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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

Nocturnal Animals

by writer/director Tom Ford

When I completed my first feature film A Single Man, and it was released in 2009, I was deeply moved by the response. Not just from the industry, or from the critics, but from people who told me how the film had personally affected them. I was glad to hear their feelings on it, because the story had moved me and I had hoped that I could tell it on-screen in a way that would elicit a strong response from filmgoers.

I knew then that my next film had to speak to people as well, but I wanted to explore very different storytelling territory. When I read the late Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, I was fascinated by not only the device of a story within a story, but with the idea that a writer [the character of Edward, portrayed powerfully by Jake Gyllenhaal] could communicate such a personal message of love and pain to the reader [the character of Susan, portrayed soulfully by Amy Adams] through a work of fiction.

When I set out to write the screenplay adaptation I chose to emphasize what for me is the true theme of the story and that is one of loyalty and of finding the people in our lives who are the most important to us and then never letting them go. In fact this story is a cautionary tale of what can happen when one throws true love away. I wanted to create a film that would drive this point home not just emotionally but viscerally.

For those who wonder why there was a 7-year space between completion of my first and second films, it is because I worked and reworked this script. Nocturnal Animals became something of an obsession—appropriately enough, given the characters and their situations.

Having long been fascinated with the heightened reality of “film noir” and having grown up on the films of Hitchcock, Kubrick, Polanski and Antonioni, and inspired by the stories of crime and passion that Hollywood made decades ago, I set out to create a film that might leave audiences with much to ponder and hopefully not only entertain but speak to them in a way that would be personal and human.

I channeled much of this film history into writing the iconic character Michael Shannon would brilliantly portray in Nocturnal Animals. As a counterpoint to Michael's character I wanted to create an original and memorable villain and Aaron Taylor-Johnson helped me do just that with his chilling performance as Ray.

At every phase of the filmmaking process, I was aided by invaluable artisans including our cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, our editor Joan Sobel, our production designer Shane Valentino, our costume designer Arianne Phillips and our composer Abel Korzeniowski, among many others.

As we made the movie, what really came to matter to me was how the intimate betrayals, the twists and turns, impact the characters. We’ve all made choices in life that we have questioned in the years since. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to lead a cast of gifted actors who strive to erase the line between the viewer and the screen in order to attain real empathy.

These actors and these characters feel things deeply and react, and I hope you do as well.