Tom Ford Would Never Ask Jake Gyllenhaal to Shave His Chest

Photo: Camilla Morandi - Corbis/Getty Images

“We are physical creatures,” Tom Ford told me earlier this month, as I sat down opposite him in a well-appointed Toronto hotel room. “Touch your chair — it’s velvet. That feels good, doesn’t it? A steak, if you eat meat, tastes great. A fur coat, or cashmere, feels good. Things that are beautiful, we enjoy.”

This is a philosophy that has served Ford well during his decades as a successful fashion designer, though he’s sometimes had misgivings about his role as an arbiter of beauty. “I do create this consumer culture and this constant need for more stuff,” he admitted to me. “I have come to terms with it.” Ford’s high-end sense of style also animates the two films he’s directed, the 2009 Colin Firth drama A Single Man and the upcoming Nocturnal Animals. The latter film is a revenge thriller starring Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, who have never been as lovingly photographed and costumed as they are by Ford. To hear the director tell it, that’s wholly by design.

“I want a movie to be a movie!” Ford said. “We have enough reality. I want the score to be big, I want the characters to be big, I want people to be more beautiful than they are in real life!”

The Nocturnal Animals trailer, released last week, provides a two-minute glimpse of the film’s high style, and it also showcases the 35-year-old Gyllenhaal in a variety of looks: bright-eyed and clean-shaven, bearded and bent on revenge, and, in one memorable shot, sitting seminude on the edge of a bathtub. As Ford reclined in front of me with his white dress shirt unbuttoned to the navel, I noted that in several of Gyllenhaal’s most recent movies — including Nightcrawler, Southpaw, and Demolition — the directors made Gyllenhaal shave his chest. Not so Ford, who’s plenty hirsute himself.

“It just never occurred to me that he should shave his chest!” Ford said, aghast. “I happen to like body hair. I think people should leave it alone — I’m not a fan of all this manscaping that goes on. I don’t really get it.”

Ford gestured southward. “If you like the chest, you should see what’s down here,” he said with a grin. “There is no manscaping.” Ford repeated it for emphasis: “There is no manscaping.”

With that image of his untrammelled leading man in mind, the interview was done, though Ford wasn’t. After we finished our discussion, the provocative designer-director walked me to the door and winked. “Nice talking to you,” he said, adding, “I’ll get Jake to show you his bush sometime.”