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James Ivory Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (2)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Trivia (16)  | Personal Quotes (17)

Overview (2)

Born in Berkeley, California, USA
Birth NameJames Francis Ivory

Mini Bio (1)

The main part of his few movies were filmed in the quarter of a century in which he worked closely together with the Indian producer Ismail Merchant and the German writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. His first films are all set in India and are very much influenced by the style of Satyajit Ray and Jean Renoir. After this period, he filmed three stories in New York and then dedicated his work to the great works of the English literature which made him internationally famous. Examples of this period are The Europeans (1979) and The Bostonians (1984) by Henry James, Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980) by Jane Austen, Quartet (1981) by Jean Rhys or A Room with a View (1985) and Maurice (1987) by E.M. Forster.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Volker Boehm

Trivia (16)

Graduated from USC School of Cinema-Television (1957) in Los Angeles, California.
From 1965 to 2005, he & his producer Ismail Merchant enjoyed a collaboration that is probably unequaled in movie history for its success and consistency. In 1987, the pair's accomplishments were honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. premiere of Maurice (1987), attended by scores of their devotees, including Christopher Reeve, Sam Waterston, Greta Scacchi and even U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
On location, his partner and producer Ismail Merchant was renowned for his cooking and feeding of cast & crew, a practice often necessary in Merchant/Ivory's earlier low-budget days.
James Ivory and partner Ismail Merchant were awarded the BAFTA Fellowship for their films' "visual beauty, mature and intelligent themes, shrewd casting and superb acting". [February 2002]
Earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon in 1951. He donated his personal papers to the university in 2003.
The National Portrait Gallery in London has paintings of Jim and his partners, Ismail Merchant and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala - even though they all live in New York City and none of them are English. (Ruth is German/Polish, Ismail is Indian, and James is American).
Biography: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985," pp. 458-465. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Directed 6 different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Vanessa Redgrave, Denholm Elliott, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Joanne Woodward and Anthony Hopkins. Thompson won an Oscar for Howards End (1992).
Member of the 'Official Competition' jury at the 50th Venice International Film Festival in 1993.
Received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 58. Pula Film Festival in Croatia 2011.
James Ivory's last feature film as a director was The City of Your Final Destination (2009), which he shot mostly in Argentina from Dec. 2006 to Jan. 2007.
In addition to their 40-year-long professional partnership, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory were also longtime romantic partners.
Directed three features nominated for a 'Best Picture' Academy Award, all produced by Ismail Merchant: A Room with a View (1985), Howards End (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993). The three features also all earned nominations for James Ivory as 'Best Director' and for Ruth Prawer Jhabvala as 'Best Adapted Screenplay'.
At age 89, James Ivory became the oldest winner of a competitive BAFTA on 18 Feb. 2018 (Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name (2017)).
At age 89, James Ivory became the oldest winner of a competitive Academy Award on March 4, 2018 (Best Adapted Screenplay for Call Me by Your Name (2017)).
In 2017, James Ivory announced his new feature film project Richard II, for which he has already a screenplay, a cast and locations. He has hoped to make this film since the early 90s.

Personal Quotes (17)

[on his affinity to India] It wasn't as though I had a childhood preoccupation with India. It was completely accidental and was based on my seeing The River (1951) and later on seeing a group of miniature Indian paintings. And then, most important, seeing the films of Ray [Satyajit Ray], the Apu trilogy. That's what really got me started - a combination of things spread out over a period of six or so years.
[on author and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala] The first book she gave me to read was "The Europeans"; then I went through them all. But it's very hard to get financing for a Henry James story. I spent many years trying with The Europeans (1979) and finally got the money from Britain. And the same with this one: a little American money, but, again, the English came up with most of it. Henry James just isn't box office here, apparently. He's more appreciated in England. [1984]
Ismail [Ismail Merchant] was very keen for us to do A Room with a View (1985). We had paid for the rights and it was just sitting there. But Ruth [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala] and I were working on another screenplay, a contemporary story, and I said, "Must we? I don't want to do another period film right now." Thank God we did! Because of that film a lot of opportunities were created in studios. They couldn't understand how a film which cost $3.5 million to make could make $70 million at the box office. They thought we had some great secret.
[on Ismail Merchant] He was absolutely my closest friend and my creative partner for all my productive life, apart from my very first films, which were documentaries before I knew him. Ismail was there to get everything going, keep an eye on things and make sure that we had everything we needed. He made sure the film was released properly and publicised properly. He was a genius at publicity and knew exactly what he had to do. In every way, he was the most supportive of producers. He trusted so many people to do a good job when they seemed inexperienced and didn't have much in the way of credits. But he was convinced they would be good. It applied to actors and often to editors or art directors or whoever, and they all finally turned out great and had good careers.
I think the Merchant Ivory brand really means literate dialogue. I think it starts with that. When people say something, you know it has some sort of ripples to it.
[on Maurice (1987) being one of the first gay romances with a happy ending] That was one of the reasons E.M. Forster never published the book in his lifetime, homosexual acts were a crime and if he'd published the novel with homosexual acts in which these criminals had a happy ending, he thought he'd be arrested for obscenity. He also always insisted the novel had to have a happy ending. [May 2017]
[on editing Maurice (1987)] The film had a very different form in the screenplay, in editing it became a straight narrative. In the screenplay a lot of the story was treated as a flashback, so we ended with many scenes we had no room for. A lot of those scenes were in the Criterion DVD, I don't know whether the new DVD being made by Cohen Media will include them. I imagine they will also be there. [May 2017]
[on social class in the USA] ...even in this country which we like to say is classless, that's a fake idea. We have our classes, but it's about being rich or poor, rather than your hereditary place in the class system. Class is part of popular romance, the rich man falls in love with a poor girl, we've had that over centuries and all over the world, that's part of our stories, too, it's part of Hollywood. [May 2017]
[on producer Harvey Weinstein] He is a bully who feels that if he screams and yells and punishes you enough, he is going to get his way. (...) He's both a genius and an asshole and unfortunately those things seem to go together.
[on the writing process for Call Me by Your Name (2017)] I can tell you that when Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, our writer, when she would work on some of these grander novels like, say, a book like The Golden Bowl (2000), that would take her months and I wouldn't know what she was doing, really. We would have had some discussions about it, but she would be working on her own and then she'd finally come up with a script and then Ismail [Ismail Merchant] would discuss with her if we wanted some changes. But on this, I just sat with the novel and I would just write out the script in longhand. I would just go through it bit by bit, scene by scene. Sometimes I would invent things. I mean the whole business of the statue that they find at the bottom of the lake, that's all an invented thing. You have to drop great chunks of things from the book and come up with other things. But it's a slow process. I would basically just write in longhand, and after I got something that I liked, I would type that up on a typewriter. I never work on a computer. I can't write on a computer. It's just not possible for me to do that. And so gradually, bit by bit by bit, over many, many months, it all came together. [2018]
[on adapting the scene with the father at the end of Call Me by Your Name (2017)] I mean, the scene itself is in the book. It's longer. But because it's so near the end of the film, it's really dangerous to have such a long dialogue scene. By that time, your audience is just about ready to get up out of their seats. But what the father had to say had such meaning, it was so powerful, that we had to conclude with it, or pretty much conclude. A lot of it is in the novel. I didn't have to write anything more for that scene, maybe just make some cuts. [2018]
[on the timeless appeal of Call Me by Your Name (2017)] I think it's that people love romances told in this kind of way, romances which have a kind of glamour to them. The glamour is partly supplied by Italy and partly supplied by Luca [Luca Guadagnino], the world he chooses to depict in his movies: Upper-middle-class, well-off worlds of people living privileged lives, usually in some wonderful house. That appeals to people. I'm not saying it's anything bad or good, it's just simply something that we like and I, too, like it. My films are like that. Most of my films are set in an upper-middle-class world of well-off people who may have all kinds of emotional problems, but they live well. Part of the appeal of "Call Me By Your Name" is it's a world people would like to be in. It's summertime in Italy. That's something we all crave. [2018]
[on differences between Call Me by Your Name (2017) and his screenplay] I worked on and off on that screenplay for a good six months. Eventually, in early spring or late winter of 2015, I was done and I turned it in and everyone seemed to like it very much. Nobody would ask me to change anything, everyone was happy, and then they again attempted to raise money for it. (...) Originally the idea was to make the film in Sicily by the sea, like in the novel. My script had a lot of scenes at the beach, but they didn't have the money to do that. So they just concentrated it and made it in and around Milan and Crema, Cremona, Italy, where Luca [Luca Guadagnino] lives. One big change that came about because it would have been too expensive, was when the two boys go off on a little trip together toward the end of the story in the film. Originally, as in the novel, they were going to make a trip to Rome. It was an entire chapter of the novel and I just dropped that, I thought we couldn't do it, and I devised another kind of a little trip they'd make. The idea was they would have some time together away from the house. But that, too, was too expensive, so they had to think up another solution, which was to have everyone else leave and they are alone in the house, which is what's in the film. [2018]
When I finally saw Call Me by Your Name (2017), strangely it seemed to me that it had more to do with the final film I made in Argentina: The City of Your Final Destination (2009). And I didn't write that screenplay, that was written by Ruth [Ruth Prawer Jhabvala], but the tone of the two films is similar. Again, it's a group of people, foreigners, living in a big house and speaking in one language to the servants, in another language among themselves and nursing their secret loves. It seems to me that those two films resemble each other. I saw more resemblance to that film than to anything else that I have done. [2018]
[on personal favorites of his films] There's several of them that I like. I like the films that are sort of semi-autobiographical like Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (1990) and A Soldier's Daughter Never Cries (1998), and the French film we made, the very first French film, which was Quartet (1981). I mean, all of these have autobiographical aspects to them, which are appealing to me. But I like some of the big ones very much, too. Particularly A Room with a View (1985), of course, and The Remains of the Day (1993). [2018]
[on keeping his romantic relationship with partner Ismail Merchant a secret] That is not something that an Indian Muslim would ever say publicly or in print. Ever! You have to remember that Ismail was an Indian citizen living in Bombay, with a deeply conservative Muslim family there. It's not the sort of thing he was going to broadcast. Since we were so close and lived most of our lives together, I wasn't about to undermine him. [2018]
[on the lack of nudity in Call Me by Your Name (2017), resulting from clauses in the actors' contracts] When people are wandering around before or after making love, and they're decorously covered with sheets, it's always seemed phoney to me. I never liked doing that. And I don't do it, as you know. [In his feature Maurice (1987)] ...the two guys have had sex and they get up and you certainly see everything there is to be seen. To me, that's a more natural way of doing things than to hide them, or to do what Luca [Luca Guadagnino] did, which is to pan the camera out of the window toward some trees. [2018]

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