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Telluride: 'The Imitation Game' screenwriter and director make a splash

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"The Imitation Game" writer Graham Moore (Left) with The Frame's John Horn (right)
Darby Maloney/KPCC
"The Imitation Game" screenwriter Graham Moore (left) with The Frame's John Horn.

Director Morten Tyldum and writer Graham Moore discuss their film about WWII British code breaker Alan Turing, who became a hero but then paid for his homosexuality.

As the lights came on after the world premiere of  "The Imitation Game" at the Telluride Film Festival, writer Graham Moore turned his head to an audience in tears.  

The film is about the British mathematician Alan Turing, who worked to break the German Enigma Machine — the encryption device that the Germans used for all communication during WWII.

Described as the "forefather of the computer," Turing was later prosecuted for his homosexuality during the 1950s and was chemically castrated. He passed away a couple years later from cyanide poisoning and was briefly forgotten for his work. 

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing, and after its successful debut this past weekend it's getting considerable Oscar buzz. The Frame's John Horn interviewed  Graham Moore at the Denver Airport on his way to the festival and talked with him after the screening of his first-ever produced screenplay.

Horn also got nice and cozy with Norwegian director Morten Tlydum as they talked about the film — his first English-language feature — in the Telluride Hotel's steam room. 

Interview Highlights

Moore on why he wanted to write about Alan Turing: 

"I had wanted to write about Alan Turing since I was probably 14, 15 years old. I've always been obsessed with him. I was not the coolest of kids. I was a huge computer nerd. I went to computer camp, I went to space camp. Alan Turing is this object of intense and passionate fascination because, among his claims, he arguably invented the computer. The way he broke the German enigma machine is that he and his compatriots built this machine that no one had ever built before, which is essentially the predecessor to the modern computer...I have always wanted to write about him."

Tyldum on why Turing's sexual orientation caused him to be forgotten: 

"He was convicted for being gay and had to choose between prison and chemical castration — which is horrible in any way. It would be an injustice to anyone to be treated that way just because of their sexuality. But because of that, he was ridiculed. All his theories weren't taken that seriously and he became more or less forgotten." 

Tyldum on the importance of being different: 

"What drew me to the project is that it's a tribute to people who are different — who are thinking differently, who [don't] really fit into the norm, whose ideas are not like anybody's ideas — and I think that is so important. We as a society — we as a species — if we're going to move forward, we have to listen to those who think different — who are not seeing it in the same way as everyone else." 

How writer Moore felt before and after the world premiere: 

"When the movie started, I was pretty sure I was going to vomit. I was inches from it. I was gripping the seat and Nora [Grossman], our producer, was sitting next to me and she was holding my hand and saying, 'Calm down, calm down." Every time I heard a cough, I snapped my head [wondering], Why is someone coughing? Are they bored? Do they not like it? And then, as soon as the lights come up and you turn around and there's 600 sobbing people. It's like, Oh! Oh, it worked! Good!"

How has the 'Oscar buzz' affected Tyldum and his cast and crew?: 

"People are seeing this as an award contender. I'm very honored by it and it's very flattering, but to be quite honest, it's not why we made this movie. This movie was just something that we all just felt the need to make and whatever comes of it would be a pleasant surprise." 

Moore on what people in the industry expect about this film: 

"Our movie was edited by a wonderful man named Billy Goldenberg, who won the Oscar for 'Argo.' Very early on, when I first met him, he was talking through the awards experiences he had had and the experiences he had in 'Argo,' and he had one rule: 'I don't want to hear the 'O' word. If you say the 'O' word in my office you are out. That was the rule in "Argo" and that is the rule here, too." You just can't [think about awards]. If your mind goes to it, it just screws with your head and you just need to focus on, like, watching the movie and enjoying the movie, making the movie everything that we wanted it to be."

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