‘Bones and All’: Luca Guadagnino and Elizabeth Peyton on the Story Behind the Film’s Dazzling Poster

Back in the winter of 2019, Luca Guadagnino was on a trip to London when he decided to wander into the city’s National Portrait Gallery. Buying a ticket for an exhibition by the American painter Elizabeth Peyton—known for her tender, melancholic portraits of pop culture figures, famous on-screen lovers, and personal friends—Guadagnino was walking the museum’s halls when he was struck by a familiar image: Elio and Oliver, from his 2017 coming-of-age masterpiece Call Me by Your Name, locked in an embrace.

“I was completely shocked,” Guadagnino remembers over the phone from Venice. “I felt very humbled, because I had always thought of Elizabeth’s work as masterful. To see her take inspiration from my work for her art was magical, and since then, I have always had this fantasy of finding a way to do something together.”

That opportunity would come sooner than Guadagnino expected. In May of last year, the director began filming his latest offbeat romance, Bones and All, in Cincinnati. Starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, and premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Friday, the film follows a pair of young lovers living on the margins of society as they traverse 1980s America, Badlands-style, with a twist: both of the characters are cannibals, trying to understand why they have the desire to eat the people they love.

During filming, Guadagnino kept returning to the thought of having Peyton create an artwork inspired by this unlikely tale of lovers on the run. “The more we were making it, the more the movie transformed from a horror movie into a very intense love story, and so I started to fantasize about the most beautiful possibility to introduce it to the world,” Guadagnino explains.

After sending Peyton an early cut of the movie, the pair arranged to meet in New York, where they instantly connected over a series of sketches Peyton had prepared ahead of time, including one of the film’s leads kissing that became the final poster. “I felt like I couldn’t face him unless I had begun something,” says Peyton, laughing. “I had no idea what the film was about before I first saw it, but afterwards I knew I would have made pictures from it anyway, because I was so floored by it, floored by the transcendent love story within it.”

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