Twists on Classic Cinema: Interview with Hope Thompson

Billy Wilder’s campy comedy classic, Some Like It Hot, is screening July 25th to close the Corktown Common series of Toronto Outdoor Picture Show’s summer long Dynamic Duos programme. The film follows musicians Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) who disguise themselves as women, Josephine and Daphne, after witnessing a group of gangsters commit a massacre. Paired with Some Like It Hot is the short film Switch, which follows an affair between two women working as switchboard operators in Toronto in the 1940s. In film noir style, their story includes twists, turns, and murder. 

We spoke with filmmaker Hope Thompson about her short film Switch. 

TOPS: This year’s theme for the festival is titled Dynamic Duos. Your short film Switch is paired with the camp classic Some Like It Hot. What do you think of this pairing? 

Hope Thompson (HT): First, thank you for including my short film, Switch, in your festival! I am thrilled to have it paired with the comedy classic, Some Like It Hot. Dynamic Duos is a great theme and I've often thought about the qualities of these duos. There are certain traits that occur in these filmic pairs. From Batman and Robin, to Mulder and Scully, to Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, there are recurring qualities: a distribution of skills, a mix of seriousness and humour, and, within the pairs, a deep affection for each other. 

 Although, in Switch, the affection is placed in the centre of the narrative, overall the qualities of this pair fits neatly with the dynamic duo of Lemmon and Curtis. Also, the cross-dressing that Lemmon and Curtis engage in is a nice counterpoint to the danger that Isabelle and Alice confront. Just as Lemmon and Curtis pass as women, Isabelle and Alice take on stereotypically masculine traits to survive. In their respective eras, each pair gets outside of their comfort zone!  

Some like it hot 4.jpg

TOPS: Were there any other films that inspired your storytelling style for Switch? What prompted you to set your film in the '40s?

HT: Films such as The Big Sleep and Laura were inspirations for Switch. I was deeply into film noir at the time (and I still am) and I wanted to explore the tropes of the genre – characters, urban setting, twisting storyline – but to do so in a queer way and against an historical Toronto backdrop. What did Toronto look like in the 1940s and 50s? Los Angeles and New York have been the setting for films for a century, but not Toronto – and certainly not in the 1940s. I decided to set Switch in the 40s, in Toronto, as a way to bring Hollywood – and film noir – to Toronto, and as a way to imagine film noir in Toronto. 


TOPS: If you could make a film about a real-life duo, who would it be?

HT: How about a gritty film noir starring Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir?

TOPS: Who is your favourite cinematic duo, and why? 

HT: Thelma and Louise [our TOPS Dynamic Duos opener!] because their story is unapologetically feminist – and heartbreaking.

Switch screens alongside Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959) July 25th at Corktown Common.