Tom Ford Talks Depression, Death And His New Film, “Nocturnal Animals”

Tom Ford
Tom Ford at 2009 Venice Film Festival. Photo by Nicogenin on Flickr. CC 2.0.

Tom Ford sat down with The Hollywood Reporter for an interview that started off cagey and ended up going deep, with Ford touching on his battles with depression and anxiety, as well as constant thoughts of death, and how the realization some years ago that money truly cannot buy happiness has affected him.

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Ford is doing press for his new film “Nocturnal Animals,” his first since 2009’s critically acclaimed “A Single Man.”

Whereas “A Single Man” told the story of a middle-aged English professor trying to move on with his life in the wake of his longtime partner’s death, “Noctural Animals” follows a woman struggling to find meaning among the materially obsessed and emotionally vacant art world crowd.

“Susan [played by Amy Adams] is quite literally me,” Ford says. “She’s someone who has material things but realizes — maybe this happened to me seven or eight years ago — those aren’t the things that are important. She is struggling with the world that I live in: the world of absurd rich [people], the hollowness and emptiness I perceive in our culture.”

“[Life] can be an endless, unfulfilling quest for some sort of happiness that is elusive,” he continues. “Because the whole concept of happiness as peddled by our culture doesn’t exist. Nobody lives happily ever after. If you buy this and do that and build this house, you’re not going to be happy. Life is happy, sad, tragic, joyful. But that’s not what we’re taught, that’s not what our culture pounds into our heads.”

He recounts a childhood marked by fear, handed to him by overprotective parents, which still leads him to feel anxious that something might go wrong at any time to this day.

“I live in constant fear that something could change or go wrong. And it’s exhausting, and it’s draining, and it can be upsetting, and it can lead to unhappiness,” he says. “I’m always afraid something could happen.”

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Ford, who lives in L.A. with his husband and their four-year-old son, reports that he is “in a very good place” now, but it was a peace of mind that was hard won.

“I can remember early thoughts of suicide at 8 or 9 years old,” he says. “Those things are often hereditary — people in my family have had that — as is alcoholism, and that’s also something I’ve dealt with.”

He has been sober for years and attributes that, as well as a strong family life and staying active to keeping depression in check. Still, he admits to having to constantly fight off dark thoughts.

“Death is all I think about. There is not a day or really an hour that goes by that I don’t think about death. I think you are born a certain way. I think you just come out that way,” he admits.

His fashion line remains hugely profitable and successful, yet it seems his interest is more squarely in the film category these days.

Interviewer Stephen Galloway notes that Ford seemed “considerably less passionate” when the subject switched from his new movie to fashion. He says that while he believes some fashion designers are “true artists” he feels “too cynical” to be considered one of them.

“So who is the real Tom Ford?” the publication asks. “He’s a modernist who speaks with nostalgia about the past. A radical who considers himself old-fashioned (‘Loyalty is very important to me’). An insomniac who drinks multiple cups of coffee a day (‘I completely rely on sleeping pills and tranquilizers to go to sleep’). A recovering alcoholic who sees a therapist once a week (‘It used to be two or three times a week’). And an A-lister who critiques the very lifestyle that has made him rich (though never the people who live it, paying $200 for his sunglasses or $3,000-plus for his suits).

“Most of all, he’s both a cynic about the fashion world that made him a star and also a pure romantic when it comes to the film world he now finds himself a part of.”

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“Nocturnal Animals,” which was picked up by Focus Features for $20 million, is currently making the rounds at film festivals.

Ford also recently launched his new fall line in New York, one of the first to experiment with a “see now, buy now” approach, making the clothes on the runway available at stores immediately.