the editing, he sent us a scene from the movie. It was obvious it was an amazing translation of the book and the actors were so good in the scene. We made an offer two months before the film’s premiere at Sundance,” says Barker.
Given the immense amount of heat on the film coming out of Park City last year, SPC rolled out Call Me by Your Name slowly on the festival circuit to build word of mouth into Oscar season with fall premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival and AFI. The pic will remain in over 800 locations this weekend and currently counts $9.2M at the domestic B.O. “We’re getting a young audience,” says Barker about the pic’s turnout.
Loveless, the Russian film from director Andrey Zvyagintsev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky, also made Barker smile this morning with its foreign film nom. Sony Pictures Classics began working with the duo back at the 2014 Cannes when they took U.S. on their Leviathan which also landed a foreign film Oscar nomination. The pic follows a young boy’s disappearance in the midst of his parents’ fierce arguing. The film hits theaters on Feb. 16.
While promoting Oscar-nominated foreign language title Toni Erdmann last year, SPC made the deal for that producer Maren Ade’s other pic A Fantastic Woman which also put the distributor back in business with their No team of Pablo Larrain, who is a producer on A Fantastic Woman and Juan de Dios Larrain. No notched a 2012 foreign film Oscar-nomination. A Fantastic Woman opens on Feb. 2.
With a number of shutouts for spectacular performances and films, was it a fierce year for indies at the Oscars?
Say Barker, “All of us are in the same camp trying to make a film distinctive enough in the marketplace, so that audiences will go out and see a theatrical film. It’s difficult with the noise of current events, sporting events, and Netflix. But it was a very good year for Sony Pictures Classics not just with the nominated films today but with titles like Maudie, Paris Can Wait and Norman.”
With AMPAS nominating a number of films dialing into timely issues, such as A Fantastic Woman’s transgender themes and Loveless’ heavy subtext critique of the Vladimir Putin administration, Barker beams, “The Academy really paid attention to issues that are challenging the world.”