Tom Ford's highly-anticipated new revenge thriller, Nocturnal Animals, had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. The fashion legend's latest foray into film (his first since 2009's A Single Man) stars Amy Adams as a disillusioned art gallery owner and Jake Gyllenhaal as her ex-husband — who has just written a violent revenge novel that she perceives as a veiled threat against her. Even though Nocturnal Animals doesn't hit theaters until November, the film already has people talking about its striking opening sequence.
The movie begins with what Vulture describes as "a montage of nude, obese women dancing in slow motion as glitter flutters all around them." We soon learn that the women are dancing in a gallery showing directed by Adams's character. Some critics find the sequence offensive, like writer Jen McDonnell, who was no fan of the "fat-shaming opening credits BS." NPR's Linda Holmes thought the casting was inauthentic, writing, "I'd rather Tom Ford didn't use fat nude bodies as avant garde gimmicks until he casts a similarly sized person as a person." Then, of course, there's the obvious discrepancy between his representation of the female form in this single scene and his long career — designing at Gucci, YSL and his namesake label — in an industry infamous for promulgating unrealistic body images.
Vulture sat down with Ford at TIFF to discuss the controversial sequence's significance and how he thinks critics are misinterpreting it. For him, the scene was initially meant to be a jarring political statement about the sad state of the U.S. in 2016. "I want to talk about America today: Gluttonous, overfed, aging, sad, tired.” Incredibly offensive? Yep. But Ford explained that he completely changed his mind during the shoot, where he "fell in love with these women" from behind the camera. “I actually felt guilty that that had been my original intention," he said.
Ford did a complete 180. "I found them so beautiful, so joyful, and so happy to be there. They were so uninhibited, and I realized that actually, they were a microcosm of what the whole film was saying. They had let go of what our culture had said they’re supposed to be, and because of that, they were so totally free." And how does he answer to those who deem the scene fat-shaming? “It certainly wasn’t fat-shaming — if anything, it’s a celebration of the beauty of their bodies, and a challenge to what we think of beauty,” he said.
We're glad to hear that Ford recognizes that his original intentions were indeed something to feel ashamed of. And it is rare to hear someone openly reflect on their own prejudices like that. However, if Ford — and anyone else in Hollywood — wants to truly celebrate the beautiful bodies of average women, then they should consider casting such women in starring roles instead of relegating them to artistic opening credits.