Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 16:30 UK

From catwalk to silver screen

By Emma Jones
BBC News, Venice

The stars of Single Man
Tom Ford (second right) dressed his cast in suitably stylish clothes

Former Gucci designer Tom Ford has presented his first feature film, A Single Man, at the Venice Film Festival. The movie stars Colin Firth and Julianne Moore.

Until now, Ford's only contact with the film world has been making the suits that James Bond wears. He's one of the world's leading designers in men's fashion, accessories and cosmetics. But what makes Tom Ford think he can direct?

Not only has Ford made A Single Man but he's co-written and produced it too, adapted from the book by Christopher Isherwood.

He got two Hollywood stars to take the leading roles and secured a premiere at one of the world's most prestigious film festivals.

Colin Firth plays George, a 50-something professor who lost his long-term partner, Jim, a few months before in a car accident.

"I really didn't know much about Tom," says Firth, "although I'd met him a couple of times.

I daresay we aren't the first men to have kissed on screen - and Matthew was good at it
Colin Firth on kissing Matthew Goode

"The way it happened was totally leftfield, there was no chat with my agent - an email just popped up in my inbox from Tom Ford.

"After talking to him, I realised this wasn't just a vanity project for a fashion designer."

Nevertheless, the film looks exactly as you'd expect from an artist used to putting on extravagant shows.

From the moment he walks on screen, George lives in a spotless world of pressed Italian designer suits, fresh linen and minimalist Scandinvian furniture.

It could be a Tom Ford commercial for the perfect lifestyle - except George is quietly devastated by his loss.

"Lots of people say: 'Oh a Tom Ford film - that must look great,'" says Firth.

"But the truth is that the suits I was wearing are like body armour for my character.

"You just have the impression that if George wasn't wearing his tie, his whole world would fall apart."

'Like perfection'

Julianne Moore co-stars as his best friend Charley, an aristocratic English housewife.

"Tom was very particular about how things looked," she says.

"Sometimes I've walked on set and the whole production looks wrong, but you felt that he had considered every last little detail about our characters' lives.

Julianne Moore and Colin Firth
Julianne Moore was impressed by Tom Ford's meticulous set design

The actress says her director beat both her and Firth in terms of looking smart on the job.

"He always looks great. He wears a black suit, a white shirt, he's always handsome, never sloppy and he looks like perfection."

The camera follows a day in the life of George as he wrestles with his loss, and makes some momentous decisions about the future.

"It was a very short shoot, about five weeks," Firth says. "Mainly night shoots. It ended up that there's a lot of Tom in this movie, but there's a lot of me too."

A Single Man has so far had positive reviews, with critics commenting the film has substance as well as style.

"He has put his heart and soul into this," Firth says. "He's told a tale with courage and honesty.

"Yes, people are fascinated because it's Tom Ford, and some people are sceptical because it's Tom Ford, so he's going to have to brave some knives which are out to scalp him - but this film deserves to be judged solely on its merits."

Firth shares an on-screen kiss with his partner Jim, played by Matthew Goode, which will probably garner the same amount of column inches as Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal when they made Brokeback Mountain.

"They should just grow up a bit," says Firth of the potential headlines. "I feel the fact my character is gay has little relevance to the movie.

"Tom wasn't remotely interested in the gay theme. Anyway I daresay we aren't the first men to have kissed on screen - and Matthew was good at it."

The Venice Film Festival runs until 12 September.

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