The gestation for Tom Ford’s directing debut has been years in the making. As both a student and obsessive fan of motion pictures, Ford was familiar with the types of films that stirred him emotionally.
His work as a creative director of still photography, advertising campaigns and commercials in the fashion industry for the past 25 years helped Ford understand framing, lighting, and the importance of image in the telling of a story.
Ford is quick to point out, however, that image and style can also kill a film if there is not a story or message that deserves to be told and challenges the viewer.
For Ford the story is all: "We seem to have lost character driven films with dialogue, and these are ultimately the most rewarding films for me as a viewer and this is the type of film that I set out to make."
Ultimately for Ford, A Single Man was the right story at the right time. "I have always had a kind of intuition or inner voice that has served me well. Fashion is so much about intuition because you have to anticipate what people will want a year before they want it."
When A Single Man kept nudging his psyche, his intuition told him that he had found the right property.
"I’ve been working on this project for quite a while. I worked on the screenplay off and on for almost two years and did many drafts. When you are imagining a scene while writing it, there are no problems.
"Actors speak their lines perfectly. The shot is beautiful. But, that is because you aren’t working in reality," muses Ford.
Ford optioned both the Isherwood novel and a completed screenplay written by David Scearce, but realized quickly that neither would make the film that he wanted to make and set about creating his own plot points from scratch and writing a new screenplay on his own.
His final screenplay differs considerably from both the book and the previous screenplay, but his primary goal was to maintain the essence of the story. He understood that the interior monologue style of Isherwood’s novel would not work visually for the film, and so he invented a variety of personal encounters throughout George’s day.
Most significantly, he added a vital new angle to the story George’s planned suicide at the end of his day.
"George has been living in the past, he cannot see his future and cannot shake a deep depression and so decides to end his life. Thinking that he is seeing things for the last time, he begins to view the world differently and finds himself for the first time in years living in the present and confronted with the beauty of the world.
"This is a timely subject, I believe, as it is now more important than ever for us to all appreciate the gifts that we have in our lives."
While the hero of the story is gay, Ford points out that the film transcends sexuality. "The movie is about loss and loneliness.
"It could be the same story if it was George’s wife, instead of his partner, who had died. This is a love story and one man’s search for meaning in his life. The theme is universal."
A Single Man is released 12th February.