The Men of A Single Man
Directed by fashion designer Tom Ford, A Single Man is set over the course of a single day in 1962 Los Angeles—the day Colin's character, George, decides to kill himself.
Colin says one of the best parts of his experience on this film was working under Tom's direction. "This was a lonely experience for an actor in a way, especially in my department because a lot of the film is spent alone," he says. "But of course then you become very intimate with your director because this is a very, very personal story. It's very personal to Tom and one of the great gifts he has. I don't know how he does it. You don't see him working really—he just sets the magic in motion and suddenly it's as important to you as it was to him."
Colin says he was ready to send the email stepping down from the project when a repairman rang his doorbell to fix his refrigerator. "That was enough time for me to reconsider," he says. "It was just that pause before pressing send which can prove critical."
The one scene he does vividly remember shooting is the scene in which George gets the phone call telling him his partner had died. "That was the moment I'd just heard of the [2008 presidential] election results, and it's quite a moment for a visitor to be in this country for something as monumental as an election happening anyway, but that particular election with that kind of history being made, that information came through seconds before the camera rolled," he says. "I was feeling pretty uplifted, frankly. And then what Tom did, and this is his brilliance, is as I said, he will set a mood in motion, but then he got out of the room. ... He preferred spending time letting my imagination take over and develop than editorializing it himself."
Playing George has given Colin a new appreciation of his own circumstances, he says. "[It's] given me a real sense of what I have to be grateful for in my own life. The present moment, for a start, which is really all we have, is something to be absolutely cherished. And because this man thinks he has no future, the present's become a beautiful, resonant and vibrant and important thing. There's something about [George] that has haunted me ever since and gives me a kind of a tug," he says.
Though he didn't realize it during filming, Colin says his character also brings to mind his own father. "The differences between George and my dad are obvious. They're not quite the same generation, my dad's not a gay man, he's not suicidal. He doesn't have the same issues at all, but there's something about the quiet humanity and gentle, thoughtful dignity that George has," Colin says. "I recognized it in the performance, and it's a very interesting thing, to surprise yourself. I think that's what's enriching about what I do that you keep unearthing aspects of yourself that you weren't aware of."
Tom says he was moved to make the switch because he was attracted to the enduring nature of movies. "Fashion is a reflection of where we are in contemporary culture, but it moves, moves, moves. It doesn't last," he says. "In film, you create a world that's forever sealed. It lasts forever. You can put in an old movie from the '30s and you're emoting and living and breathing with these people. And if you're someone who likes to design things, build things, create things, that's as close as you get to, you know, being God in our world, and it's permanent.
Though the movie clearly isn't based on Tom's life, he says it does have autobiographical elements. "This was my midlife crisis on screen," he says. "When I first read the book, I was 20 years old and I didn't quite get the sort of—well, Christopher Isherwood who wrote the book was a student of [the Hindu philosophical traditions] Vedanta. He spent an enormous amount of time learning to be present, and I didn't pick up on that at all, and I'd come to a point in my life where I left Gucci where maybe I had let the material side of the world pull me a bit away from my spiritual side, which has always been there. And this book is about living in the moment. It's about appreciating the connections we have with other people and reminding ourselves that that's what's important in life. I needed to be reminded of that at this moment."
Critics are saying this is the film that is going to define the future for both Colin and Tom, and they're both loving the journey. "I am the most proud of this of anything I've ever created in my life," Tom says. "Other than personal relationships with people. That's what I'm the most proud of."
Best Actor nominee Morgan Freeman
Everything you need for Oscar night