A Single Man reaches the big screen this week and is the directorial debut of filmmaker Tom Ford.
The film stars Colin Firth, who has bagged his first Oscar nomination for his performance, Julianne Moore and Matthew Goode
Ford put an autobiographical imprint on A Single Man and after he was satisfied with his script, the project came together in a relatively short period of time in film terms.
"Julianne was the first actor to say ‘yes’," Ford recalls. "Colin’s part was the hardest to cast because there are very few actors in the world with the right sensitivity to play the part of George."
Firth was originally busy with another film, and suddenly became available when the shooting schedule for A Single Man changed. Ford immediately flew to London and convinced Firth to take the part.
Firth, a classically trained British theater actor, has been recognized for his work with numerous award nominations from the Screen Actors Guild, Emmys and BAFTA.
Ford says, "The incredible thing about Colin is his ability to telegraph what he’s thinking through his eyes, almost without moving his face and certainly without saying a line."
He adds that Firth’s subtle acting skills worked perfectly for the restrained character of George.
"Julianne was amazing on the set," says Ford. "She would be talking away with Colin until we called ‘action’, and just immediately go into her British accent and her character. She did it so smoothly...but you never really know how an actor prepares in their head."
Academy Award nominated Moore portrays Charley, the Tanqueray-happy best friend to George.
"I constructed a new Charley than that of the book," explains Ford, "who is a conglomeration of my female friends and, actually, my grandmother. I also created a new back-story for George and Charley to illustrate the relationship that I have with several women in my life.
"Mr. Isherwood’s Charley was less complex and certainly less attractive," comments Ford. "All three of our principal characters are going through a change of life. Charley is having a mid life crisis just as George is and she too cannot see her future."
Playing George’s late partner, Jim, is Matthew Goode, best known for his roles in Matchpoint, Brideshead Revisited, and in the sci-fi epic, Watchmen. The character of Jim represents all of the good things about America for George. He is straightforward, uncomplicated, honest and sure of himself.
"Matthew was perfect for the part. He has a fresh quality and gave us exactly what we needed, but his acting style is entirely different than that of Colin or Julianne.
"He was much more off the cuff and loose, or at least seemed that way on set but whatever his internal process is, the end result is brilliant," says Ford.
Ford offers much praise for Nicholas Hoult, whose character Kenny is a student in George’s class and who finds a kindred spirit in his professor. Kenny is also at a juncture in his life.
He is in the process of becoming a man and coming to terms with his true nature. "Nicholas was absolutely great. He was only 18 when we were shooting. So serious and so professional which is a contrast to the wild English lad he is in real life. He’s hysterically funny off camera.
Hoult has been acting since he was a child, and co-starred in About A Boy with Hugh Grant and is well known as Tony on the British television drama Skins.
"Kenny is a kind of angel," says Ford. "He rescues George both emotionally and literally."
Even some of the smaller parts in the motion picture take on symbolic relevance. Ford describes Carlos, the hustler who George encounters and is played by Jon Kortajarena, as a "human flower...at this point in our story George is stunned by the beauty he encounters and when he spots Carlos he is mesmerized.
"His attraction to him is not sexual: he simply wants to gaze at Carlos’s absolute beauty. In the end he has a very human conversation with Carlos and then goes on his way."
Ginnifer Goodwin portrays Mrs. Strunk, George’s next-door neighbor. George, who is usually annoyed with her, sees her at the bank with his altered vision and perceives her in a new and refreshingly beautiful way.
As a regular on the cable show, Big Love, she was recently seen in the hit feature film, He’s Just Not That Into You. The part of Grant, a colleague of George’s who embodies the fear that permeates American culture is played by Emmy nominee Lee Pace who is well known for his role on the American television series Pushing Daisies.
A Single Man is out now.