In 1999, gay director Darren Stein won over viewers ( including many members of the LGBT community ) with his cult classic Jawbreaker, which starred Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart and Julie Benz as three of the most popular girls at a high school who accidentally kill their prom-queen friend with the title object when a kidnapping goes horribly wrong.
Now, Stein is back with another high-school film that's just as fun: G.B.F. In this film, three clique queens who rule the school compete for this year's must-have accessory: the G.B.F. ( gay best friend ). He talked about the film's cast ( which includes everyone from Gayheart to Megan Mullally to Pretty Little Liars' Sasha Pieterse to gay actor Paul Iacono ) and a musical based on Jawbreaker.
Windy City Times: When I first saw the title, I thought, "How nicea movie about gay Black friends."
Darren Stein: [Laughs] That's funny.
WCT: This movie is pretty fun. What did you think when you first saw the script?
DS: I just thought it was so smart and timely, and it read to me like a potential classic about something important. And it had this character for a lead that I really hadn't seen before.
WCT: And can we talk about this cast? I kept going, "I know who that person is: That's Rebecca Gayheart, and that's Jonathan Silverman, and that's the girl from Pretty Little Liars." How did you [assemble] this cast?
DS: With Rebecca, I thought it'd be fun to use one of the actresses from Jawbreaker in an adult role in this movie. And we wanted to use a lot of relevant actors from pop culture: Sasha or Evanna Lynchwho's from the Harry Potter movies. We wanted to create a world of actors known from other worlds, but in the context of a new movie.
WCT: Megan Mullally is the mother who knows all about her gay son, and that queer movie night scene...
DS: Yeah, it's such a fun scene. It's fun to see her play mother to a future Jack [from TV's Will & Grace].
WCT: Yeah, times have changed a little since I was in high school. [Stein laughs.] Did you know someone like the main character when you were in schoolor were you a G.B.F. of some sort?
DS: I was not; I went to an all-boys school. I didn't have a bad high-school experience but, sometimes, for gay guys to feel empowered it takes friendships with girls to give them that validation. But I certainly had it in spades in college, at NYU. [Laughs]
WCT: So what was that like?
DS: Oh, I was like a kid in a candy shop. There was dating for the first time and falling in love for the first time and having close female relationships. I was a late bloomer: I didn't get drunk for the very first time until college.
WCT: This might sound weird, but I wish there was a "Topher" [a gay Mormon character who pretends to be straight] in my high school...
DS: I know, right?
WCT: And then for the two gay students to have a straight male student in their clique is unusual. It really is a new day.
DS: Right. Well, it's a fun selection and a new line-up. I think it's a fantasy for [some] gay gays being the mean girls or being the diva or being very popular. We sort of put female power on a pedestal. It's fun seeing the gay kid in the lineup with the hot girls in the teen comedy. It's something you haven't seen before, and it's fun and fresh.
WCT: The movie stops short of being a bullying-type movie because it's comedic.
DS: Yeah, it's not that movie. It's a comedy, so you want to laugh. It has very emotional undertones, and there's the relationship between the two boys. Also, Tanner finds a depth in [head diva] Fawcett that he didn't expect to see. Ultimately, it's about how everyone is an outsider in his or her own way. The writer and I wanted this film to be an experience that could be shared by a mainstream audience, not just a gay one.
WCT: Where are you with Jawbreaker the Musical?
DS: We just had a reading in New York, with financiers, producers and others. It looks like we're going to be doing the first production in Seattle, probably around next summer. Hopefully, from there it'll go to New York or the U.K.
WCT: Or Chicago, which has quite the theater scene. When people say that the movie Jawbreaker is a cult classic, how do you feel about that?
DS: Great, because some of my favorite movies are cult classicsmovies that are subversive, that push the envelope and are not meant for mass audiences. I feel very good to have my movie considered that. Some things about the movie may make people feel uneasy, but it's a comedy.
WCT: Do you see yourself directing movies such as edgy dramas?
DS: I do, even though I'll be known for two teen comedies. I have Chloe Sevigny attached to a project that's a lot darkerit's a Hollywood gothic piece about a mother and her transsexual son. I definitely want to explore things that are bleaker. I definitely don't feel limited to just one genre.
WCT: G.B.F. will be the opening-night selection at Reeling. That's pretty exciting.
DS: I know! I'm hoping to come to Chicago. I've been traveling so much: San Francisco, Seattle, Ohio... There's a chance I can come, but I'm supposed to fly to Brazil for another film festival. If I can't make it, actors from the film will definitely be there.
G.B.F. will be the opening-night movie at the Reeling LGBT International Film Festival at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m.