The Fire Island Crew on the Hulu Movie’s Queer Jokes, Villains and Romance – The Hollywood Reporter

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About five minutes later fire islandthe film written by Joel Kim Booster and directed by Andrew Ahn delivers one of its best needlepoint: Kathleen’s revival of Willy Wonka classic “Pure Imagination”.

The moment is a smart piece, serving as a background soundtrack as the film’s core set arrives. Noah (Booster), Howie (Bowen Yang), Luke (Matt Rogers), Keegan (Tomás Matos), and Max (Torian Miller) all carry their golden tickets to the candy factory that is the iconic island. But as the waves lap at the edge of the boat, the sun casting an almost rainbow glow over the annual gathering place, the song begins to mean something else to this modern queer version. Pride and Prejudice.

The lyrical narrative of “Pure Imagination” suggests fire island as a place that LGBTQ viewers have historically only dreamed of when it comes to big studio movies – queer-centric comedy, racially inclusive romance, with more relatability thanks to the (deconstructed) stereotype. But Booster’s modern twist on the rom-com classic makes that dream come true onscreen with such an easy take in its blend of Austen and queerness that it’s changing the world – at least LGBTQ narratives on the big screen. of Hollywood – seems to be “there’s nothing to it. ”

At the film’s New York City red carpet premiere on Thursday as part of Newfest’s opening night, Ahn said The Hollywood Reporter it was part of a larger vision that he and the film’s LGBTQ-led creative team and cast were aiming for. “I thought a lot about how it was a movie for my friends, for my queer community,” Ahn said. “I wanted him to show us as beautiful beings, that our stories really matter and are worth telling. And that it can be both fun and sexy and irreverent.”

Left to right: Andrew Ahn, Joel Kim Booster, Matt Rogers, Bowen Yang, James Scully, Torian Miller, Tomás Matos, Zane Phillips, Conrad Ricamora and Nick Adams
Arturo Holmes/Wire Image

Ahn pointed to the talent of the writer and star Booster as being primarily responsible for the film’s seemingly effortless mashup of genre and ratings. As a first-time screenwriter, the comedian and actor said he initially “felt like it wasn’t going to happen”, when it came to producing the film. But that’s what led him to go “balls against the wall” in the way he approached it, writing “as honestly as possible and not just trying to write to an audience that, I don’t don’t think, would be interested in seeing it.

This partly meant that while the rom of the rom-com might be universal, sometimes the com wouldn’t. “Writing a movie that has something for everyone is almost impossible and I think it really works on so many levels, different genres, different audiences,” producer Brooke Posch said. “So not every joke is for everyone, but you can still commit to it.”

“It was something that sold and it’s not a monolithic audience anyway,” producer John Hodges said of the film’s dual audiences, Austen readers and LGBTQ viewers. “There’s an array of characters here and we hope everyone gets to see a version of themselves.”

Booster said he had the support of Searchlight, who he said “didn’t pressure me” around the film’s comedy, even when executives didn’t get the joke. “Sometimes they didn’t get the joke and that was normal. As long as I explained to them, they didn’t need the whole audience to know,” he said.

Part of that larger joke runs deep into the film’s racial relationships and dynamics among its diverse ensemble. Something that is not funny? fire island is not just one of the few LGBTQ-focused rom-coms from a major studio, but one of the few big-screen romances that features two oddball characters of color in a high-profile on-screen relationship. Having two Asian gay men lead the film was something Booster said “definitely was on my mind” while making the film.

“We saw a lot of people, including white men, for this role, and it was by far the hardest to cast. Mr. Darcy is an iconic role and you gotta hate it, then you gotta love it,” he said. THR. “But in the end – it’s not even a line – we have the best actor for the role and I’m glad it’s Conrad [Ricamora].”

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Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora and Joel Kim Booster
Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Ketel One Family Made Vodka

But around those casting choices like Ricamora’s, Booster’s writing uses key comedic moments to highlight the impact of general racism and microaggressions on the film’s oddball characters of color and how they navigate in romance and friendships. Specifically, the film explores how racism casually permeates the LGBTQ community, primarily through several of the film’s gay white villains.

This includes Nick Adam’s Cooper, inspired by a mix of mean girls and Tthe devil wears Prada‘s Miranda Priestly, who the actor says represents the true social stewards of Fire Island and “of the queer community at large.”

“I think even outside of our community, we’ve all come across someone like this person, who relies on other people’s appearance and perception to feel better about and about other people,” he said. he declares. THR. “I met this guy. I met him on the island. I met him in gay bars. I met him at the gym. We all know who he is. And I think it’s important to show that side of our community and a part of the island that exists as well. There are people like that, unfortunately, we all have to navigate. »

Ahn says it was something he felt comfortable exploring in a comedic way with the film’s white actors, with whom he had had open conversations about the issues the film explored through the original archetypes. of Austen. “With each of the cast members, I had a conversation with them and got to know them a bit as human beings and I remember feeling so confident that they understood the story. and that they understood our point of view and where the story was centered,” he said.

“If you really read books like Pride and Prejudice, [Jane Austen is] very biting and so relevant,” Booster said of how easily he blended his comedic voice and the story he wanted to tell with Austen’s work. “Even today the comedy in his novels holds up so, so well and it’s all about how awful we are to each other without being awful to each other. That’s what isn’t said below the surface.

Having a cast that understood that was something the director said “really relieved me” after a less than positive experience directing a white actor on the set of a TV show. “I did an episode where there was a racist cop character and the actor playing the cop was like, ‘I’m so excited to play this role. I want to say racist things,'” Ahn recalled. “I immediately felt so unsafe and didn’t like him tearing himself apart saying and doing racist things. So for me, it was really important for our actors who are people of color to know that the people playing these bad guys aren’t bad guys themselves.

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Zane Phillips and Nick Adams
Arturo Holmes/Wire Image

It helped build fire island in the kind of haven for a queer love story — not just about romance, but about friends and family, found or not — that allows it to resonate so deeply no matter who’s watching.

“The movie shows how in a real group of friends, the sense of racial diversity, body diversity and personality diversity is so important,” said star Miller. “And the real experience was that I walked away from that movie cast and crew with an all-chosen family, which means so much to me, especially as a queer POC in this country.”

“I think today, if we adapt something like Pride and Prejudice and we have people from different points of view in this family, we have to show a diverse perspective. Also, I don’t think it would reflect reality for me anyway if I were to go. [to Fire Island] with a family and it looked washed out, to be honest with you,” Rogers said. THR on the diversity of actors in the film. ” We went. We have seen it.

Fire Island is now streaming on Hulu.

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