Luca Guadagnino’s evocative, emotive approach makes him the perfect director for Aston Martin’s bold new short film, set in Sicily. The Italian director has created a distinct, rich cinematic aesthetic during a career spanning over two decades, and is renowned for the quality of his visual approach and the naturalism of his scenography and direction.
Born in Palermo in 1971, film-making was an early passion for Guadagnino. His debut full-length feature was 1999’s The Protagonists, a murder mystery that was also his first collaboration with the British actor Tilda Swinton. His subsequent films with Swinton include I Am Love (2009), which was nominated for both an Academy Award and a BAFTA, and A Bigger Splash (2015).
The latter, which stars Swinton alongside Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts, epitomises Guadagnino’s highly emotive approach, with the turbulent inner lives of its protagonists set against an island backdrop defined by rich colours, elegant form, and evocative sound. Two years later, he released Call Me by Your Name, the final film in his self-described Desire trilogy, which began with I Am Love. Widely acclaimed, Call Me by Your Name is set in 1980s Italy, evoking time and place through location photography, costume and set dressing.
Guadagnino’s next major project was a radical re-imagining of Dario Argento’s 1970s film Suspiria, with Swinton and Dakota Johnson. The film is bold, immersive, and ultimately polarising, cementing the director’s reputation for matching emotional depths with intense visuals.
“Nothing happens in the moment in my films,” explains Guadagnino. Before shooting, he says, “there is a lot of studying, reflection and thinking, and then there is a beautiful interaction between me and the talented people I work with, in this case Aston Martin and Peter Saville. And sometimes, the process is best not revealed. What I do should be left untold.”
Throughout his career, Guadagnino has developed, styled and art directed short films for major fashion brands, including campaigns for Fendi, Cartier and Armani. He is currently working on Bones & All, his first film set in America, with Call Me by Your Name’s Timothée Chalamet playing one of the leads.
In Guadagnino's new short film for Aston Martin [shown above], conceived and directed in close collaboration with Art Director Peter Saville, Aston Martin’s Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer Marek Reichman and Marco Mattiacci, Aston Martin’s Global Chief Brand and Commercial Officer. The result features the young British actor Josh O’Connor behind the wheel of Aston Martin DBX, undertaking a mysterious journey through the softly lit Mediterranean landscape of Sicily. A meditation on desire, happiness, and dreams, the piece encapsulates Guadagnino’s strong cinematic language and emotional sensibility.
“This is a film about a man and his mind,” the director says, “as well as his command of the DBX through a great Sicilian landscape. Aston Martin encompasses style, form, elegance and Britishness. I looked at the DBX, I drove it and I understood it. I’m especially interested in the expression of craftsmanship. Aston Martin is one of my definitions of cool.”
British actor Josh O’Connor is a rising star who recently shot to international fame, known for his subtle, eerily accurate portrayal of HRH Prince Charles in Netflix’s award-studded mega-hit series The Crown. Thoughtfully considered to the very last detail — down to the royal’s subconscious habit of checking his cufflinks and pocket square upon exiting a car — his transformative, subtext-charged performance earned him both widespread acclaim and a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
While The Crown cemented his status as a household name in 2019, the 31-year-old actor has been steadily forging a solid career over the past decade. As well as small parts on TV series such as Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders, he played cantankerous novelist Lawrence Durrell in ITV’s The Durrells from 2016 to 2019, and Marius Pontmercy, revolutionary student and Cosette’s beloved, in the BBC’s 2019 production of Les Miserables.
On the big screen, his first starring role was in 2017’s critically-acclaimed God’s Own Country, directed by Francis Lee. In it, O’Connor plays Johnny Saxby, an unhappy young Yorkshire sheep farmer whose life is turned upside down by the arrival of a male migrant worker. Other filmic highlights include romantic lead Jake in 2018’s indie drama Only You and a light-hearted turn as Mr Elton in 2020’s popular retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.
Series four of The Crown saw the end of O’Connor’s two-year tenure as Charles. Not that he’s at a loose end — projects since have included taking up the mantle of Romeo for a National Theatre production of Shakespeare’s tragedy, as well a starry new adaptation of Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday. O’Connor will play adulterous lover Paul Sheringham, sharing the screen with Odessa Young, Colin Firth and fellow Crown alumna Olivia Colman.
The Aston Martin film sees O’Connor take to the scenic surrounds of Sicily in a DBX, navigating the powerful, muscular SUV through the Mediterranean island’s ancient rolling hills. Though somewhat shy and self-effacing in real life, on screen, the actor looks decidedly at home behind the wheel. “There are no two ways about it — when you’re in that car, it’s a sports car,” he says. “The more intimidating thing was having to drive super-quick and stop a hair’s breadth distance from the camera, with our glorious cameraman right next to it.”
At the time of writing, the film is still in production, meaning O’Connor has little idea what to expect of the finished item. “I’m sure that it will be luxurious, with a sense of speed and chaos...” He smiles bashfully, true to form. “It’s been the most luxurious holiday slash work trip I’ve ever had.”
This story is an extract from an article featured in the AM48 issue of Aston Martin magazine, out now. If you're not already a subscriber, visit magazine.astonmartin.com/magazine-subscription so that you can read the full story.