HOLLYWOOD (AFP) – Legendary filmmaker James Ivory won the first Oscar of his storied career for his screenplay of “Call Me By Your Name,” a sensual tale of first love set in sun-drenched 1980s Italy.
Mr Ivory, 89, is now the oldest ever winner of a competitive Oscar.
After three nominations for directing “A Room with a View,” “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day,” Mr Ivory finally struck Oscars gold for best adapted screenplay, from a novel by Andre Aciman.
Mr Ivory bested a field that included Aaron Sorkin (Molly’s Game), Virgil Williams and Dee Rees (Mudbound), and the writers of superhero flick “Logan” and “The Disaster Artist.”
The film focuses on Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a precocious but bored 17-year-old American who becomes transfixed by Oliver (Armie Hammer), the handsome graduate student who has come to work with Elio’s professor father in Lombardy.
“We’ve all gone through first love, I hope, and come out the other side mostly intact,” Mr Ivory told the audience at Hollywood’s Dolby Theatre.
He thanked his actors, and also his long-time collaborators, both of whom have died – Indian producer Ismail Merchant and German-born writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Born June 7, 1928 in Berkeley, near San Francisco, Mr Ivory dreamed of being a production designer, and studied architecture and fine arts. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1957 with a film degree, producing a documentary on Venetian painters that drew the attention of The New York Times.
He went on to produce a body of work inspired by his love of India and marked by a satirical approach to exploring the tensions of social class.
His fascination with India began at age 23 when he saw Jean Renoir’s “The River” (1951). Many of his early films would have India as a backdrop, with the confrontation between Eastern and Western societies as one of his preferred themes.
He worked extensively for years with Merchant, who became his partner in both life and cinema until his death in 2005. As heads of Merchant Ivory Productions along with Ms Jhabvala, they put together more than 40 films.
After several films based in India, Mr Ivory moved on to adapt classic novels of British literature, including The Europeans, The Bostonian and A Room With a View.
That film, based on the book by E.M. Forster, depicted the struggle between emotion and the rigid codes of Edwardian society. It won three Oscars including best screenplay for Ms Jhabvala.