At 89 James Ivory Proves There Is A First Time For Everything His Screenplay ‘Call Me By Your Name’

James Ivory was a talent and I knew I wanted to back his films a means of redeeming my soul having made a small fortune working for an arms dealer and so I had penned a deal that was signed by James Ivory and myself at the St. James’s Club in London. 


Soon after signing the deal at the Festival of Festivals ( now known as Toronto International Film Festival ), I would walk into the Four Seasons Hotel and go up the hotel suite occupied by David Putnam who would tell me, “Tim I would bring you into Colombia Pictures with this deal but they are probably firing me as we speak” .   The studio fired Putnam that week.  However Putnam did impart to me  the importance of making quality films rather than blockbusters, quality with always stand the test of time he told me.


James Ivory has never in his life written a screenplay that he has not directed until now with “Call Me By Your Name” a movie of coming of age love which transcends mere words, with two revelatiory performances  with a Golden Globe and SAG Awards nomination for Timothée Chalamet as Elio.

For me working with Ivory was such a calm time as opposed to the man he would later marry Ismail Merchant.  During the time of the editing of the film “Maurice” after a screening Ismail Merchant walked into the offices on Broadway and started going off on Ivory, “You just must cut that scene people are snickering and it is distracting you from the film itself”.  The scene Merchant was referring to was when James Wilby and Hugh Hudson jump into bed together.  Ivory during this long-winded dressing down by Merchant remained calm as cool hand Luke and said nothing.  I would later show the film in Toronto and the scene remained in the film.

Ivory always thought that Americans have such a hang-up seeing naked men and in his screenplay “Call Me By Your Name”, there is a lot of nudity but both the actors in the film had it in their contracts , ‘no frontal nudity’, something Ivory has trouble understanding since no one cares about women frontal nudity so why men.



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TIFF 2013 – How I Got My Oscar – 100 Years Of Indian Cinema

Ismail, Ruth, James Rain was pouring down in Manhattan flooding the streets. President Ronald Reagan was in town to meet Mikhail Gorbachev, if you live in Manhattan then you know what this means, the city was impossible to navigate. Flights had been delayed or cancelled I was walking the streets with film producer Ismail Merchant from a meeting, principal photography was to commence the next day on ‘Slaves of New York’ based on a novel by Tama Janowitz. New York did not have one decent hotel room left and I was not about to settle with one with less then four stars. Ismail Merchant assured me in his very confident manner not to worry, the trio Ismail, Ruth, James, team of filmmakers 30 years and entered the Guinness Book of Records as the film world’s longest, each had an apartment in the same building in Manhattan. Ruth was not in town and I was to sleep in her apartment commanded Merchant.

As I walked into Ruth’s apartment, it was as if I had walked into those detox spas where you pay $1,000. a day and all that is in your room is a bed. Ruth’s apartment had the bed, a table, chair, her window had a view of Warren Beaty’s (the dude who had slept with every women in Hollywood), sister’s flat Shirley MacLean and her crystal collection.

The austere flat did have some glitter, you could not miss it, it was staring at me. It was gold. A statue. It was an Oscar. I picked it up, it was heavy, and read ‘Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’ Oscar for her script an adaptation ofEM Forster’s novel RoomIsmail, Ruth, James with a View (1986). Naturally I walked around the apartment holding the Oscar giving speeches in my head, or in front of the mirror, eventually taking it to bed. This was not just an Oscar, it was awarded to the only person to have won the Booker and at the Oscar. Ruth was responsible for the screenplays of such classics as Howards End, Room with a View and Remains of the Day. She won a second Oscar for her adaptation of Forster’s Howards End (1992), which was brought to the screen at her insistence. In 1990 she won the Best Screenplay Award from the New York Film Critics’ Circle for her adaptation of Evan Connell’s Mr and Mrs Bridge. To have Paul Newman in Mr. and Mrs Bridge a film that was partly filmed in Toronto required that I do a few laps around Queens Park with him prior to his Gala at The Toronto International Film Festival The Glass Menagerie.

Ruth died this year and her contribution to 100 Years of Indian Cinema can not go without notice. 100 Years of Indian Cinema this years TIFF Gala is not just about Bollywood.

This year my friend Warren Spitz, the high-rolling TIFF board member who put the festival into the big-money charity race with its initial gala last year, has recruited Deepa Mehta to ensure that this year’s event will be a memorable one. It’s set for Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Spitz and a great lady Jennifer Tory, the co-chairs, act as executive producers and take charge of selling tables at $25,000 a shot. If you want tickets you can get those as well that will run you $2,500. a

As for Mehta she has recruited Rashmi Varma to do the costumes and Tamara Deverell to be the production designer. At a pre-dinner reception, with entertainment designed by writer Devyani Saltzman (Mehta’s daughter), emcees Anita Majumdar and Zaib Shaikh (both cast members of Mehta’s movie Midnight’s Children) will guide guests through a few of India’s landmark films over the past century projected in the lobby of the Four Seasons Centre.

After the reception, guests will be ushered through the auditorium to the stage of the opera house, where tables will be set for dinner. That’s when the live entertainment will go on. As for the food, Mehta was determined not to serve guests anything less than great Indian cuisine by chef Vikram Vij.

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, I will miss you at Toronto International Film Festival Gala, but you will be in my heart and you will be saluted for you enormous, brilliance and contribution to Indian Cinema.

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Running and racing with Paul Newman

Having secured a film financial pact with Oscar winners Merchant Ivory Productions it was time to launch into Hollywood and the Toronto International Film Festival in my home town was the place to do in 1987. The sparks were flying, people were talking after all how many people can do a deal with an Oscar winning team. It impressed David Putnam then the CEO of Colombia Pictures, and a meeting had been set. Paul Newman and his wife Joanne Woodward were in town and Merchant Ivory brought the film Maurice for the screening with Hugh Grant and James Wilby. James Ivory did not make it to Toronto as he was busy working on an adaptation of Tama Janowitez’s Slaves of New York. My partners all flew into town including Baron Thyssen-Bornemizia, Thomas Kaplan, and Daniel Sarnoff who’s grandfather had founded RCA Corporation and NBC Networks. Needless to say we were an excited bunch and I waited with much anticipation for the meeting with David Putnam at the Four Seasons Toronto. David Putnam’s advice to me was keep steady make quality films with strong storyline in another words he was telling me if it aint on the page it aint on the stage. I fully agreed with him after all it’s why we did a deal with Merchant Ivory Productions. David Putnam confided, “Look, I would sign you to Colombia Pictures in a heart beat with the deal you have in hand, but the guys in Hollywood are probably firing me as we speak.” No doubt, that was true, David Putnam was canned shortly.

The Toronto Star, Thursday, September 24, 1987

This left me now to work on Paul Newman who was staying at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto. Paul Newman and I had a bond and it had nothing to do with films, but everything to do with Indy Car Racing. I had been infected with the racing bug, of Indy and Formula 1, sponsoring my first driver John Graham who had raced for Paul Newman. Newman loved racing more then acting, he had his own team and during the festival I was delegated as Paul Newman’s running partner, well not real running more like jogging. Why? To talk Paul into doing a film in our contract with Merchant Ivory Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. It was only after miles of running that Paul confessed to me that it was not his call to make, it was his wife who was calling the shots, it was her project. “Gees, Mr. Newman wish you had told me that at the start,” after an exhausting jog, the human body is like a race car it’s got to be fully tuned,not after an infinite amounts of highly toxic assortment of alcohol. Paul Newman looked at me with those eyes, yes those eyes, those Cool Hand Luke eyes of his as only he could that you’ve seen a thousand times on the silver screen smiling and said, “welcome to Hollywood”. We did make the film, I had a chance to work on the set in Kansas City, my job? holding lemon tea bags to put on their eyes to keep the swelling down from long hours of shooting. Jane Morrison who is mentioned in The Toronto Star article and I met for the first time at the festival and she ended up working as Paul Newman’s personal driver during the filming in Toronto. I asked her, “how did you get along with Paul Newman?” She responded with great confidence, “well he got in the car, and said, “so your my driver?”, “yes, dont worry I am really a very good driver”. After she had finished I allowed for a comfortable pause before informing her that Paul Newman the actor was also one hell of a racing car driver. It was 1987, it would be the year that Paul Newman would win his first Oscar for the movie Color of Money and it would also be the year for me to hold my first Oscar, it was not mine, I had not been awarded it, it was just in the room where I was sleeping, in an apartment in New York, it was the 1986 Oscar presented to Ruth Prawer Jhabvala for Adapted Screenplay A Room With A View . Paul Newman went on to hold several trophies for his racing team, and my time also came on the Gold Coast of Australia. Magic is everywhere in life, you just have to be open to the idea that magic is real and dreams come true. That is how its been, and so it will here on the pages of My Name is Khan as it had been for the late great Paul Newman.

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