Entertainment

Director James Ivory plans Richard II in 3D

American director James Ivory, known for Oscar-nominated period dramas like The Remains of the Day and A Room with a View, will shoot his next project, Richard II, in 3D.
The filmmaker behind The Remains of the Day and Howard's End talks to CBC's Eli Glasner about the appetite for intelligent dramas aimed at adults and his upcoming use of 3D. 3:50

American filmmaker James Ivory, known for Oscar-nominated period dramas like The Remains of the Day and A Room with a View, will shoot his next project, Richard II, in 3D.

As half of the famed Merchant Ivory Productions, the director became known for the beauty and elegance of his films, often adaptations of authors such as E.M. Forster and Henry James.

After watching Avatar in 3D, Ivory said he thought: "This could be useful." His Richard II will be based on Shakespeare’s historic play about the king deposed by a nobleman with whom he had a protracted dispute.

"I'm going to be doing all sorts of things with Richard II that people would gasp if they knew... shooting it in 3D," he told CBC's Eli Glasner.

"I think if you're going to do something set in the 14th century, in period, in 3D, it will be like something from Mars practically, I think. It will be strange and effective."

Ivory, now 84, still aspires to that ideal of beauty associated with the Merchant Ivory period films, but believes new 3D technology has huge potential.

"I think the whole cameramen community [will] be pushing towards as something that is as beautiful as what we've had in the past. I'm generally optimistic," he said, adding that he believes there is still a taste for mature-themed films.

Since the 2005 death of his partner Ismail Merchant, Ivory completed their last film together, The White Countess, and worked with his long-time screenwriting partner Ruth Prawer Jhabvala on The City of Your Final Destination.

In an interview with CBC’s Q cultural affairs show, Ivory recalled the confidence and ability that Merchant — a producer who was able to raise financing and gain access to historic sites such as Versailles for film shoots — brought to their partnership.

"He was enormously persuasive, enormously energetic and loyal to me and to our company," he said.

Curating Toronto film series

Ivory is in Toronto to curate a TIFF Bell Lightbox summer program of Merchant Ivory classics, films that influenced the pair and subsequent titles that they, in turn, influenced.

Asked about which of his own films he most identifies with, Ivory cited 1990's Mr. & Mrs. Bridge and 1998’s A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, both of which were set in the America he grew up in. He counts Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca as one of his many influences.

The Remains of the Day, starring Anthony Hopkins as a devoted butler who realized his lifelong loyalty has been misguided, is perhaps Ivory's best-known film. Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, it depicts an elegant Britain of the past, but the director also views it as a critique of the class system.

"Forster's own novels are full of disparagement of the classism of England. If you're going to do Forster, you're going to come up against the English class system," he says.

Ivory said he was drawn to Ishiguro's excellent storytelling and pinpointing of the corruption within Britain’s ruling classes, drawn at the time to fascism in Germany.

"If they weren't able to make a correct moral judgment about what is happening in Germany, they weren't fit to lead," he said.

While the filmmaker knows people admire the portrait of upper class life painted in his films, Ivory noted that has no special attachment to the early 20th century and admits he has yet to see an episode of hit period TV drama Downton Abbey.

"I like to think that the subtlety of story and the moral issues it posed… brought people to it," he said.