Oscars: How Scene-Stealing Speeches in 'Call Me by Your Name,' 'The Post' Came to Be

9:00 AM 12/5/2017

by Rebecca Ford

Writers reveal how they crafted stunning star-turn speeches about first love, the loss of a child and even a super-sized pig.

Call Me By Your Name and The Post - Split - Publicity - H 2017
Left, courtesy of Stefano Dall'Asta/Sony Pictures Classics; Right, courtesy of Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

This story first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

  • James Ivory

    Near the end of Call Me by Your Name, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) finds himself heartbroken after a whirlwind summer romance with his father's assistant (Armie Hammer). It's at this moment that his mostly quiet father (Michael Stuhlbarg) gives a powerful speech revealing his support of his gay son.

    "I thought it was beautiful," says Ivory of first reading the words in Andre Aciman's 2007 novel. "His father's broad-mindedness was a great thing and a rare thing."

    Ivory had to cut down the speech for the film adaptation but was committed to keeping it in the script. "Toward the end of the film, you don't tend to want to have great long monologues because you're pretty much ready to finish up, but the way that he spoke to his son was so remarkable."

    Ivory also built up Elio's father's character for the Sony Pictures Classics film by adding scenes that showed him working as a classical art historian. He says, "It was to give the father something to do, so he wasn't just sitting around smoking all day."

  • Bong Joon Ho and Jon Ronson

    The opening scene in Netflix's Okja introduces audiences to Lucy Mirando, the CEO of a company that is breeding super pigs.

    "What's interesting is Tilda Swinton starts the movie with a lie, this environmentally friendly message, which is packaged in a fancy, shiny way," says South Korean director-writer Bong through a translator. Bong wrote the speech first and then co-writer Ronson came on to work on it, taking inspiration from some of the TED Talks he'd seen.

    He was in the audience for a Talk by Regina Dugan, who was at the time the director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which creates defense technologies. "She gave this extraordinary talk where she just beguiles the audience — but it was basically a talk about new ways to kill people," says Ronson, who also shared the video of the TED Talk with Swinton to inform her performance.

  • Martin McDonagh

    "I've wanted to say that to a priest for 20 years," says writer-director Martin McDonagh of the tirade that his protagonist, Mildred (Frances McDormand), goes on after a priest comes to her home to discourage her from keeping up a trio of billboards that call out local law enforcement for not finding her daughter's killer.

    The speech, which accuses the priest of being complicit in the sins of the church's sex abuse scandal (after a warm-up rant about gang violence), is something McDonagh (who is half-Irish and was raised Catholic before "rejecting that in my teens") says he's thought about a lot over the years and has hinted at in his plays but never gone all in on until this speech (he wrote the role of Mildred for the Fox Searchlight film with McDormand in mind).

    "When people defend the Catholic Church and say it wasn't all of them, that's probably very true, but if you look at them as a gang, as a group of men in power, then you can't say they're not guilty or culpable," he says.

  • Liz Hannah

    Throughout Steven Spielberg's 20th Century Fox drama, The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham (played by Meryl Streep) is drowned out in meetings by the louder voices of the men who surround her. But in one pivotal scene, Graham finds her voice and makes a key decision related to publishing the Pentagon Papers.

    For screenwriter Hannah (who co-wrote the script with Josh Singer), she knew that this monologue would be "her turning moment when she comes of age and finds her voice." But because Graham is soft-spoken, Hannah had to figure out a way she could have a powerful moment that didn't seem out of character. "In this scene, she had all of the men physically staring at her and asking her to make a decision, which is an exciting opportunity to explore," says Hannah, "but she wasn't somebody who was going to start yelling back."

  • Mark Bomback

    About halfway through the final installment in Fox's Apes trilogy, the main villain, played by Woody Harrelson, gives a harrowing speech about the sacrifices he's made (including killing his own son) to fight off a deadly disease threatening the human race.

    For Bomback and writer-director Matt Reeves, the scene was "easily the most challenging writing we've ever had to do together," says Bomback. "It was that classic exposition problem for a screenwriter of, 'How do we do this in a way that's not going to feel like a massive exposition dump?'"

    The first draft of the scene, says Bomback, ran about 10 pages long. "We dreaded turning it in to the studio. We were worried that it was the scene that they would flag," he says. "They didn't, but there was some concern about how long it was."

    The screenwriter reveals that after Harrelson came on board, he pushed for a change in the scene that would make his character retell and relive the moment he sacrificed his son. "It ended up really unlocking the emotion of that scene and really getting you inside his head," says Bomback.