Ford claims to have been unaware of his before-the-fact naysayers. And though he admits to nervousness prior to his first day on the set, particularly about saying “Cut!” (“You have to sound commanding”), he otherwise felt typically confident. “I loved every minute, every phase,” he boasts of the directorial process, noting, “I’m best when I’m in complete control.” Yet he understands why major actors might have had reservations about enlisting. Long comfortable with new directors, Moore was unfazed by Ford’s rookie status—neither, however, was she influenced by their previously existing friendship. “The funny thing was, I’d run into Tom and Richard [Buckley, Ford’s longtime partner] at the Met ball, of all things,” Moore recalls. “I was like, ‘Hey, Tom, how’s it going with your movie? Are you getting it going?’ Because he had always talked about making movies. And he said, ‘Oh, funny you should mention it.’” Soon after, he sent Moore the script along with a note saying he had written Charley’s part for her. They got together and talked, and she signed on.
“The script is what I typically respond to, and this was really quite beautifully actualized,” she says. “I’ve had a lot of luck with first-time directors when their material is strong and their vision is strong, and that’s something that Tom has in abundance.”
Ford approached Firth in a similarly personal, if more direct, manner. The two had met briefly at a party thrown by Madonna and reconnected at the London premiere of Mamma Mia!, where they were introduced by Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. They had a lengthy conversation after which Ford, with the role of George already cast, vented to Buckley, “Goddamn it, goddamn it, goddamn it. I need Colin Firth.” In the things-happen-for-a-reason category, the actor who had signed on dropped out (he was the second George to flee), and Ford immediately e-mailed Firth at an address supplied by “the Hankses,” which spiked the actor’s curiosity. “Nobody who represents me knew he had written to me,” Firth says, noting that the e-mail was “compelling. It was articulate. It was considered.” And he was impressed with the material, which he deemed significant and “not just something that was a study in chic or irony or cynicism or any of those things that we associate with fashion.” After Ford flew from L.A. to London to make his case in person, Firth was convinced. “If I had any doubts about this fashion designer’s vanity project, they were pretty much gone then…. I thought, This just can’t possibly be a banal choice.”