By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor
The best movie I saw this summer was "Trick," a story about a nervous composer whose one-night stand with a go-go boy is never consummated. In what could have been very cliché and poorly executed, Trick rises above the fold due to its amazing performances and direction by first-time movie director Jim Fall.
For Fall, the movie was a labor of love that took five year to bring to the screen. Fall dropped out of NYU Film School in 1985, and worked a lot of odd television and film production jobs learning how to make a movie. In a recent interview with Oasis, Fall talked about the process, which also found him directing movie-spoof plays off-Broadway that a friend of his wrote.
"A friend of mine wrote this sci-fi spoof called Chorus Girls on Mars!, which was very funny and one of my first forays into theater, and it kept me directing, which was the important thing," he said. "Because how could I hold my head up and say I was a director if I weren't directing?"
After directing theater for another five years, Fall decided to return to his initial goal and began writing a script similar to Trick, although the characters were 10 years older.
"They were in their 30s, and it had an AIDS storyline in it," he said. "This was like '92, and that movie didn't happen. In that time, Jeffrey, Longtime Companion and Philadelphia all came and went, and people were tired of movies with an AIDS storyline."
Around that same time, people's attitudes about AIDS also changed as better drugs were invented and people started living longer with the disease. Fall stopped working on his script and started looking for a script he could direct instead.
"I found Trick through frustration," he recalled. "An actor from one of my plays had done a reading of it, actually it was called "Gay Boy" then, which I thought was kind of funny. He said it was cute, but it needed work, and I loved it."
Fall and the script's writer teamed up, Fall optioned the movie from him and then another three and a half years went by trying to raise money. Fall then called a friend of his, Andy Fleming, who directed the current Watergate comedy "Dick," who passed the script on to someone. That someone became Fall's agent, and the agent's lover ended up producing the movie and putting up all the money.
"Once the money was in place, we just started pulling everything together and we started the casting process, which was the hardest part of the whole thing," Fall said. "From the script, I knew the movie was going to be made or broken on its cast, because it's a very character-driven thing. If it's not cast right, it would totally fall apart, and I'd seen it fall apart during the readings. It was scary, because I don't think my casting director thought I knew what I wanted being a first-time feature director. So, I ended up casting all the major leads myself."
Tori Spelling, of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, ended up on the picture as a spunky actress who is the best friend of the main character. Fall said he never saw Beverly Hills 90210, so he had very little preconceptions when she auditioned, although he admits: "I knew peripherally that people didn't take her seriously, just by how people reacted when I mentioned her name."
Christian Campbell, brother of Neve Campbell, stars as the sensitive musical theater writer, although Fall said he almost didn't make it into the cast.
"He blew his first audition," Fall said. "He wasn't being vulnerable enough, and he was odd and just wasn't right. And luckily he came back for a callback, and I didn't know he was coming, because I probably would have said he's not right. And he came in and was just really great, he did his homework on it and was wonderful. So, he was immediately right."
J.P. Pitoc plays the hunky go-go boy and Clinton Leupp aka Coco Peru plays the bitchy drag queen who steals every frame of celluloid in which she appears. As per usual, the gay press has made an issue of the fact that both Campbell and Pitoc are straight actors who are "gay for pay." (Although they also praise when openly gay actors like Wilson Cruz are hired for straight roles) Admittedly, I also questioned Pitoc about his and Campbell's sexuality after seeing a premiere of the film in San Francisco, but that was mainly because Oasis only features queer interview subjects and had either of them been gay boys they would be perfect Oasis subjects.
But on screen, I never doubted for a second that Campbell and Pitoc were two gays guys who wanted to sleep together, and that's all that should matter to anyone. Fall said the question arises in the gay press for the simple reason of people just wanting to know.
"I can totally understand it because as a gay man, we're so starved for images of ourselves that when you see a gay movie and two boys up there kissing, you want to know if they're gay or straight," Fall said. "But it was never an agenda for me to cast only gay people in the movie. I have a bunch of openly gay people in the movie, both in front of and behind the camera. It just so happened that the two best actors for the leads were straight, and I didn't even know they were straight when I cast them. In fact, I kind of assumed both of them might be, actually. It's just very unprofessional to ask them, because the real question is are you willing to do the role and do it with integrity. They were both very enthusiastic."
Fall does admit their heterosexuality did have its shortcomings during production.
"It was harder for them to ad-lib stuff because they were straight," he said, "and all the contact had to be choreographed."
One of my favorite things about Trick is that is a simple story that is well-told on-screen, and also because it is a movie about two hot guys trying to have sex (compared to TV shows, which are filled with queens whose romantic lives happen outside the plotlines, or not at all). So, it is refreshing to see a movie about horny gay men without apology, but within that context still have it be a tender movie that ends up being very sweet and gentle.
"I didn't want to make a sex-negative movie. I didn't want to say 'sex is bad, you should settle down, get married, find a guy.' Because I kind of believe in both," Fall said. "The message I tried to put in the film is if you give intimacy a chance, you'll be surprised who might be a really good fit for you if you get the chance to know them."
As most of the people who see the movie, I related to Christian Campbell's role of Gabriel, the struggling composer who spends his time writing songs for his musical. And even though Fall didn't write the script, he also identifies most with Gabriel.
"I had the insecurity about my talent, and 'who's going to find me attractive?'" Fall said. "I jump to the same conclusions about go-go boys and who they are, beautiful people. So, definitely Gabriel. And Katherine (Tori Spelling's character) is someone I would be inspired to be, because despite her obvious lack of talent, she just bulldozes her way through and gets by on pluck and focus."
Trick has also been a wonderful second coming out for Fall and his parents.
"Living in a small town, they can't believe they can sit at home and see my trailer for the movie on Bravo or pick up Entertainment Weekly and read a good review for my gay film in a major magazine," he said. "They've just been blown away by how gay I can be and still be mainstream. That as been a wonderful coming out for them."
Fall never had much issue with his sexuality growing up.
"I always knew I was gay. I didn't go through any 'dating women' phase," he said. "It seemed very clear to me very early that I liked boys, and it was really that simple. I didn't have a lot of angst. The hardest thing was being out about it and being able to function that way."
Fall also had an interesting, unplanned coming out with his parents.
"My parents sort of caught me with someone in high school and that's how I was outed to my parents," he said. "They walked in and there we were buck naked, and my father freaked out and my mother was crying. But they have since become really great. My father was in denial for a time, so I sort of had to sit him down one Christmas, of course, and retell him. But I brought my boyfriends home for holidays and stuff."
"Trick" also brought Fall to Los Angeles, which is also very different for him, after 17 years in New York City.
"I'm kind of loving L.A., because it's just so different. I've never owned a car and I just bought a VW Beetle. It's literally the first car I ever owned in my whole life, so it's a transition," he said. "It's been really fun for me. I very much romanticize the city. It's Hollywood! I still get a thrill driving by the studios. New York I stopped romanticizing a long time ago, even though the movie still romanticizes the city. The movie is about how I used to feel when I was younger in New York. I would walk around that city and everything was a movie set to me, and there was adventure and romance around every corner."
Fall is currently working on bringing Trick to video and, of course, as a DVD addict, I had to ask if we were going to get any bonus features when the movie came out.
"There is some stuff I want to add on the DVD if everything works out right," he said. "There's a missing Coco moment I want to put in, and hopefully me and Miss Coco will be talking on the audio commentary."
Fall is working on a couple of things for his next project, but said it will be a while before they make it to the screen.
"The one I'm most excited about is an untitled project about a gay man who is drafted into Vietnam, and is a wonderful story that's both dramatic and funny," he said. "It's sort of a gay MASH, if you want to talk the Hollywood talk."
Fall said his tale of Trick has showed him to believe in himself and his talent, which is his parting advice for Oasis readers.
"I spent a lot of years being insecure about my own talents and my own abilities to pull things off," he said. "So, without sounding too grand, if you have any kind of dream, no matter what it is, just persevere and stick to it. And surround yourself with people who want to do the same thing. There are so many things when you think if I only walked in the door and say, 'Hi, I'm doing this, can you help me?' you'd be surprised how many people would help. It's just that first step that's so hard. I spent a lot of time in my youth being afraid and timid."
Fall's unofficial Trick page, which has candid pictures taken on the set and links to reviews is at http://www.geocities.com/SouthBeach/Dunes/7356/news.html
Fall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org