Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Via The (Now-Defunct) Messenger:

'Trick’ 25 Years Later: An Oral History of the 1999 Gay Rom-Com — With a Stage Musical Adaptation ‘In the Works’ (Exclusive)

'Trick' writer Jason Schafer told The Messenger he's working on a stage musical adaptation of his 1999 gay romantic comedy, with original star Christian Campbell set to produce
Photos courtesy of Fine Line Features
Once a charming gay romantic comedy about a couple of guys looking for a place to hook up in New York City, 1999's Trick has come to hold a special spot in LGBTQ cinema history.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the movie's Sundance Film Festival premiere, director Jim Fall, writer Jason Schafer and star Christian Campbell reminisced about Trick with The Messenger while a musical stage adaptation is currently "in the works" with Schafer.
"Jason is writing a musical right now. He's writing a musical adaptation because he always thought it would be a good musical," said Campbell. "So, I kicked him in the butt and said, 'Okay, do this. I'll help produce it if you want.' And so, we're in the works for something right now. Musicals take a long time to develop, and we're in the early stages of it. But there's a first draft."
In Trick, young, naive playwright Gabriel (Campbell) meets sexy go-go boy Mark (John Paul Pitoc) on the subway. As the pair attempts to find a place to get intimate, they have run-ins with Gabriel's best friend Katherine (Tori Spelling) and vengeful drag queen Miss Coco Peru (playing herself).
Schafer, who based Gabriel on himself as a struggling 20-something in NYC, said he "originally imagined [the story] as a musical," and its current stage development is still "very formative."
"For years, people have been suggesting that or approaching me or approaching other people involved with the film about that," he explained. "And for some reason, I don't really tend to look back that much, and I didn't have that much interest in it. And then, it was sometime during the pandemic, another producer reached out and asked about it, and that kind of started me thinking about it. So, [I'm] exploring that. I would love to see that happen. I think now, I've had enough time where revisiting it just feels like a fun thing for me."
From Broadway to Hollywood
Musical theater was Schafer's "first passion," and, a year after his post-UCLA move to NYC, he found his inspiration for a stage musical originally titled Gay Boy.
"Somewhere over that year, I just started writing something that was a lot more personal than anything I'd written before," he explained. "I wrote about an aspiring musical theater writer living in New York, which was my life. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with four female roommates. They all had the bedroom; I slept in the living room. So, that was kind of the impetus. That was my life in my first year in New York. And, so obviously, finding a place to be with somebody was not easy. That's kind of how it started."
Although Katherine and Mark were inspired by real people in his life, Schafer admitted he never dated a go-go boy. But the movie's final scene was inspired by a real moment that could have only happened in the days before iPhones. After Schafer emerged from a three-day intensive writing course, he recalled, "I remember checking my messages after this thing ... and this guy had left me a message, and I was basically running down the street [to him]. And then it hit me, like, 'Oh, this is the end of the movie.' And that's kind of where the whole thing happened ... I was like, 'Oh, this is a movie.'"
After writing a stage musical, he showed it to some friends for feedback. One friend who saw its potential was future Broadway star Anthony Rapp.
"This is pre-Rent, actually," noted Schafer. "And he was like, 'This should be a movie.' And that kind of changed the direction. I was writing a musical, and at some point in the process, I was writing a movie instead."
Once the script was completed, Schafer hosted "a very tiny read-through in the living room of my apartment the day after I finished it." The actor who read for Gabriel then offered to show it to director Jim Fall, who was directing him at the time in a play he also co-wrote, Blood Orgy of the Carnival Queens.
"I read the script, and it was a much shorter version of what Trick turned into. But it was charming, and I loved it," recalled Fall. "Jason was great, and I convinced him to let me option it. And then cut to maybe four years later, we got the movie made after a lot of readings and a lot of development."
Casting call
During the "long process" of development, Fall noted that actors like Rapp and Matthew Lillard read for roles.
"That was actually coincidental," said Schafer of Rapp's audition. "I knew Anthony, and then, [he] came in and read for us. That happened just through Jim, through casting, that Anthony ended up being there. But Anthony was actually the one who originally saw the material and was like, 'This should be a movie.'"
While casting Gabriel, Fall admitted he was "disappointed [Campbell] was as cute as he was" as he imagined a "slightly nerdier actor." But Campbell ended up being perfect for the role, especially opposite Pitoc.
"The two of them have so much chemistry together, it works out," added Fall. "Casting is like this magical thing that happens — or it doesn't happen. We were lucky."
Although Campbell said "it was a risk" playing a gay role at the time, particularly as a straight actor, he "wasn't bothered by any of that. For me, acting's acting."
"After I did Trick, after it came out, I do know that for quite a few years afterward, all the roles that were being sent to me were for gay roles," said Campbell. "So, I do have to say it did have an effect. But we live in a different world now, which is great. I can't deny that it did have an effect, but it's okay. I'm glad Trick was on my life path, and it's one of the proudest films I've created."
Campbell said his co-star Spelling turned out to be "an amazing surprise in terms of her comic chops."
"She auditioned like everyone else; I wasn't going to hand it to her," recalled Fall. "I had never seen 90210, so she was just another actress to me. I knew who she was. I knew she was famous. I also knew people didn't take her that seriously, but I didn't really care. If she was good, she was good.
"So, I came out here to LA, and she read that diner scene almost verbatim like she does in the movie," Fall continued. "And it was f---ing hilarious. I'm like, 'You're great; you've got the role!' And my casting director threatened to quit if I hired Tori Spelling. She goes, 'If you hire Tori Spelling, I'm going to quit.' And I don't think I said 'f--- you' to her, but I certainly thought it."
One of the film's most memorable scenes came about when Fall and Schafer decided to include a part for the director's friend and collaborator, Miss Coco Peru, a drag queen who corners Gabriel in a gay bar bathroom. Coco (real name Clinton Leupp) previously read Katherine's part during early script read-throughs and won them over.
"And Clint was so funny that Jason and I were like, 'Alright, we have to put Coco in the movie somehow,'" said Fall. "And that sort of pivotal bathroom scene evolved. And he steals the movie, which is great."
Filming in NYC
Trick, shot over the course of 21 days in August 1998, delivers a poignant snapshot of NYC life at the time. Reflecting on the city of that era, Fall said, "In retrospect, I'm really happy that I made a movie at what seems like a turning point in a lot of ways. So much shifted just a few years later. I mean, the Trade Center is still in my movie, and just three years after that, they were gone. That New York changed, disappeared pretty quickly."
Working on the movie also convinced Campbell to leave Los Angeles and find a home in New York. He "fell in love" with the city during the shoot and still lives there with his wife, America Olivo, and their daughter.
"And the memory, especially now that I have lived there for so long; it's the New York that so many people remember and say is gone now. And so we got to feel that grittiness. The West Village, there was still a sweetness to it. It didn't feel like so commoditized," added Campbell. "But New York, it was just cool. It was cool back then; I don't know if it's cool anymore, honestly."
Legacy in LGBTQ cinema
Although Trick received a limited release, it was a success for a gay romantic comedy at the time, surpassing $2 million at the box office on a $450,000 budget. Walking so movies like Love Simon, Fire Island and Bros could run, Trick continues to reach generations of LGBTQ audiences due to its timeless story and lovable performances.
"I remember very adamantly wanting to make a gay movie. I'm a child of the 70s ... and there was no gay representation then in film that was positive," Fall explained. "Most of it was very, very negative. And I remember just vowing to myself that I was going to make a gay film; I was going to make a positive gay film."
He added, "I wanted to make a movie that wasn't about the issues; it was just about being human. And I think that's one of the reasons why Trick has stood the test of time."
Schafer said "the best thing" about creating Trick is seeing the impact it continues to have on audiences.
"It's amazing to hear from people that remember the movie, people that tell you what the movie meant to them," he added. "It just kind of blows in my mind."
Fall has also received emails from young gay fans who've been affected by the movie. Campbell even connected with a fan as far away as Russia.
"I didn't know it was going to have the impact it did, but after I saw all the responses I got from people saying it really helped them come into their own — and from around the world, like letters from deepest, darkest Russia," he said. "A man said he just watched a 10th generation VHS copy that was just completely destroyed through all the versions of it and that it really helped keep him from committing suicide."
Campbell added, "This is something special. This is one of those projects that we will have made, and when we're passed, and we're gone, we know that we left something that mattered, and it helped. I think that's how we all feel about it."
(Photo by Glenn Garner)
Shelved sequel
In 2018, Fall and the cast celebrated Trick's 20th anniversary in Los Angeles, reuniting for a table read of Fall's screenplay for a potential sequel. They even filmed a musical number for a Kickstarter campaign.
Although the reading "went really well and was really fun," the project was ultimately abandoned by the original movie's producer. "It was very frustrating to put that much work into something and have it not happen," said Fall.
"I was excited to think about a sequel because it is a love story, but it's not ... They only spent one night together, and it was a pivotal night," he explained. "But, I remember saying I wasn't even sure the two of them would end up together the next day. When they went on a real date, would they really get along? I tried to answer that in the sequel. And the answer was no because, in the sequel, they meet 20 years later and then actually fall in love as adults."
The script and table read for Trick 2 are available on Fall's website.
Although Trick is not currently available to stream, Campbell said the producer is "on it."