CULTURE

Live From Toronto: Amy Adams and Aaron Taylor-Johnson on Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals”

And so the Tom Ford cinematic oeuvre begins.

Written by Allyson Shiffman
Photographed by Caitlin Cronenberg

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Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee. Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

We may not have to wait to get our hands on Tom Ford’s latest collection — the decadent designs were available immediately following his splashy show at New York Fashion Week — but he certainly made us wait long enough for a follow-up to A Single Man, his acclaimed directorial debut from 2009. It seems that the wait was worthwhile.

With Nocturnal Animals, which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, the designer-cum-director solidifies his singular directorial vision, with each frame meticulously aestheticized and surreal flashbacks and daydreams par for the course. For all the style, however, substance is not sacrificed. Adapted from Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, the film weaves together two unsettling narratives to paint a haunting portrait of a middle-aged woman in turmoil.

That woman, Susan, is a gallery owner played by Amy Adams, who finds herself wrapped up in a novel, written by her ex-husband, which appears to be a chilling metaphor for the dissolution of their marriage. As we bounce between Susan’s past, present and even the depths of her imagination, she gradually becomes undone. It’s a complex, demanding role, and Ford, despite his exacting methods, leaves it in the capable hands of his star.

“[Tom] has this attention to detail that is, as of course we all know, very meticulous and exquisite, but he was able to take that attention to detail, execute that and let us play in this very amazing world he created,” Adams says. Juxtaposed against Ford’s impossibly beautiful universe, Adams’s raw performance is even more enthralling. “It was fun to get to create this vulnerable, emotional person within this veneer of perfection.”

Ford is right to trust his actors; his casting has been masterful. It’s hard to go wrong with Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, whom he cast for A Single Man, but in that film he also helped broker Nicholas Hoult’s transformation from that hot guy in the UK teen show “Skins” to one of Hollywood’s most sought after young actors. This time around, Adams is joined by Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who portrays one of the characters imagined by Adams’s Susan.

“The role, for me, was really quite challenging,” Taylor-Johnson admits. “It wasn’t in my comfort zone.” Though he is known for playing the introspective nice guy (even as a superhero in Kick-Ass) Taylor-Johnson’s Ray Marcus is, as he puts it, “this very charming, charismatic, magnetic guy who’s unpredictable and therefore really dangerous.” But Ford’s casting is never without purpose and, given the range offered by a character who’s unbounded by reality, the director’s endorsement could add new dimensions to Taylor-Johnson’s IMDb page in the future.

With only two films under his belt, Ford has already established his own cinematic signature. When Adams tells me her character “lives in a very Tom Ford world,” I know exactly what she means. Becoming one of the few self-defined filmmakers of this generation is no small feat, especially for a man who also continues to create headlines in the notoriously fickle fashion industry.

If it seems like a Tom Ford world is too beautiful to be true, consider that he actually lives it. “He’s the meaning of the word ‘gentleman,'” says Taylor-Johnson. “Tom Ford is not a let down. And he smells good, too.”

Live From TIFF: Meet the Beautiful Stars of the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

Rebecca Hall, Christine: “The reason why Christine Chubbuck is in anyone’s consciousness is because in 1974 she was a newscaster in Sarasota, Florida, who went live on air and killed herself. The film is roughly the two weeks before the event, and it’s a filmmaker’s attempt to humanize something that would otherwise be just consigned to shock and horror. I think of it as a film about sensationalism that is in no way sensationalistic. It’s very humanistic.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Ziyi Zhang, TIFF juror: “No, I’m not nervous [to be on the jury]. You’re nervous when you’re being judged! I’m sure all twelve movies are good and very artistic. We watched two yesterday, and I’m very happy with them.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Liev Schreiber, The Bleeder: “Everybody knows what a gutsy actress Naomi [Watts, his wife] is; I don’t think many people know how funny she is. I really loved seeing her play Linda [in The Bleeder] because Linda is such a firecracker — she’s from Bedstuy, she’s Brooklyn Italian… She’s got style, very different from Naomi’s. And Naomi went for it, she loves that stuff, and she did such a great job.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Miles Teller, Bleed For This: “It was about eight months from the time I got [the role] to when I shot. When I got the part I was 188 pounds and 19% body fat. Gor shooting I got down to 160 pounds and 6%. It was just a lot of diet. Towards the end, I was doing four hours boxing, two hours of weights, an hour of accent/dialect and then getting massaged. So it was pretty intense.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Dan Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”: “It was our first season and I was driving down Sunset Blvd. and I saw [the billboard for the show]. You’re in one of those weird situations where you’re in your car but you really have to stop and take it in. So I sort of just slowed down. There was a lineup of cars honking but I was like, ‘You know what? This is my moment and I’m going to hold up Sunset for a second.’”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Laura Carmichael, A United Kingdom: “I’ve admired [Rosamund Pike’s] work for a long time, so I was excited to be playing her sister. I have some experience playing sisters [from her time on ‘Downton Abbey’, as Edith Crawley] and when you do, it just means you get to hang out with really awesome women and pretend to be really close — and by that nature you do become quite close. But [my character] Muriel is a hundred times sweeter than Edith. Both sexy characters, obviously.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Vanessa Bayer, Carrie Philby: “Some journalists are more serious than others, so during some of the press this weekend I would interrupt [co-star] Bel [Powley] to make a joke, and she wouldn’t mind at all, but the person interviewing us would be like, ‘Who is this girl?’”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Lou Gossett, Jr., King of the Dancehall: “I keep my [dance moves] to myself. They asked me, ‘Do you think that you can dance?’ I’m a former athlete, but I can’t do that shit no more. My ego and my mind says, ‘Yeah, let’s try it!’ But I don’t think so.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Mitzi Ruhlmann, Boys in the Trees: “We were all kind of at an age where we were going through a lot of things similar to our characters. We were almost coming of age at the same time. I feel really lucky to have had the film to make sense of that time of my life for me.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Andrew Scott, Handsome Devil: “[When I was in school] I was good at the stuff I was interested in, and I was terrible at the stuff that I wasn’t interested in. I was big into drawing and painting. I liked a bit of sport as well, but I think what happens to kids is they feel like they have to choose either/or, but actually you’re allowed to do both if you want to.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Sarah Gadon: “Caitlin [Cronenberg] has such a close relationship with and appreciation for film. She’s been an on set stills photographer and worked on every milestone film I’ve ever made, from Cosmopolis to Enemy, so we’ve been kind of shadowing each other’s careers, not even on purpose.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Bryce Dallas Howard, Netflix’s “Black Mirror”: “I have been in the past plagued by terrible, constant nightmares that range from ‘Walking Dead’ to ‘Black Mirror.’ I’ve actually done hypnosis to try to get read of these dreams. A year ago, I watched ‘Black Mirror’. This is truly the representation of all of me my deepest fears and anxieties. This is going to sound very actressy of me, but I sent a video of me melting down to the therapist who did the hypnosis, and I was crying and I was like, ‘Doctor, I’ve taken a nosedive!’ So I didn’t watch any more. And then, before the end of last year, Joe Wright, the director, reached out to me with this, which of course was a no-brainer. When I arrived in South Africa to shoot it, it was exactly a year to the week of when that happened, and the title of the episode is ‘Nosedive.’ I showed [Joe] this video; we couldn’t believe it.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion: “My mother was a huge fan [of Emily Dickinson], so we had a record in our house of Julie Harris reading selected poems and letters, which I listened to a lot.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Mark Duplass, Blue Jay: “I have two high school sweethearts. I don’t see them very often but every now and then we come across each other or hear a story about each other or, god forbid, I open up one of my fucking journals from the mid-90s. I’ll immediately make fun of myself, and then I immediately go, ‘Wait, that sort of overly confident, completely un-jaded person is somebody I really miss.’ So then I get all sad about it, and that was really what the soup of the movie was.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Angela Sarafyan, The Promise: “I’m a huge fan of Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Most of my stuff is with Oscar and it’s so much fun working with him. We kind of had the freedom to find what we wanted to do in each scene. [Oscar] is charming, generous, kind, thoughtful — all the things you’re looking for in a guy.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Robbie Arnell, ARQ and CW’s “The Flash.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Charlotte Le Bon, The Promise: “[Oscar Isaac] is really, really intense but he’s also very funny. He’s kind of two different people. On set he’s this intense, rigid and square person — the way he works is really precise — and outside the set he’s really funny. He’s just a guy you want to have a beer and hang out with.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Nick Kroll, Loving and Sing: “[In Sing] I am Gunter, the Scandinavian dancing pig. It’s very similar to [my role in Loving], Bernie Cohen the 1950’s ACLU lawyer. As you would expect, I sing ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘Bad Romance.’ What else would a Scandinavian pig sing besides Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga?”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Erika Linder, Below Her Mouth: “I obviously would have done the movie even if it was a male director because I like taking risks. I never want to do anything unless it scares the shit out of me. But women understand each other on a very emotional level and when we came together — the whole crew, too — it’s everyone’s love story.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Natalie Krill, Below Her Mouth: “It was scary, like there was something deep inside me pushing me towards this, because of the fear.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Maria Bello, The Journey Is the Destination: “[This movie] is more than close to my heart. I actually have a tattoo of Africa on my hip. I’ve been obsessed with Africa my entire life, so it’s just so fortuitous that I would be here at the festival with this incredible film.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Kreesha Turner, King of the Dancehall: “Nick [Cannon] was pretty chill. There were so many non-actors and actresses on this particular set — apart from the brilliant cast, everybody else were local Jamaican talent and artists. Being a Jamaican myself, I understand all too well that you never know what’s going to come out of their mouths. So as a director, Nick kind of had to allow the free flow that would come from such an environment.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Ellar Coltrane, Barry: “[Avi Nash] and I are kind of the two ends of the spectrum for Barry. I’m the super quiet, sweater vest-wearing, poetry-reading, middle-class Caucasian friend.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Lola Flannery, actress: “I like meeting everybody! I don’t have a specific person who I want to meet, I want to meet everybody!”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Gaby Hoffmann, “Transparent”: “”We were [a family] from day one. It’s a real, incredible, weird stroke of genius/magic/love. We all really love each other. We have a very, intense, dynamic, fun emotional experience every season.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Julia Ducournau, director, Raw: “I thought about the three taboos of humanity: murder, incest, cannibalism. Murder, you see it in every movie, so no. Incest, way too dark for me, no way. Cannibalism made sense for me, because all my movies are about the body.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Ana Lily Amirpour, director, The Bad Batch: “It’s a mix of practical makeup and CG. I’m not a fan of just CG. I’m into movies from the 90s and the 80s that look organic, in a way. So we did a mix… What you see looks really fleshy and real.”

Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg. Produced by Arthouse Agency. Photo Editor: Biel Parklee.

Natalie Portman, Planetarium, Jackie: “I have not experienced [speaking to spirits] myself, but I believe that anything is possible.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Jeremy Renner, Arrival: “I believe in other life, yes.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.

Amy Adams, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals: “I believe there’s something out there… I don’t know in what form. But I can’t imagine that life is just exclusive to our tiny blue planet, as Carl Sagan calls it.”

Photos and video taken in the NKPR IT House x Scott Brothers’ Producers Ball Portrait Studio. A donation is made to director Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice for every celebrity who visits the studio.
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Watch the stars of TIFF do a dramatic reading of Drake’s “One Dance.”