“The actors are gay, but it’s a coincidence” says director Joe Mantello

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A birthday party with gay friends turns into a settling of scores in “The Boys in the Band”, a film adapted from an American theater classic on Netflix this Wednesday


Jim Parsons et Matt Bomer dans «The Boys in the Band» de Joe Mantello


© Scott Everett White/NETFLIX
Jim Parsons et Matt Bomer dans «The Boys in the Band» de Joe Mantello


INTERVIEW – A birthday party with gay friends turns into a settling of scores in “The Boys in the Band”, a film adapted from an American theater classic on Netflix this Wednesday It is at Ryan Murphy, series creator American Horror Story and Ratched as the director Joe Mantello must have been able to bring to the screen The Boys in the Band. A piece of Mart Crowley written at the end of the 1960s, already adapted for cinema in 1970 by William Friedkin that Joe Manello brought back to Broadway in 2018 before making it into a Netflix movie.

A birthday party between nine homosexual men is at the center of this story with powerful dialogues. Everyone must face their desires and their contradictions at the mercy of a party that quickly turns into a generalized settling of scores. For 20 Minutes, the director of Love ! Valour ! Compassion ! looks back at his version of a cult work, at the same time funny, poignant and biting.

Why repossess this piece half a century after its creation?

The reputation of the play is a roller coaster with its ups and downs. She caused a sensation before being criticized by the LGBT community who considered her caricature and then rehabilitated fifteen years ago. I consider it, for my part, as a piece of history of the gay community. At the time, it was the first play to feature gay men, but it owed its success not only to the LGBT community. The public wanted to discover this mysterious, exotic and slightly sulphurous environment which had its own language and its rituals. The New Yorkers who went to see the play felt as if they were slaughtering themselves. Today, it can be considered a classic of American theater.

Why did you bring together gay actors?

It was not our will at first. It turned out like that! Ryan Murphy and I offered the roles to comedians we had worked with before and we picked the rest of the cast by hosting castings. If the actors are gay, it’s a coincidence. But it saved us precious time as they were familiar with the subject of the play and its vocabulary. In addition, they felt bound by the solidarity that we can have between gay men.

What have you changed from William Friedkin’s version?

I chose to show what happens after the party. The outcome of William Friedkin’s adaptation is very hard. I chose a more optimistic ending. We are lucky to be able to take a step back that this first filmed version did not have. At the time, rage was strong in hearts. It can be felt in the room and I wanted to bring calm.

Was Ryan Murphy’s influence significant on TV inclusion?

It was instrumental as he fought to move forward and, after slipping his foot through the door, he was generous enough to keep it open for others. In particular, he had the courage to hire gay comedians who had come out of the closet in his various series, which was a strong message to encourage actors not to hide anymore. Today, we have to keep pushing the door so that it does not close and more and more different stories and different people can find their place on the screens. It can only make the world a better place!

One of the characters says “Show me a happy homosexual, I’ll show you a gay corpse”, is that still true?

This line, the most famous of the play, was already ironic in 1968. Being gay in the 1960s did not make your life easier. Today, things have nevertheless evolved for the better. The Boys in the Band is broadcast on a platform where it can be seen by large numbers of viewers around the world instead of being shown in small venues to niche audiences. The idea that all these people are going to discover this classic of gay literature played by nine openly gay comedians and proud of it makes me happy.



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